Thrush hunting is practiced using 5 different hunting methods, while the shotguns and cartridges used may vary depending on the hunt situation.
Thrush hunting is a hunting practice that delights many hunters. Practiced as still hunting or rough shooting, it requires great attention to detail – especially for the hide managers – and excellent ballistic skills.
A small migratory bird, the thrush has many variants, such as the song thrush, the redwing thrush and the fieldfare. Highly coveted game, both because of the difficulty in hunting it – making fascinating for this very reason – and because its delicious meat lends itself to be the star ingredient of numerous game recipes.
The song thrush is certainly the most common variant on the Italian peninsula and is characterized by the cinnamon color of its underwing, which never overruns, as instead happens with the redwing thrush, which has a carmine red underwing and a definite light eyebrow.
Thrush may be hunted from October to January. Lands on Mediterranean Sea are a genuine crossroads of migratory flows of this game bird, which mostly comes from the rest of European countries and records migratory peaks between the end of October and the beginning of November and between the last ten days of December and the start of January.
It nests in the Alps and in the Italian Apennines, starting from low altitudes and going up to 1500 meters and above, but is also very much present on the islands.
There are five main techniques to shoot thrushes, each with its own particularities and appeal because – as with many other hunting activities – once thrush hunting so much as enters your veins, it never leaves you.
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1. INCOMING THRUSH SHOOTING FROM BLINDS
Watchful eyes scan the horizon, waiting to see when the sky becomes populated with approaching dark shapes, while the first thrush songs reach the hunters staked out near oaks, olive groves or – better yet – orange groves.
This thrush hunting technique is generally carried out for 15-20 days and brings with it real thrills. When the decoys attracts this quarry, and the hunter has to wait motionless for the right moment, the descent of the thrushes is always accompanied by an acceleration of the heart rate.
It is important to take care of mimicry so as not to be spotted and to avoid the wild twists and turns that thrushes are capable of! Shooting, as the thrushes move towards the blinds, requires shots ranging from 25 to 40 meters on average.
For this reason, long-barreled shotguns as semi-automatic, over-and-under or side-by-side shotguns, are ideal – even given the difficulty of the game, in this case the third shot could make all the difference.
The 12 gauge is certainly a very versatile choice, because it can be modulated according to the choke and adapted to both long-range shots (35-40m) and shorter shots (15-20m). On the other hand, the use of the 20 gauge, with medium weight cartridges, may be more suitable for medium distances.
2. THRUSH SHOOTING AT DOWN
Thrush hunting occurs at first light, when the thrushes head out of their nocturnal shelter to go to their feeding points.
Lying in wait as the blue of the night gradually lightens, leaving room for the colors of nature, is always magical!
The small silhouettes of the thrushes, like lightning bolts in the sky, will suddenly appear and require quick, short-range shots.
The agile, versatile cadet caliber is ideal for this hunting technique. The shotgun must be light and balanced, with the shouldering natural and ergonomic, the barrels short and the shot patterns wide.
The hunting over-and-under Feeling Woodcock and Feeling Woodcock Select are ideal for these shots, with 62 and 66 cm barrels in 12 and 20 gauges and marked ergonomics, which guarantees quick and instinctive aiming.
The recommended cartridges for the 12 gauge are 30/32 grams, 24/26 grams for the 20 gauge.
3. THRUSH HUNTING IN THE MORNING
When the sun is already high, then it is time for thrush hunting from hide. The thrushes move towards the olive groves, thickets or vineyards where they go to feed. Patience is the watchword!
It is a quieter hunt, in which fewer sudden shots are made, because the time for targeted firing is more than sufficient, with the greatest challenge being accurately identifying the places for pasture.
A variant of this hunt is the so-called “scaccio” where, instead of lying in wait, you proceed with a slow approach to encircle the feeding points and beaters make the thrushes fly towards the posts.
In this case, the aimed shots and sudden shots are the same as one another – and one element to consider when choosing the ideal shotgun is lightness, because there is a long way to go in the “scaccio“!
4. THRUSH SHOOTING ON RE-ENTRY
It is an afternoon hunt, practiced when the thrushes return to the holm oaks, the pine forests and the woods where they sleep. Hunters often position themselves within the scrub or near gullies and ditches, where there are also hides.
The situation is totally reversed with respect to down! Contrary to what happens in the early morning, the thrushes could in fact arrive from above, varying the distance considerably, which can go from very close to the limit of the shot, forcing the hunter to choose hunting shotguns and cartridges with different features. But after all… isn’t this the beauty of this hunt, too?!
5. THRUSH SHOOTING FROM THE HIDE WITH LIVE DECOYS
Hide hunting is another different technique. The work required for the management of the hide is carried out throughout the year, from the disposal of sprouting plants to the tidying of the hedges, to the placement of live decoys prepared for the entire season.
A blend of magic and beauty can be found in the care that the hide manager puts into every gesture, accompanied by the concert of melodious sounds of live decoys.
An intelligent hunt, practiced alone or, at most, with a few friends, and is taken up with long, eager waits, before seeing the thrushes appear in the distance and experiencing that familiar thrill that only hunting can evoke.