Hunting Words for Small Game
Over the last year, I’ve received tons of positive feedback on my Deer Hunting Terms post – check it out if you haven’t seen it.
But I also got many emails about other hunting words and phrases that weren’t on the deer hunting list. So I decided it was time for a new article about small game hunting words too.
The small game hunting community is full of oddball expressions and hunting terminology slang, just like the deer hunting community.
Bird hunting lingo, turkey hunting slang, and duck hunting terms are all a little different. So stepping into this world with no background can be like stepping into a foreign country sometimes.
If you’re just learning to hunt, check out the list below of hunting words related to small game hunting, which I loosely define as upland birds, waterfowl, turkeys, squirrels, or rabbits.
Study up and come back to this list whenever you need a refresher.
Common Small Game Hunting Words
|Bag / daily limit||The legal number of animals of a certain species you can kill each day.|
|Breast out||To skin and remove only the breast meat from a game bird.|
|Clay pigeon||A small disc of hardened clay which is slung into the air for shooters to practice their shotgun skills.|
|Cover / Covert||Vegetation or brush piles that serve as habitat for animals. “Covert” is usually used for ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.|
|Covey||A group of game birds (e.g., quail, grouse, pheasant, etc.) that roost or flush together.|
|Crop||Many game birds have a throat sack where they store food items until they can be digested in the stomach and crushed by the gizzard.|
|Dabblers||Dabbling ducks eat mostly vegetation and only dabble their heads underwater – that’s why you see duck butts poking out of the water. Mallards, teal, pintails, wood ducks, and gadwall are all dabblers.|
|Deke||The shorter name for decoy…since an extra syllable is just too much work.|
|Divers||Diving ducks spend most of their time underwater fishing and usually have large webbed feet. Mergansers, canvasbacks, redheads, and scaup are all divers.|
|Double||Referring to (1) a double barreled shotgun, or (2) the act of shooting two birds on one flush.|
|Drumming||Ruffed grouse are known for beating their wings fiercely throughout the year, which sounds like an escalating drum beat.|
|Field dressing||The process of skinning and removing the entrails from a small game species. This is usually done in the field.|
|Flush||To chase an animal from cover. Grouse and pheasants fly, rabbits and hares run, squirrels climb, etc.|
|Gauge||In reference to shotguns, the gauge is the diameter of the bore (inside the shotgun barrel). Smaller gauge numbers equal bigger, more powerful ammunition (i.e., 12 gauge is stronger than a 20 gauge).|
|Gizzard||A strong muscle in the digestive system of many birds that uses pebbles swallowed by the bird to crush and grind food.|
|Gobbler||Male turkey – called that because they make a gobbling noise.|
|Hang up||Usually referring to turkeys and their habit of stopping just outside of shotgun range, reluctant to move closer.|
|Harvest||A popular term in wildlife management circles, the act of killing or “taking” an animal. It’s unpopular with many hunters due to the gardening analogy, whereas hunting is the act of taking a life.|
|Honker||A nickname for the Canada goose.|
|Jump shoot||The process of sneaking up on an animal (generally waterfowl) on the water and flushing them for a shot.|
|Lead||When “leading a shot”, you’re aiming slightly ahead of a fast-flying bird or running rabbit to place the shot in front of its intended path.|
|License||A small game hunting license usually covers many different species. It grants you the privilege to hunt them. Note that additional “stamps” may be required for some species.|
|Over under||Referring to a double barreled break-action shotgun with one barrel on top and on bottom (vertically stacked), which offers two shots.|
|Possession limit||The legal number of animals of a certain species you can physically have in your possession (in the freezer, etc.). It’s usually 3-4 times the daily bag limit for small game species.|
|Processing||The process of cutting up and preparing wild game meat for cooking use.|
|Pump gun||Referring to a pump-action shotgun, which can hold several shotgun shells and is reloaded by sliding the forend back and forward.|
|Roosting||The process of locating where game birds, usually turkeys, are resting for the night (called roosting).|
|Ruff||Referring to (1) a shorter name for the ruffed grouse, or (2) the ruff of feathers around a grouse’s neck.|
|Shells||Shotguns shoot shells, which contain multiple small pellets to be fired at small game species.|
|Shock gobble||Loud noises (e.g., owl, crow, or coyote calls) will often spur male turkeys to respond imediately with a gobble.|
|Shot size||The size of the pellets within a shotgun shell. The smaller the number, the larger the pellet size. Shot sizes 4-5 are good for turkeys, while sizes 6-8 are good for grouse.|
|Side by side||Referring to (1) an ATV with a bench seat, or (2) a double barreled break-action shotgun with two barrels next to each other (horizontally).|
|Skeet||A target practice game / exercise using clay pigeons to simulate bird hunting. See “Trap shooting”|
|Small game||Various definitions, but usually including small mammals (e.g., rabbits, hares, squirrels, etc.) and game birds (e.g., grouse, pheasant, quail, turkeys, etc.). Waterfowl may occasionally be included in this definition.|
|Spurs||Male turkeys and pheasants have a sharp point on the back of their legs, which generally get longer as the bird matures.|
|Stamp||Some wild game species (e.g., waterfowl, pheasants, etc.) may require you to purchase a special additional stamp. The proceeds from these stamps will generally support additional conservation efforts for that species.|
|Swing||The act of moving the shotgun muzzle in the direction your target is moving.|
|Timber-doodle||A curious nickname for the American woodcock. Also called bogsucker, mudbat, or timber rocket.|
|Trap shooting||A target practice game / exercise using clay pigeons to simulate bird hunting. See “Skeet”|
|Treed||Squirrels usually retreat into a tree and other game birds may also flush up into one.|
|Wattles / Combs||Some male birds have fleshy lumps on their face or head that may get brightly colored during the breeding season (e.g., turkeys, pheasants, chickens, etc.).|
Small Game Hunting Vocabulary
Of course, these are just a few of the most common small game hunting words that you’ll hear. Other upland hunting slang, waterfowl hunting slang, and turkey hunting slang will come up as you learn to hunt.
These hunting words and phrases may seem very strange. And yeah…many of them are. So I hope this hunting terms glossary will help you wade through the sea of bizarre hunting words you’ll hear.
Have you come across another small game hunting phrase or term that confused you?
Send me a message and I’ll add it to the list.