Rails

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Rails

Postby Sniper John » Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:01 pm

To not hijack DW's thread any more than I already have, I'm starting a new one.
Specklebelly asked: For rail, how do you hunt them? Is it a jump shoot or spot and sneak thing? I remember DW talking about it last year but fail to remember.

They are marsh birds and will be in thick wet cover most of the time, so you don't see them till they flush. I use a dog, but the smells related to the terrain, mud, and plants can be so strong she will have a hard time getting on or staying with a point, but once she figures out what is wanted of her, she can find them. It can be hard to get them to fly sometimes. Remember the term "skinny as a rail". Rail have the ability to collapse their rib cage and run through thick weeds, reeds, and grass like no other bird and you will never see them. If you don't get them on the flush, they are ging to hit the marsh running when they come back down too. And they can swim and they can dive if they make it to water.

They are like trying to shoot grasshoppers. They come up and flutter like a crippled bird and don't go far before they just stop flying and drop as if they had been shot. I use a cylinder choke in the first barrel. Even cylinder chokes are tight at close range, so I prefer a spreader load with that or you will just destroy them. They are not considered very sporting, but it can be a lot of fun and more difficult than you think having to identify and make the shot in such a short time before they get back down and bury up and hide. And every now and then you will get one with a burst of energy that flys out across the marsh like a midget pheasant. In some places I have noticed them also like pheasant hunting with blocking terrain. Birds moving ahead of the hunter undetected through the marsh and then all flushing when pressured at the end of the cover. I hunted them both on purpose and as side hunts, as well as bonus birds on teal and snipe hunts in three states last year. Note the backgrounds for examples of good rail habitat in these pictures from last year. Most waterfowl hunters, like snipe, see rail all the time and never know what they are seeing. And I know it will be asked. We ate the breasts last year bacon wrapped with the dove and no one noticed a difference in taste other than noting how small they are compared to a dove breast. But rail alone, it takes a bunch of them to make a meal.

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Re: Rails

Postby Specklebelly » Sun Jul 10, 2011 3:10 pm

Thanks John, good info. The good news is if we ever get rain there should be a lot of habitat like you show in the pictures.

So I assume the deepest the water can be is just a couple of inches. Is this correct and if not, how deep can you go?

Also, what about gallinule? Ever try them?
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Re: Rails

Postby Sniper John » Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:18 pm

Specklebelly wrote:Thanks John, good info. The good news is if we ever get rain there should be a lot of habitat like you show in the pictures.

So I assume the deepest the water can be is just a couple of inches. Is this correct and if not, how deep can you go?

Also, what about gallinule? Ever try them?



That would be about true, but I am sure then get in stuff over deeper water and on floating mats of vegetation. I did see an area once a bunch of virginia rails in flooded bushes over an area two or three ft deep. Almost like it was a roost. Could not hunt them though as it was a "waterfowl only" area. The rails in the pictures are Sora rails. I have never seen a gallinule anywhere in Oklahoma or north Texas. In fact I have never seen one outside Florida.
Last edited by Sniper John on Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rails

Postby Sniper John » Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:21 pm

The traditional way to hunt Rails. It was a much more popular bird a 100 years ago.

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Re: Rails

Postby Duck Whisperer » Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:39 pm

I bumped the "Not migratory but..." thread as it has whatever info I posted last year. Speck, I've found that if you find the right habitat , with rails, you don't need a dog to flush them. I just walk through/along the right cover at a fast clip (because as pointed out, they will run ahead of you through/over the grasses.) Depth of water isn't so much a key as the grass growing in it that the rail are using; they could be in habitat in a few inches of water up to several feet. Shallower water, you can walk quickly through and flush them; deeper water can be almost too much work to flush them, unless the "habitat" is such that you can paddle through in canoe, or use a poke boat as Sniper John's illustration depicts.

Finding the bastards after you've downed one is where I wish I had a good dog. If you only wing one and he goes down in thick cover......kiss him goodbye. Though I don't miss too many as they are like shooting flying turtles :lol3:

I'm still learning about them. I've read a lot about them, and looked for them (a decent effort) the last several years, but last season was the first season I "got into them". I think I know what to "look for" now and plan to go after 'em this fall.

If people think dove are "too small to mess with" , don't even bother. They are tiny birds; actually more meat on the legs/thighs than breasts IMO. Heard of the expression "4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie"? You need at least that many for a normal 12 inch pot pie.
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Re: Rails

Postby Sniper John » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:59 am

Thanks for bumping that thread. I don't know how I missed it last year. I was probably too busy hunting them myself.
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Re: Rails

Postby Sniper John » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:03 am

More pictures to add.

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Re: Rails

Postby jeff_osu » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:31 am

Preface: I am not internet scouting for hunting, these two species are illegal to shoot and largely nocturnal. I bird as often as I hunt, and am interested in finding these species in OK.

Has anyone seen/heard from the two lesser known Rallid species, Black Rail and Yellow Rail?

Black Rail:
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Call: ki-ki-kirr http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black_Rail/id

Yellow Rail:
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Call: tic tic, tic tic tic http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/yellow_rail/id
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Re: Rails

Postby DucknGoodTime » Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:02 am

Can't say I've seen either around Lake Texoma.
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Re: Rails

Postby Griffdom » Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:27 pm

Do you think the central part of the state has many rail or snipe?
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Re: Rails

Postby Duck Whisperer » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:18 am

jeff_osu wrote:Preface: I am not internet scouting for hunting, these two species are illegal to shoot and largely nocturnal. I bird as often as I hunt, and am interested in finding these species in OK.

Has anyone seen/heard from the two lesser known Rallid species, Black Rail and Yellow Rail?

Black Rail:
Image
Call: ki-ki-kirr http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black_Rail/id

Yellow Rail:
Image
Call: tic tic, tic tic tic http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/yellow_rail/id


Never seen either in OK; would have to find a copy of my lifelist to see if I've seen one anywhere either. Unfortunately, if I ever did see one, he'd probably get shot, only because their size/shape is so close to a sora (even though both are smaller). I'm a fair birder myself, but quickly ID-ing one of these on the wing (before the shot) could be tough. Hades, even as different as soras and virginias look, it's pretty tough distibguishing those two on a flush depending on how they flush.

Griffdom, I couldn't tell you what central OK holds; I'd be inclined to say if you have the right habitat, they may be there. Jeff_osu is the expert here, I believe.

FYI: I only killed about 10 last season. Found 'em one day and got 7 or 8, but really needed the kayak to hunt them in that spot......had a helluva front move through overnight......and they were mostly gone the rest of the season. Managed a stray here and there chasing snipe.
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Re: Rails

Postby Griffdom » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:53 pm

I'll have to look into the snipe and rail possibilities as they might make nice bonus birds. I bet a lot of hunters don't know what they are looking at and overlook them as possible table fare.
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Re: Rails

Postby jeff_osu » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:23 pm

I imagine there might be a few Sora, but the Virginia Rails are likely going to be in the east. I grew up in south-central OK, and I found snipe pretty readily in farm ponds. They weren't very numerous, usually 2 or 3 at a time. When in doubt, check out eBird:
King Rail: Not a whole lot of records.
Virginia Rail: Probably more in the state than are reported.
Sora: I would suspect these are the most common rallid in OK (excluding coots).

eBird isn't perfect; most records are from birders rather than hunters. Game species like this tend not to be represented as well.

They sure do look similar in flight at first glance. The habitat depends on the species, they kind of stratify across the water. In order from wet to dry it goes : Coots--->Soras--->Virginina Rails--->Yellow Rails--->Black Rail. Coots are swimming around, the ones between are wading, and I found some Black Rails on what is almost prairie in TX.
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Re: Rails

Postby trswstudent » Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:46 pm

Sniper John - We do get gallinule in Oklahoma. Last weekend I saw Common Gallinule at Red Slough WMA and have seen Purple Gallinule there last summer. I believe both breed at that location. I am not sure when they start to leave the state on winter migration and have not tried hunting them, so unfortunately I am no help with that.
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Re: Rails

Postby Sniper John » Wed May 01, 2013 1:57 pm

This thread is still alive. Been away from the forum training a new v pup and running him in hunt tests. To answer the question. I have never seen a yellow or black rail in OK. Only lots of soras.

But a rule of thumb for rail hunting would be to stay out of trouble by never shooting any rail with white wing patches. Black rails are so tiny that they should never be mistaken for another rail.
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Re: Rails

Postby Duck Whisperer » Thu Sep 05, 2013 4:43 pm

Sooooooooooooo, any rail hunters here? I checked one of my spots last Sunday, but water level and/or cover type not quite right yet. I did flush/kill three. Might be better later on????????????? Not even sure if they have started migrating through? or when best time is??

I need jeff_osu: summer/winter maps of soras indicate they breed/summer just noth of us. Winter range is Texas coast and southward of that. Maps indicate Kansas is their southernmost breeding range. That said, I assume the majority (or all) soras I chase in Oklahoma are migrators????? Was wondering if jeff_osu knows if soras do breed in Oklahoma? Dern tough birds to pattern/figure out.

Just curious if anybody else has "played" with them yet this year? Depending on how dove play out (or don't) I may try another rail spot this weekend.
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Re: Rails

Postby garmater » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:23 pm

I went out chasing the illusive purple Gallinule and common Morehens with out any luck. Only seen two juvie Morehens and let them go cause I want mount quality. Maybe next year.
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Re: Rails

Postby Duck Whisperer » Thu Sep 05, 2013 6:06 pm

I've never seen a gallinule in all my experience in OK (seen them elsewhere). Would LOVE to have a purple. Garmater, you in the SE part of the state?
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Re: Rails

Postby Specklebelly » Thu Sep 05, 2013 7:18 pm

DW - How deep can the water be for hunting rails? Do they walk on the bottom of the water or on top of the vegetation?

I have a spot I am thinking of trying this weekend but don't really know what to look for.
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Re: Rails

Postby Duck Whisperer » Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:03 pm

Specklebelly wrote:DW - How deep can the water be for hunting rails? Do they walk on the bottom of the water or on top of the vegetation?

I have a spot I am thinking of trying this weekend but don't really know what to look for.


Speck, Speck, Speck.....the last two or three years you have been about as bad as any internet scouter asking questions and trying to pry info out of the few of us who try to rail hunt :no: .(I wish I could find a "yankin' your chain" type smilie).

I've always given what limited info/knowledge I've "discovered" about them flyng turtles as I have, short of posting the few spots I have to hunt them. I still have a lot to learn, and it's almost impossible to learn anything about them as NOBODY seems to really hunt them unless they luck into the right situation. Actually, last Monday while I was poking around one of my main spots for rail, the head honcho biologist for that part of the ODWC area drove by, and we chatted for about an hour...a lot of it about rail. He gave me a little more insight as he also loves to hunt them..................if/when conditions are right.

As an aside (as regulars here know I tend to stray off ), I started to mention to him that he had probably seen me in this particular area in the past but may not recognize me (because I was in my yak, and not the canoe).......He stopped me instantlly in saying "I know who you are; recognized the truck on the pulloff and thought - he's here already, this early?"Anyway, great guy and I think he enjoyed finding somebody else to talk to about rail, though he knew I hunted them from past discussions.

Back to Speck's question, and trying to not repeat other Wikopedia tibits already covered...they don't walk on the bottom, but at the "surface"of the water. I say surface in quotation marks because they don't/can't walk on the surface of open water, so to speak, but they frequent denser emergent vegetation such that they run on the surface on the floating "stuff" within all that emergent vegetation, AND/OR can "bounce" amoung the stalks at water surface of same vegetation. Hard to explain, but bottom line is that they don't care so much about water depth as they do about needing that thick enough emergent vegetation to run/hide in.

I've found them in thick as Hades smartweed that is only 6 inches above the water, as well as "grass" that is 6 foot tall above the waterline. KEY factor is the "habitat" needs to be a relatively CONSISTENT, LARGE patch of whatever habitat. I still haven't figured it out, but again, I've seen a KEY aspect is finding a LARGE patch of consistent type of whatever habitat, usually in water 6 inches to 18 inches deep.

And, "whatever" type of good habitat usually is a bear to walk through for any extended period of time. BUT, if they "are there", it is fun as Hades. I've killed my 25 birds walking no more than 200 yards. Then again, I've walked a LOOOONNNNNG ways through prime looking habitat and seen none, only to suddenly "stumble" upon tons of them in similar habitat?? Which is why they can be so maddening. Once you figure out the type of "habitat" to hunt, a lot of times the only way to have a good hunt is to walk your *** off to see if any are around.

AND/OR, I like hunting them with a canoe or yak if conditions are right. Paddle around or next to the right habitat and shoot them when they flush........totally different set of rules.
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Re: Rails

Postby Specklebelly » Fri Sep 06, 2013 9:52 am

DW - I am hinting for an invite sometime. :hammer:

Good info. I am going to give it a swing this weekend at my spot.
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Re: Rails

Postby jeff_osu » Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:36 pm

Duck Whisperer wrote:Sooooooooooooo, any rail hunters here? I checked one of my spots last Sunday, but water level and/or cover type not quite right yet. I did flush/kill three. Might be better later on????????????? Not even sure if they have started migrating through? or when best time is??

I need jeff_osu: summer/winter maps of soras indicate they breed/summer just noth of us. Winter range is Texas coast and southward of that. Maps indicate Kansas is their southernmost breeding range. That said, I assume the majority (or all) soras I chase in Oklahoma are migrators????? Was wondering if jeff_osu knows if soras do breed in Oklahoma? Dern tough birds to pattern/figure out.


It's possible. Not many are out there counting, and that kind of confounds any definitive statements. I heard a King Rail up at Drummond Flats this June, but they aren't known breeders there. That said, there's no indication it was breeding, I could only hear a call and couldn't observe if it was nesting. I would suspect that Sora nest in OK, but only a few. Virginia Rails aren't supposed to nest as far south as OK, but they have nested in Tulsa Co. (http://digital.library.okstate.edu/orni ... 39p002.pdf).

In the winter, it is safe to assume 99.9% of OK Sora are migratory.

Purple Gallinule are thick down near Houston, as are Sora and other rallids. Would be a neat hunt if you could swing it. The Purples are quite common.
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Re: Rails

Postby Duck Whisperer » Fri Sep 06, 2013 2:32 pm

Specklebelly wrote:DW - I am hinting for an invite sometime. :hammer:

Good info. I am going to give it a swing this weekend at my spot.



You have before and I believe I told you I'd let you know if I ever got into them again. I'd love to have someone else go on a good rail hunt. Only one time did I come close when a buddy went toward the tail end of my best rail year; I think we killed about 30 between us. It's been a few years since I've found any numbers. Where I mostly chase them the two key factors change significantlly from year to year: cover type, and water (water being there is water or there is none).

One of these years those two factors will both be "right" again, and I hope to get into them. I also need to scout out different spots that I suspect may hold some. My problem is that I don't have time to scout new spots during Sep/Oct because I am hunting some bird hard somewhere every weekend.

Where you at now anyway Speck? I was under the impresion that you moved from western OK to "somewhere south". Curious how far a drive it'd be to make a hunt?
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Re: Rails

Postby Specklebelly » Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:27 pm

I just realized my question was answered earlier in the thread. Wow, that was two years ago. :biggrin:

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Re: Rails

Postby garmater » Fri Sep 06, 2013 5:22 pm

I have seen a few of them never during hunting season. I don't really live in their range I had to take a road trip for them, thought it maybe worth it since the numbers were way up this summer. Then heard the week before it opened the survey yeilded 6 so I guess I'll try it again next year.
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