I am planning to smoke game hens. Does it make a difference whether I use a dry rub or a wet brine?
Yes. You should probably utilize both, if we're talking about the same thing. Immersing your hens in a brine over night will enhance the birds juiciness. Then. About an hour or so before cooking apply a "wet" rub consisting of olive oil and the rub or spices of your choice. The oil will allow the spices to break Dow and enhance the flavored.
Consult www.amazingribs.com for rub recipes, brine instructions and the overall science.
How long are you planning to cure them before smoking? Is it just an overnight cure for flavour, or a long term cure for extending shelf life?
Both dry cure and brine cure will work in their own way; however, for a whole bird with the skin on, I find a brine penetrates better and gives a more even result. Though, with the brine method, you have to cure it long enough for the salt to equalize through the meat, otherwise you are likely to end up with uneven taste and dry meat.
If you aren't going to give it the time it needs to cure all the way through, then a dry rub just for flavour would be the easiest method.
Also, letting the meat sit uncovered for at least an hour before smoking it, will help you get a lot more flavour from the smoke as it makes the skin 'sticky' to the smoke particles...but you probably already know that.
Check out the book Charcuterie for a good overview of the two methods.
Let us know how it goes.
Dave and trampledbygeese - thanks for the tips! I brined then did a dry chile rub (no salt)and left the hens to sit uncovered before smoking. A good strategy that I will use again.