How To Hunt Ruffed Grouse: Grouse Hunting Methods, Tips, and Basics

All right welcome back to another episode of sportsman 101. today’s topic is grouse hunting. I’m going to go over a few different methods people use the hunt these birds as well as hand out a few tips and pointers to get you started. so the mighty ruffed grouse is most well known for the drumming that the males do in the spring to attract a mate. they do it throughout the day and all night long. it’s loud and it’s constant. I don’t know how a bird this small can make that much noise with its wings. anyways rough grouse can be found in most northern states as well as throughout Canada. this is actually the state bird of Pennsylvania by the way but you’ll find the highest concentration of them in the US to be in my home state, the great state of Minnesota.

But enough of the introductions let’s get on with the hunting. you can hunt a grouse with just about anything but the weapon of choice is usually a shotgun with number six to eight shot depending on preference or what’s on sale. to be honest all you really need is standard target loads and they’re usually the cheapest – it doesn’t take much at all to kill grouse. other than shotguns I’ve also seen people use a Taurus judge pistol. a 22 pistol or rifle. or even a pellet gun.

Since I was deer hunting when I shot my first grouse I ended up shooting its head off with an old bolt-action 308. it was even polite enough to stand there dazed after I missed the first time so I could chamber another round. I don’t have that picture anymore but it was quite the sight. just imagine a 12 year old boy proudly holding up ruffed grouse with a bloody stump for a head. but that was more of a use what you’re having a hands now situation. typically some sort of shotgun is used instead when hunters are out there actively hunting grouse.

The best places to hunt them always seem to be old logging roads that have proper cover on either side. among other things grouse tend to favor clover as a food source so logging roads with lots of clover have a higher likelihood of having grouse. they’ll typically feed most often in the morning and late afternoon. here in Minnesota the ruffed grouse season starts in mid September and ends around the end of the year, so the leaves on the trees are still up at the season start and the grouse have all the cover they could ever hope for. at this time of year the Grouse has all the advantages. all they have to do is sit still and just let you walk by. this can make it tough for a hunters to see a grouse that is only a few feet away and makes getting a shot at a flying grouse even tougher.

While you can be very successful regardless of these conditions your best chance at locating birds when the leaves are still up is by the enlisting help of someone who can smell them, and that’s a dog. a well trained pointer will flat-out show you where they’re hiding and will even flush them for you or command. I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with my brothers German Shorthair on several occasions, and he does a great job. purchasing and training a good hunting dog can be very expensive and time-consuming, but it will always be the most successful method for hunting ruffed grouse. just be sure to fit your dog with a GPS collar so you always know where it is in case you become separated from it and carry a pair of pliers with you for removing porcupine quills. your dog should also be wearing an orange vest just like you to protect it from other hunters.

Now its certainly not necessary to have a dog when you go grouse hunting, it just makes it easier. if you don’t have a bird dog you can still do very well, but your tactics will need to change a bit. when you don’t have a dog to tell you where the Grouse are hiding you need to get the grouse to give up its location but in a way that’s most beneficial to you. see, if a grouse knows you’re on the way it will hide or run away or maybe take off well out of range.

If you move more slowly and make less noise you’ll be able to get much closer so don’t be dragging your feet through the leaves like a monkey or anything like that. take the bends in and road slowly with gun at the ready, many times there will be a grouse sitting in the middle of the trail unawares right around the corner. Moving slowly will also make the grouse concerned that you might not just walk right past it, and this is key because when a ruffed grouse becomes agitated more often than not they start to make an alarmed peeping noise. I apologize I don’t have an audio clip to share but if I’m ever able to capture that I’ll be sure to share it with you. this peep is recognizable but unfortunately if you’re not listening for it it’s easy to miss. it’s often accompanied by small footsteps in the leaves as the grouse starts to move. there’s too many hunters out there that aren’t aware that grouse will do this, probably because they make too much noise themselves or just aren’t listening for it.

My dad first clued me in on this when I first started hunting and it does ring true. I’ve been able to bag so many more birds because I was ready for them. so when you hear that peeping get your gun ready because the grouse could take off at any moment and every second is critical. many times I’m able to shoot it on the ground with my 410 right there after pinpointing its location.

If it takes off before I can see it at least I’m ready to shoot, and grouse are somewhat predictable when they fly. they usually fly away from you along the most clear flight path. if they’re close enough to the logging road you happen to be on many times they’ll just fly straight down the road. they don’t like to fly so they usually won’t go too far, and more often than not in a straight line so they can be followed if you miss your shot. they consider trees to be safe zones so don’t forget to check them as you go. now if you find that you’re having trouble hitting a flying grouse just remember that reflex shooting is a skill that doesn’t come overnight and many times you’ll need to lead your target. practice on some clay targets to nail it down. Its also a good idea to Pattern out your shotgun at various ranges – but when you drop that grouse know before you go rushing up to it that theres most likely others in the immediate vicinity.

You’ll often find rough grouse in groups of two or three, most especially in the early season. I’ve seen up to five in one area. now if you’re not seeing any grouse don’t get too discouraged, there just might not be many birds around. Grouse populations tend to be on a 10-year cycle. many studies have been done on it and nobody really seems to know why. now there are a couple other grouse hunting methods I haven’t really mentioned yet and they involve spotting grouse from a motor vehicle or ATV. the first consists of driving an ATV down that same logging road I was talking about earlier and watching for grouse. I’ve actually never done this but it is popular so I’ll provide the best insight that I can. please feel free to add to it in the comments below if you like. using an ATV has its benefits and drawbacks just like every other method out there. the main benefit is of course that you won’t get tired and you can cover a hell of a lot more ground doing it. the drawback is that you’re making a lot of noise at the same time.

A bird will hear you coming several minutes before you arrive. fortunately a grouse will usually recognize that noise as a vehicle and won’t be too alarmed. in a lot of cases they’ll be motionless as you drive by, so they can easily be missed. the ones that are right next to the trail are more likely to get up and fly. I remember one case in particular two years ago when I was out grouse hunting when a train of at least a dozen ATVs came by from the opposite direction.

Once they had all passed I continued my hunt and bagged a grouse not 20 yards away. that grouse had hunkered down and stayed put watching every last one of them drive by, so keep your eyes peeled if this is your method of choice. also check the game laws in your state as to when and where you can ride your ATV. hunters usually needs to be dismounted from the ATV before shooting unless they have a special permit to do otherwise. the last method I’m going to touch base on is often referred to as road hunting.

It consists of the hunter spotting a grouse from the road, driving for another 20 yards or so before pulling over so the grouse doesn’t get too alarmed. they get out and hunt the bird down. this is most often done when driving to or from your favorite grouse location. if you end up doing this though you need to know the laws in your state regarding uncased firearms in your vehicle as well as how far you need to be from a public roadway before you can shoot. not only that but make sure you’re not going on to private property without permission. and lastly, bring a buddy along to sit in the passenger seat as a spotter to watch for grouse that are off in the woods.

after all, inattentive driving is against the law. so I hope all this information helps to turn your next grouse hunting adventure into a successful one. a huge thank you to all the good people out there subscribing to this channel. thanks for watching and happy hunting!.

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