For avid hunters, there is nothing quite like the thrill of grouse hunting – or, as some call it, the “King of the Birds”.
This upland bird is an elusive prize and a game bird that many hunters consider a delicacy. If you’re new to grouse hunting, this blog post will be a beginner’s guide to help you with all the latest tips, tactics, and gear to help you bag the prize.
Before you head out to the field, it’s important to know what species you’re hunting. The three main types of grouse are the sage, ruffed, and the spruce.
Getting an excellent understanding of habitat is crucial to finding birds. The greatest population densities for grouse tend to be in areas with good habitat, such as recently abandoned agricultural areas, areas with active timber management, and areas where habitats are maintained in an early successional stage due to environmental factors such as soil type moisture.
Familiarize yourself with the grouse species in your area. It is crucial to know your target before you shoot at any game animal. This ensures safety and responsible hunting practices.Grouse video by Stephanie Holbrook
This is the largest of the three species, with males weighing up to 7 pounds and females weighing up to 4 pounds.
They have mottled gray-brown plumage that helps them to blend in with their sagebrush habitat. Males have blackheads and throats and white chests and bellies. Females are smaller and duller colored than males, with brown backs, wings, and white bellies.
The best habitat for is found in sagebrush ecosystems throughout the western United States and southern Canada.
Males weigh up to 2 pounds, and females weigh up to 1.5 pounds. They have reddish-brown or grayish plumage with dark bars and spots. Males have a distinctive black ruff on their necks.
In Northern Wisconsin, the ruffed grouse population is known to follow population trends, cycle ranging between 9 to 11 years. Typically, the peak population numbers occur in years that end with 9, 0, or 1.
However, over the past 50 years, the drumming and brood surveys indicate a general decline in the population. The cyclical highs are not as pronounced as they once were.
They can be found in forests, woodlands, and brushy areas, making them ideal for hunting. Thick cover is best, they need it to avoid avian predators.
Males weigh up to 2 pounds and females weigh up to 1.5 pounds. They have dark gray and black plumage with white markings on the wings and tail. Males have a red patch of skin above the eye.
Found primarily in coniferous forests, especially spruce forests. You’ll find spruce grouse in spruce forests, dusky and sooty in huckleberry fields and high mountain grass parks, andalong creeks.
Walking logging roads for miles can turn up birds to keep things interesting, but not as much, grouse flushing the edges of clear-cuts, creek bottoms, mountain meadows, lake shores, and rock outcroppings.
Sage grouse are social birds and live in flocks. They are also known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve males inflating their air sacs and making loud popping sounds.
Ruffed grouse are solitary birds, except during breeding season. Males male grouse are known for their drumming behavior, in which they beat their wings against a log or other object to create a loud sound to attract females.
Spruce grouse are solitary birds except during breeding season. Males do not drum, but instead make a clapping sound with their wings during courtship.
Hunting season typically occurs in the fall, when the leaves have fallen off the trees, and the birds are easier to spot.
The season usually runs from early September to late October but varies depending on the location. Check your state’s regulations to know when and where you can legally hunt.
Humility is a valuable trait for an upland game hunter. Grouse possesses an uncanny ability to make even seasoned hunters question their competence – an ironic yet intriguing aspect of this activity.
Although missing a grouse is inevitable, there are techniques to reduce such occurrences. One must exercise caution with the sucker shot, for the sudden burst of can prompt hasty and erratic shooting.
Hunting Techniques and Strategies
Grouse hunting involves two main methods – flushing or pointing. Flushing involves walking through likely areas and having the dog flush out the bird.
You can just position yourself between the birds and their desired destination whenever possible. This approach serves two purposes: firstly, it hinders the birds’ straightforward path to escape cover, often forcing them to remain in place; secondly, when a bird finally takes flight, it must pass you to reach its intended location, increasing your chances for a successful shot.
A grouse flies 100 yards upon being startled. This gives you a chance to flush the same birds multiple times.
Pointing refers to hunting over a pointing dog to flush the bird out with a shotgun. Regardless of the method, remember to keep the element of surprise on your side. Walk gently and quietly behind thick cover, and be ready for a quick shot.
The differences between sage grouse, ruffed grouse, and spruce grouse are their habitat, hunting season, and bag limits.
Hunting Sage Grouse
Sage grouse hunting is typically done in open areas where sage grouse are flushed out of hiding by hunters or bird dogs.
Hunting Ruffed Grouse
Ruffed grouse hunting can be done in open areas or in wooded areas. Ruffed grouse are flushed out of hiding in open areas by hunters or bird dogs. In wooded areas, ruffed grouse are typically hunted by walking through the woods and listening for the sound of ruffed grouse drumming.
Hunting Spruce Grouse
Spruce grouse hunts are typically done in wooded areas. Birds flushed to the ground and out of hiding by hunters or bird dogs.
ny shotgun in gauges 12, 16, or 20 will work. If you hunt with a double, you can only put the larger shot in the second barrel.
You’ll need your gun’s chokes to be as wide open as possible. A 20-gauge over-under work great. Best Chokes and Shot Sizes for Grouse These are subjects of considerable and often pointless debate. We’ll make it simple.
For a grouse gun, the ideal all-around choke is the Improved Cylinder (IC). If your gun has two barrels, use IC for the first shot and Modified for the second. Anything tighter than Modified is not suitable for the grouse woods.
Best Bird Dog for Grouse
The best grouse dog breeds are all known for their excellent sense of smell, tracking ability, and stamina. They are also relatively easy to train and eager to please.
Are you looking for grace, poise, and charm along with a great ability to pursue grouse, look no further. They are gentle and affectionate and excel as versatile bird dogs, particularly in pursuit of grouse across diverse habitats.
German Wirehaired Pointer
Regarding retrieving, the German Wirehaired Pointers are considered the best. They are high-energy sporting dogs who enjoy outdoor activities with human partners. Along with their hunting skills, they make great companions on long walks or hikes.
Pointers, the fastest among the three breeds, are renowned for their remarkable speed and agility. These exceptional dogs possess remarkable endurance and are well-suited for extended periods of work. For hunters seeking efficient ground coverage, Pointers serve as exceptional bird dogs.
Field Dressing and Cooking
After the hunt, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Remove the feathers, head, and internal organs to field-dress the bird, leaving the skin intact.
Grouse has a unique flavor that can be enhanced with different cooking techniques, such as grilling or pan-searing. Harvested birds should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Additional recommendations for hunters are on the USDA website.
Visit the DNR’s wildlife diseases page for more information on avian influenza and other diseases affecting wildlife health.
With this ultimate guide to grouse hunting, you’re ready to take on the challenge and experience the thrill of hunting upland birds.
Remember to follow regulations, use proper gear, and practice shooting skills. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a novice, hunting offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and feast on delicious game. Good luck, and happy hunting!