Although sometimes regarded as “wilderness” birds, Ruffed Grouse have no aversion to living in close proximity to humans if the cover gives them adequate security. In some areas of Ontario, Canada – Ruffed Grouse are more abundant in remote wilderness forests. They thrive best where forests are kept young and vigorous by occasional clear-cut logging, or fire, and gradually diminish in numbers as forests mature and their critical food and cover resources deteriorate in the shade of a climax forest.
Ruffed Grouse response to man varies greatly across their range, depending upon their experiences. In southern Ontario generally they are usually quite elusive and difficult to approach. Yet they can still be killed with a canoe paddle or thrown stones in NW Ontario wilderness forests.
When the ground is bare of snow, Ruffed Grouse feed on a wide variety of green leaves and fruits, and some insects. They have also been known to eat snakes, frogs as well. But when snow covers the ground as it does for most of the winter across the major portion of their natural range, Ruffed Grouse are almost exclusively “flower-eaters,” living on the dormant flower buds or catkins of trees such as birches and pin cherry bush’s.
Known as solitary in their social behavior they do not develop a pair-bond between males and females, although there is usually at least one hen in the woods for every male. Young birds, especially, collect in temporary, loose flocks in the fall and winter, but this is not equivalent to the covey organization of the quails and partridges.
Male Ruffed Grouse are aggressively territorial throughout their adult lives, defending for their almost exclusive use a piece of woodland that is 6-10 acres in extent. Usually this is shared with one or two hens. The male grouse proclaims his property rights by engaging in a “drumming” display. This sound is made by beating his wings against the air to create a vacuum, as lightning does when it makes thunder. The drummer usually stands on a log, stone or mound of dirt when drumming, and this object is called a “drumming log.” He does not strike the log to make the noise, he only uses the “drumming log” as a stage for his display.
The drumming stage selected by a male is most likely to be about 10-12 inches above the ground, in moderately dense brush, (usually 70 to 160 stems within a 10 ft. radius) where he can maintain unrestricted surveillance over the terrain for a radius of about 60 ft. Across much of the Ruffed Grouse range there are usually mature male within sight in the forest canopy overhead.
Drumming occurs throughout the year, so long as his “log” is not too deeply buried under snow. In the spring, drumming becomes more frequent and prolonged as the cock grouse advertises his location to hens seeking a mate. Listen to an example at the top of this page.
Courtship is brief, lasting but a few minutes, then the hen wanders away in search of a nest site, and there is no further association between the male grouse and his mate – or the brood of chicks she produces. A hen may make her nest more than 1/2 mile from the log of her mate.
Nests are hollowed-out depressions in the leaf litter, usually at the base of a tree, stump or in a clump of brush. The nest is usually in a position which allows the hen to maintain a watch for approaching predators. Sometimes hens will nest under logs or in brush piles, but this is less common, and a dangerous location.
A clutch usually contains 8 to 14 buff colored eggs when complete. Eggs are laid at a rate of about one each day and a half, so it may take 2 weeks for a clutch to be completed. Then incubation, which usually commences when the last egg is laid, takes another 24 to 26 days before the eggs hatch. A nest has to be placed so that it will not be discovered by a predator during a period of at least 5 weeks.
The chicks are prosocial, which means that as soon as they have dried following hatching they are ready to leave the nest and start feeding themselves. Grouse chicks are not much larger than a man’s thumb when they leave the nest. They are surprisingly mobile and may be moving farther than 1/4 mile a day by the time they are 3 or 4 days old. They begin flying when about 5 days old, and resemble giant bumble bees in flight. The hen may lead her brood as far as 4 miles from the nest to a summer brood range during its first 10 days of life.
Although grouse broods occasionally appear on roadsides, field edges or in forest openings, these are hazardous places for young grouse to be, and broods survive best if they can remain secure in fairly uniform, moderately dense brush or sapling cover.
The growing chicks need a great deal of animal protein for muscle and feather development early in life. They feed heavily on insects and other small animals for the first few weeks, gradually shifting to a diet of green plant materials and fruits as they become larger. Chicks grow rapidly, increasing from about 1/2 ounce midgets when hatched to 17-20 oz. fully grown young birds 16 weeks later. That is a 38 to 46 fold increase in weight. At 17 weeks of age, a Ruffed Grouse is almost as large and heavy as it will ever be.
Biologists and others who want to age Ruffed Grouse rely upon certain peculiarities of the molt of the primary flight feathers. The booklet A Grouse in the Hand explains this aging procedure. And following the first complete molt by a 14 to 15 month old adult grouse, there are no known physical characteristics which reliably identify the age.
When about 16 to 18 weeks old, the young grouse passes out of its period of adolescence and breaks away to find a home range of its own. This is the second and last time that Ruffed Grouse are highly mobile. The young males are the first to depart, when they range out seeking a vacant drumming territory, or activity center, where they can claim a drumming log. Most young males find a suitable site within 1.8 mi. of the brood range where they grew up, although some may go as far as 4.5 mi. seeking a vacant territory. Many young cocks claim a drumming log by the time they are 20 weeks old; and once they have done so, most will spend the remainder of their lives within a 200 to 300 yard radius of that log.
Young females begin leaving the brood one or two weeks later than their brothers, and they normally disperse about three times as far. Some young hens move at least 15 miles looking for the place where they’ll spend the rest of their lives.
Occasionally a hen and her brood will remain together as late as mid-January, but this is unusual, and most groups of grouse encountered in the fall and winter are composed of unrelated individuals who gather together temporarily to share a choice food resource or piece of secure cover.
In fall and winter some inexperienced young grouse frightened by a predator or something else, crash into buildings, trees or through windows in a so-called “crazy-flight.” Sometimes they are evidently simply trying to take a short-cut when they can see through two large windows on the corner of a house. After all, young grouse in their first fall have never been confronted by something that can be seen through but not flown through, such as glass!
Black Bear are known predators and Ontario has the largest population of black bear than anywhere in the world. Furthermore, north-western Ontario leads in the concentration of these animals than elsewhere in Ontario, and, rates highest in population concentration for all of Ontario that also allows for bating practices.
Many deem baiting unfair, giving the hunter a considerable advantage. But contrary to what some would have us believe, it’s far from easy and holds no guarantees! Bear can sneak in undetected, grab a morsel of food and disappear as fast as they arrived. Bear can also skulk around the bait for hours, never showing themselves. As experienced outfitters we’ve learned that many of our bear will move in cautiously to inspect the provisions. The advantage of hunting in the fall is bear are eager to fatten up for the winter. The biggest advantage to baiting is that, if and when a bruin finally commits to the bait, it allows the hunter a an opportunity to assess size, stature and time for shot placement.
Black bear habitant range can span from two to 10 miles and resident populations often hold a variety of boars, sows and cubs, so it’s not uncommon to have multiple bears visiting the baited site. Ontario only offers a FALL BEAR HUNT therefore the chance for the large TROPHY bear is increased dramatically. Most hunters fear poor coats or hides due to the fall hunt but our area does not suffer that fate. With little to no burrs or ticks, our bear don’t succumb to ticks causing ‘rub’ or dry patchy fur. We also are known for our high number of white chevrons (patches) to make your trophy even more unique. Black bear
Black bear have relatively poor eyesight, but outstanding hearing and acute sense of smell. Once they get a taste of your bait, and, as long as it is replenished regularly, they will be reluctant to leave the area. In fact, once a site is established properly, you can and will see the same bruin day after day.
Location is Critical
Our bait stations have been established for many years (since 1972) and placed along the bear’s natural movement corridor. Heavily timbered forests near cutovers and waterways often sustain good bear densities. With berry crops like wild blueberries and raspberries nearby, black bear favor the accessibility and abundance of such forage and most often reside in the proximity.
Claw marks on deciduous trees and there may even be fresh markings, these lasting scars unveil a historical presence. Nomadic creatures, bear commonly travel traditional trails along waterways and natural movement corridors like valleys and ridges. Finding fresh scat can instill further confidence that bear have frequented the bait. Keep in mind that well established bait stations offer much more success than new stations since bear follow these game trails year after year.
We practice with our bows all summer long, but after opening day its easy to get wrapped up in the hunting and forget about practicing. But even if you’re spending your time in the field and can’t hit the archery range every day, you can still keep your edge. Shooting in hunting situations is obviously different from target shooting. In the real world, weather conditions, shot angles, brush and other obstacles can impact your shot. Also, when the time comes to take a shot during a hunting situation you’re usually either stiff and cold from sitting in a treestand or sucking wind from running up a hill. All this combined with the fact that you must make a clean shot with the first arrow makes it all the more important to keep your shooting skills sharp. Here are a couple tips.
One of the biggest challenges to making a “cold shot” is that often the muscles I use for properly drawing my bow are stiff. The simplest way to cure this is to periodically pick a target, draw your bow, aim, hold, and let down your draw. This keeps you loosened up, plus drawing and aiming without actually shooting helps you focus on the target.
Although just drawing and aiming will help a lot, the single biggest help is to actually shoot while out hunting. A common practice among traditional shooters is to carry one or two blunt pointed arrows in your quiver so that you can stump shoot in your down time. Stump shooting is fantastic for keeping you warmed up, but unlike just drawing, actually completing your shots will bring your release into play, as well as give you all sorts of angles and situations to practice.
Small game is even better than stumps (grouse and rabbits taste a lot better too). Grouse can be deceivingly tough to hit. You want to aim for the base of the neck or the head. Sometimes they flush at the shot, but grouse will go in the direction that their head is pointing, so if you use a snaro point, you can either take their head off or hit them in the body as they flush. The best thing about grouse is they often give you extremely challenging shots, and if you can become consistent at taking them, you will be ready for the big game (make sure to check your local regulations before taking any small game with a bow).
Follow our FISHING BLOG
With the bear hunt just around the corner, we will cover the basics :) Pictures have been withheld due to graphic nature.
1. Clear an area surrounding the black bear. Make the area large enough to allow room to move around and roll the animal away from the entrails. The lowest part of the ground should be reserved for the entrails. Move the bear onto its back. Spread the rear legs and either have your partners hold them apart or secure them with ropes. Repeat with the front legs.
- 2. Insert one of your knives in the cavity at the base of the bear’s throat. Cut the blood vessels with a deep, crosswise motion to open the jugular vein and bleed the animal. Move the bear so the blood will flow away from it and clear the ground as needed.
- Cut the skin in a straight line from the breastbone — located just below the rib cage — to the base of the bear’s jaw. Cut the muscles along this area to the bone to expose the throat and windpipe. From the same starting point, cut the skin in a straight line down to the anus. Some areas require hunters to leave the genitals for sex identification; cut around the genitals slightly to preserve them.
- Split the breastbone. This can be done with a bone saw, hack saw or a couple of axes. If you choose to use axes, hold one axe against the breastbone and hammer it with the other axe; this will break the bone from the base of the rib cage up to and through the top ribs. Open the chest by pulling the front legs apart. Cut the windpipe and gullet close to the head. Lay them in the chest cavity for later.
- Cut through the abdominal muscles; start at the base of the rib cage. Take care not to puncture the intestines, the stomach or the bladder; doing so could taint the meat. Sever the muscles down to the pelvic bone. Enlist your partners to hold open the bear so you can work more smoothly.
- Break the pelvic bone by using the same technique implemented the breastbone. Do not cut the urinary tract as it may contaminate the meat. Start on one side of the chest cavity and use your knife to cut the diaphragm from the chest wall. Start at the base of the ribs and slice as far back into the cavity as possible. Have your partners pull the organs to the side so you can see and cut more easily. Repeat the process on the other side of the black bear.
- Cut the intestines and rectum from the split pelvic bone to where the rectum meets the muscle tissue at the anus. Cut a circle in the skin at the base of the tail; cut 1 to 2 inches from the anus. Cut the muscles to the top of the pelvic bone to free the anus and rectum. Pull the lower intestine, rectum and anus away from the cavity and hold clear. You must not puncture or cut the urinary tract or intestines.
- Hold the parts, roll the black bear away and allow the intestines and stomach to spill onto the ground. Grab the windpipe to pull the lungs and heart out onto the ground. Cut any remaining diaphragm tissue to free the organs. Complete the field dressing by draining as much blood from the bear as possible and wiping the body cavity with cloth rags to clean. Do not use water. At this point your main concern becomes to cool the cavity and prepare for transport which can be done by propping the cavity open with a tree branch.
Here is a fantastic and very basic overview of black bear, what they are and why we hunt them🙂 In the case if Wawang Lake Resort, our outfitting is done in the fall, over bait and the average weight of our boars was 278lbs last year with 2 over 400lbs🙂 Our sows, 180lbs with three over 300🙂
Black Bear Hunting Basics
If you’re considering taking up black bear hunting or trying to decide if it’s right for you, it’s a good idea to get an overview of what it’s all about. There are a lot of misconceptions about black bear hunting floating around out there, so it pays to know exactly what you’re in for when you set out to hunt “America’s bear”.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of black bear hunting, including population, seasons, weapons, meat, trophy items, and biology relevant to hunting.
Population, Seasons, and Weapons
Although the population of the black bear (Ursus americanus) is in decline in some areas of the U.S. (due to habitat loss), in other areas it is growing rapidly, and in still others it is at an all-time high. The total population of black bears in the lower 48 is estimated to be between 300,000 to 500,000, and the Alaska population is estimated to be 100,000 or more.
Black bear hunting is permitted in a little over half of the 50 states. Many Western states have black bear hunting seasons. In some of these states, hunters are allowed to take two black bears per year. Other popular areas include portions of the upper Midwest, the East coast, and the South. Even a handful of states in the East where black bear hunting has been prohibited for years have recently opened up limited seasons.
Black bears are hunted both in the spring and the fall. However, spring seasons are only allowed in about eight states, and spring hunting often requires applying for a lottery. Fall seasons are typically general seasons, and this is the time when most bears are hunted.
Black bears can be effectively taken with any of the typical weapons used for other big game, including rifle, bow, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol, and crossbow. (As always, be sure to check your particular state’s game regulations.)
Meat and Other Items
Black bear meat is considered by many to be a delicacy. In fact, even as recently as the late 19th century, bear dishes were some of the most expensive items on the menus at the finest, exclusive restaurants. “Bear bacon”, the whole, smoked hind quarter of a bear, was a prized staple in the diet of settlers on the American frontier. The meat is often compared to pork or lamb, but with a distinctive flavor all its own.
Interestingly, that flavor can vary quite widely depending on what the bear has recently been eating. The most highly prized meat comes from spring bears who have been consuming large quantities of grass and other vegetation as well as fall bears who have been feasting on berries, fruit, or nuts such as acorns.
Luckily, although they are omnivores, about 80-90% of a black bear’s diet consists of plant material, so your odds of having tasty meat are extremely good. Younger bears are also widely reported to have better meat than older bears. Assuming you take a younger bear that hasn’t been eating salmon or carrion, you’re in for quite a treat.
An important word of caution here: black bear meat often contains the parasite that causes trichinosis, an infection that usually results in either no symptoms or minor digestive discomfort but in rare cases can cause more serious complications and even death (although only in less than 0.3% of cases).
Fortunately, there is a simple remedy for this. All bear meat must be cooked completely through until there is no visible pink in the meat. Cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 137 degrees is hot enough to make it safe, although the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Freezing the meat has not been shown to be adequate protection against trichinosis.
Another highly edible part of a black bear is the fat. Bear fat (which is quite plentiful in fall bears) can be rendered to produce a useful and particularly flavorful cooking oil. Even from a modestly sized bear, you can easily get a couple gallons of this precious liquid.
In addition to the meat and fat, there are also a few prized items to be had from a black bear. First, the fir is soft and luxurious, and many hunters keep the hide and turn it into a rug or even clothing such as a vest. Black bear skulls are fascinating thing to look at, and they’re a great conversation starter when displayed up on the mantle or other prominent location.
Biology Relevant to Hunting
Black bears can vary greatly in size, depending on genetics, the quality of the habitat in which they live, and their gender and age. Mature boars (male bears) can weigh in at over 800 pounds in rare cases. The average adult male, however, weighs between 180 and 300 pounds, while the average adult female weighs slightly less, between 140-250 pounds. You can expect to net about 30% of the live weight in meat. For example, a 200 pound bear may produce up to 60 pounds of meat.
Black bears possess impressive athletic abilities. They can sprint at speeds over 30 mph, can climb trees with ease, and are accomplished swimmers. They also have short, curved, sharp claws and canine teeth capable of ripping and tearing flesh. With these traits, it’s easy to see why they fit squarely into the classification of dangerous game.
While black bear attacks are exceedingly rare, even for bear hunters, they do happen. And tracking wounded bears means the danger increases exponentially. The tracking is bound to take you through dense cover, and the bear’s thick fir soaks up blood fast, making for sparse blood trails to follow. Bears have even been known to loop around and double back on their trail, lying in wait for pursuing hunters. However, with proper preparation and planning, as well as solid shot placement, most bears can be recovered safely and without incident.
Note: In regions where black bears share their range with grizzly bears, it’s important to know how to identify the two bears and tell them apart so you don’t accidentally shoot a grizzly bear, which is a violation of federal law. Here’s a handy bear identification training you can take online for free so you can know for sure before you pull the trigger.
The size of a black bear’s home range can vary greatly depending on the location of food sources in the area. It can be as small as a couple square miles or it can be much larger — a male’s home range may go all the way up to 75 square miles in extreme cases. Bears are opportunistic omnivores, which means their movements are often unpredictable. This wandering lifestyle requires specialized tactics, the most common being spot-and-stalk, baiting, hunting with hounds, and calling.
Regardless of which tactics you employ, you’ll need to defeat a bear’s considerable arsenal of finely tuned senses if you want to have any hope of getting close enough for a shot.
Sense of Smell
First and foremost is their sense of smell, which is thousands of times better than a human’s. In fact, it’s been shown that if you take a bloodhound’s nose and multiply it by about seven, you’ll get a sense of the black bear’s olfactory powers.
There are both defensive and offensive strategies you can use in order to overcome these powers and get within range of a bear without it smelling you. On the defensive side, it’s wise to use as many scent control measures as logistically possible. More importantly, always keep tabs on the wind and make sure you’re hunting into it. A windchecker device, such as a small spray bottle filled with unscented talcom powder comes in real handy for this, as does a fine, frayed string tied to the end of your gun or bow.
You can also go on the offensive and use the wind to your advantage. With good scouting and planning, it’s possible to hunt with the wind at your back, allowing your scent to move out ahead of you and drive bears toward another hunter in a treestand or other fixed position.
Sense of Hearing
Next up is their sense of hearing, which is thought to be significantly better than a human’s, although it’s not known exactly how much better. They can detect a human voice at 300 yards and the cocking of a gun at 50 yards.
Your best defense against a bear’s ears is to simply be quiet. Move slowly and carefully, wear quiet clothing, and speak in whispers to your hunting companions. On the offensive side, always keep your ears tuned for bear sounds. Bears make noise when feeding, such as turning over rotten logs looking for grubs, and they communicate with each other through woofs, sniffs, grunts, and growls.
Sense of Sight
Contrary to popular belief, bears do, in fact, see in color. Their vision is roughly equivalent to a human’s — better, if you include the fact that they have excellent night vision. Although they’re somewhat near-sighted, they are adept at detecting movement, even at long distances.
To win the battle of the eyes, you’ll need to have a solid defensive plan. It’s very important to wear full camouflage and choose a pattern that breaks up your outline and matches the local vegetation well. More importantly, always move slowly and cautiously, and never move when a bear is looking in your direction.
As for offense, always carry a pair of high quality binoculars. The black color of a bear’s fur can make them a little easier to spot than other big game like deer. Carry your binoculars on your chest with a harness or “bino bra”, and use them often. When hunting open country using spot-and-stalk tactics, you can also employ a high-power spotting scope to give your eyes even more reach.
More on this next time…………………
The solunar theory is a hypothesis that animals and fishes move according to the location of the moon in comparison to their bodies. The theory was laid out in 1926 by John Alden Knight, but was said to be used by hunters and fishermen long before the time it was published.
In May 1926, John Aldenn Knight put together some fishing folklore and other fishing factors such as the sun and the moon, hence the name Solunar (Sol for sun and Lunar for moon) to form a theory on the patterns of animal movement. Knight compiled a list of factors which control or influence the day-to-day behavior of many freshwater and saltwater fish. Each one of the 33 different factors were considered. All but 3 were rejected.
The three factors retained were the sun, the moon and the tide. For salt water fishing, tides have long been known as a factor which control fishes’ behavior. As Knight’s research progressed, he found that rather than just tides themselves, the relationship of the moon and sun’s positions relative to each other may be the determining factor.
In addition to the time of moon up (moonrise) – moon down, his research determined that there were intermediate times of the day that occurred in between the two major periods. From that he establishes that there were major periods (moon up – moon down) and minor periods. Knight published the first Solunar table in 1936.
Solunar tables are tables that fishermen and hunters use to determine the best days of the month and times of the day for catching fish and hunting game. For fishermen, the tides, sunrise and sunset are helpful times of the day to know when the fish are going to bite. For hunters, the tides are not a factor.
Hunters use the sun and the moon to determine when the game will be moving the most.”Other conditions not being unfavorable, fish will feed, animals will move about, birds will sing and fly from place to place, in fact, all living things will become more active, more alive, during Solunar periods than at other times of apparent equal value. …anglers have found that it is a guide to the best fishing of each day, and the quality of their sport has improved…”
Using these tables, a fishermen and a hunter can tell when the moon is directly underfoot and overhead. The strongest activity occurs when there is a full moon or a new moon and is weakest when there is a quarter moon and a three quarter moon. This is because the moon and the sun’s gravitation force is strongest when directly above or directly below our head. The lunar data humans receive is better now because of the newer technology the US Naval Observatory and GPS technology.
This new technology has allowed the Solunar Theory to generate hunting and fishing times with much greater precision It is important to note that data in tables found on various websites should be reverified periodically with US Naval Observatory available data as well as compared against other reputable solunar data providers. Inconsistencies abound due to the complex nature of the Astrophysics computations and overlooked associated anomalies checking that are required to produce useful results. Moon Transits which do not occur for more than a day or associated times being off more than a few minutes are indications of a fundamental issue for a given position and should be suspect. All data providers should be verified before assuming data presented is authoritative or accurate.
Go to http://www.solunarforecast.com/ to create your own solunar calendar🙂