Grouse have long been favored as a preferred game meal. With three species available in our area, the recipe options are endless! From the white meat ruffed to the dark meat of the spruce and sharptail, hunting these birds can be as daunting as it is fun. To increase your chance of a bigger buffet, I have compiled a short list of tactics that should help achieve your goal!
Go with a light shotgun in 16- or 20-gauge, weighing around six or seven pounds. Heavy waterfowling guns will wear out your arms, and they’re too slow getting on target. Long barrels, meanwhile, will tangle in vegetation when swinging on a bird. Speed kills in grouse hunting because the birds are usually in thick cover and disappear from sight in a couple of seconds.
Here at Wawang, our preferred weapons are a .22 guage short shell, a .410 or a simple BB gun. These three weapons are lightweight for those long walks and if properly aimed for the head (eye preferably) the kill is quick and the cleaning is simplified with little (.410) or no damage to the breast (.22 and BB)
For a real challenge, don’t discount using a bow. Using one will cut the chances of frightening prey that normally would be driven away by the louder firearm counterpart.
2. Don’t Choke Up
Cylinder or skeet choke is the way to go if you are in the learning phase. Most shots will be less than 25 yards, and these chokes provide a lethal pattern for grouse out to 30 yards. The sooner your pattern expands, the better for close-range shooting. And if you’re hunting the right cover, your shots will be at close range (10 to 20 yards). Small pellets pattern wider at those distances, making #7 1/2 shot a good choice until the leaves fall. Switch to #6 after that, when shots may be a little longer and the birds more heavily feathered.
For the more experienced hunter, a tighter pattern or single shell can’t be beat. A .410 is the best of both worlds with a naturally tighter pattern but enough pellets to ensure a hit.
3. Mind the roosting times
Early and late in the day, hunt the edge of the trails and gravel road. Grouse roost in conifers at night, then usually fly down at first light to feed close to the forest edge and then head along the edge of the road to collect gravel for digestion. Their foraging may take them quite a distance, but toward evening they’ll be back near their roost area, not before topping up their crops for the night with more coarse sand or small gravel.
Our area is peppered with numerous cutovers (great for sharp tails), gravel roads and trails. These areas are conducive to large amounts of grouse and make bagging limits simple.
4.Stand on Guard
Scan the edges of the road ways and trials. Take time to stop and examine for even the slightest movement. Most grouse will sit very still in the face of danger and most rely solely on their camouflage for protection.
Often the road will seem empty, but given a minute of two of silence, those heads will start poking up again as the fear of danger caused by the sound walking subsides.
5. Stay on Edge
If you prefer a challange and would like to hunt in the middle of the day, grouse love edge cover. From mid-morning until late afternoon, you’ll find them where forest meets field or swamp or logging road, or wherever mature forest meets new growth. Edges provide a variety of food sources not found in mature, open forests. Look for grouse where the ground is covered with salad—small, leafy plants, berries, seeds and mushrooms—not dense, long grass. Logged areas, 10-year-old burns and overgrown farms that are being colonized with poplars are good spots to look, as grouse feed heavily on poplar catkins.
6. Listen for Clues
Grouse escape by surprising you, but sometimes they give themselves away a few seconds before flushing. When a hunter approaches a covey of young grouse, the birds will scatter and make peeping noises to locate each other before flushing. If you hear peeping, get ready. The same goes for rustling noises; grouse often run a couple of steps to find a clear flight path before flushing. If you hear the slightest noise or see a flash of movement under a bushy evergreen, for example, quickly walk around the tree. It could be a grouse walking to the other side to flush. If you get halfway around the tree, you may get off a shot as the bird takes off.
7. Follow the Flush
Grouse can fly up to roughly 150 yards when flushed, then land on the ground or halfway up a tall conifer. If you see a bird fly into a tree and want to shoot it off a limb, just look for the football-shaped mass in the branches.
If the shot is unsafe and you want to wait for it to fly down so you can flush it from the ground, mark the area and hunt away from it. Return after about 15 minutes; by then the grouse will have flown down and resumed its business.
8. Squeeze Them Out
When approaching a likely covey, start from the thickest side or come at it from out of the evergreens if possible. Grouse are magnificent flyers, but the last thing they want to do is expose themselves in the air. Instead, they’ll run to the edge of cover and hunker down until the last second as you approach. When grouse finally flush, they may fly overhead back to the shelter of the evergreens, allowing you more time to shoot.
9. Last but Not Least
Do not forget to wear the proper attire. Footwear is pivotal as you will be walking long distances and your feet will thank you for the comfort.
Ensure that you are layered correctly as the mornings can be cool and not only warm into much higher temperatures but drop back down in the early evening. Keeping that in mind, make sure that your clothing is quiet. Wind breakers and other things of that material can be loud and spook your prey.
Armed with the right weapon, clothing and determination, you too should be able to enjoy a few great meals of grouse…..if you are good enough, you might even have enough to invite your friends 😉
Until next time I feel Bird Brained……
If you are interested in joining us for a fantastic Grouse/Fishing Pkg, contact me with the form below and I can help you plan an action packed adventure.