Ruffed Grouse are the king of all game birds, and sometimes (most of the time) the most challenging. So here are a few tips and techniques that you can try that work well.
In order to hunt grouse, you need a place that holds birds. Ruffed Grouse like moist, dark places with little ground cover (like grass), but low overhead cover. Our hunting areas here in Northwest Ontario are mixed timber and brush along creek bottoms. Grouse need food, and mostly live on buds and berries, but also feed on bugs and clover. Food sources differ from area to area, but grouse typically eat the same things everywhere. You will notice that grouse change their diet as the seasons change.
The ideal areas to hunt will hold the presence of water as that makes a big difference, creek bottoms with mixed old growth and re-prod, and a road close by for grit.
Early in the season, you will find the birds in family groups or coveys. As season and winter progress, the groups break up and you will find birds mostly in singles and pairs. Early season birds hold pretty tightly here in our area, but it isn’t like that everywhere.
Ruffed grouse have a daily routine, so you can pattern them. They normally get up late and fly into a feeding area or along a road to pick gravel. Then it’s off to loafing and dusting the afternoon away. In the evening, they will go back to feeding, and usually roost around the same area.
Before season, and if you can, drive roads looking for new spots an checking old ones. Early in the morning or late in the evening, you can find grouse in the roads picking gravel. Mark these spots and come back during season to hunt the areas around them. Even if an area doesn’t provide birds, still go back a different time to check again if everything the grouse need is there so will they eventually.
When hunting grouse, use a dog that has a really good nose and hunts from close to medium range. It’s a good idea to sometimes stop in an area that will likely hold birds and let the dogs just circle. Grouse are hard to scent for dogs, so slow and steady is good. Hunt up or down creeks, then turn around and hunt back in the opposite direction. It’s hard to believe how many birds the dogs will miss the first pass, but after you leave, they will move around put out a good scent cone for the dogs.
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