Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So You Want to Hunt Ruffed Grouse

Where do you start?  The best place would be to find an old partridge hunter who would let you tag along.  That could prove mighty hard to do though, because grouse hunters seem to be somewhat scarce and a pretty secretive lot, and most will only share coverts with the closest and most trusted friends.  Still, it might be something to strive for.
Without a mentor, the next best bet would be to read everything that you can find on hunting ruffed grouse.  Most of what is in the old classics, like New England Grouse Shooting, by William Harnden Foster, still holds true today, and it is well worth trying to find a copy even though it is out of print.  L. L. Bean published a book on upland hunting, written by Tom Huggler, and the chapter on ruffed grouse was one of the best I’ve ever read.  And even if you can’t get the old grouse hunters to take you along, try to get them talking.  A bottle of single malt scotch or aged bourbon might loosen their tongues a bit.  And then pay attention.
Next, stretch your legs and see if you can find some grouse.  When you do find one, look around and see what the cover looks like.  Bird hunters with a lot of experience often refer to a place as looking birdy, even though they might be hard pressed to describe exactly what makes it look that way.  Try to guess the food source and where the shelter is, both are never too far away, and then look for more of the same sort of country.  Along the way you’ll probably find more grouse in cover that is slightly different, but try to notice similarities. 
When you are home again, try to locate where you found the grouse on Google Earth.  Notice what the forest looks like, stream locations and proximity of softwood trees.   Try to find more of the same and mark the spots. 
Then start walking again and keep going until your legs hurt, it will only get you in shape for the upcoming season and you are bound to find cover to hunt.  Finding anything more than one ruffed grouse per hour is doing better than average, so some days are going to be bust, but others are bound to be bounty.  You hunt grouse with your feet. 

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