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Ruffed grouse hunting isn’t the easiest hunting out there. Are you looking for the best ruffed grouse hunting tips to have more grouse in your coat after hunting? Do you want to be a better grouse hunter? These grouse hunting tips will give you the knowledge and techniques to take your hunting to a whole new level.
1. Good Listening Skills
Learn to improve your listening skills as a ruffed grouse hunter. You can actually hear the ruffed grouse make steps before they take off into flight, especially when the leaves are dry and crinkly on a perfect summer day.
2. Look for Lanes
Terry Ides states that you should keep an eye open for shooting lanes and position yourself for a high-quality shot when a dog goes on point. He warns that if a flush occurs while you are standing behind a tree, you don’t have much of a chance.
3. Lend a Hand
When you are bird hunting in thick cover, put an old glove on your left hand (for right-handed hunters) so you can remove vines, limbs, and briars from your pathway while your right hand is free to take aim at any notice.
4. Cover a Lot Of Ground
According to Terry Ides, who has operated Ides Guides for a long time, states that you should cover more ground. The more ground you cover, the more birds you will have the chance of spotting. He also advises you to don’t be afraid to veer off the beaten path.
5. Grouse Hunting Buddy
Hunting with a buddy can be easier and more helpful. However, you must know each other’s location all of the time. Always use a simple call-out like “Ho!” or “Over Here!” instead of shouting loud sentences. Ruffed grouse will flush wild the more they hear such conversations.
6. Timing Is Key
According to Jake Nelson, grouse hunters who plan their hunting for colder weather are often rewarded. By late October or early November, a lot of the ground cover is nonexistent and the grouse hold tighter and this can lead to better looks for you.
7. Spring Training For Dogs
A good time to train your dog is during the spring. Many of the spring woodcocks sit tight together which presents a good opportunity to train your young dog. Moreover, because of the lack of vegetation during the spring, it is easy to spot the dog.
8. Early Morning or Late Afternoon
According to Jake Nelson, the best time to hunt grouse is early morning or late afternoon. This is the time they move around, look for food, and leave their scent on the ground.
9. Stay-At-Home Birds
Grouse are actually stay-at-home gamebirds. They hardly go more than a half-mile from its home range. This knowledge is good to know as you can always figure out its home if you spot ruffed grouse roaming in an area.
10. As The Day Warms Up
Grouse feathers get sticky when they are wet and this makes it difficult to fly. This is the reason why it is crucial they remain dry. If the day is going to be a hot one, pay attention as the day warms up. Grouse will become more active as the day goes on and get hotter.
11. Second Shots On Early Season Grouse
If you flush early season grouse and only fire one shot, resist the temptation to break your firearm and reload right away. It is quite possible that you may have come upon a group that was hatched the same year and one that might have been sitting tight will jump late, just at the moment you break open your gun. However, if have fired both shells, try to reload as quickly as possible.
12. It’s All About The Edges
According to Jake Nelson, grouse love edges like many birds. If you find a tag alder swamp or a creek bottom, there will be birds along that edge. When you take down one from the edge, try to figure out what they are feeding on and this knowledge will help you decide what to look for and where to go.
13. Keeping Track of Your Shooting Position
After you take a woodcock down, it could be a challenge to find it on the forest floor as they are small birds and their feathers camouflage them very well on the forest floor. If you are hunting without a dog, and you took one down, to remember the spot you fired the bird, hang your hat on a branch or drop a spent shell on the ground where you stood to fire the shot.
Marking the shooting position will help you return to that spot to restart your search if you get confused about where you thought the bird landed.
14. Uphill Flight
Most experts and grouse hunters are in agreement that a grouse flushed on a hillside will fly uphill almost every time.
15. Cock Bird or Hen
You can easily know if the bird you shot is a male or a female by carefully looking at the black band on the tail of the ruffed grouse. If the black band is a continuous band, it is almost always a cock bird. If the black band is broken, it is a hen. The exception comes when the bird is a young one.
16. Grouse Sit Tighter on Reflushes
A grouse biologist shared a theory why grouse sit tighter on reflushes. He stated in their favorite spots, like the one you first flushed them from, they are familiar with the best escape routes and use them every time when disturbed. However, on the reflush, they are almost always in less familiar cover.
17. Wild Flush With Noise
You will almost always get a wild flush of grouse if you approach their location with a lot of noise and commands to your dog. Ruffed grouse are tight-holding birds, but the noise will cause a wild flush.
18. Adapt For Survival
The ruffed grouse is well equipped to withstand tough winters and predators. Its legs have hair and feet feature fine feathers that act as snowshoes. It is camouflaged by its plumage matching the woodlands that it is almost impossible to spot on the ground.
19. Flushing Dogs
It is a good idea to use flushing and retrieving dos as grouse and woodcock dogs. Besides flushing the birds, the dogs can also retrieve the birds. They can do a good job when well trained but will be useless if not properly trained.
20. Waiting It Out
When the temperature drops and it is cold coupled with high winds, the ruffed grouse, like the white-tailed deer, remains in the conifers conserving energy and waiting it out.
21. White Splashes
White splashes on the ground of the covers are a good sign that woodcocks are in the vicinity.
22. Best Kept Secret
When you hear the flush, don’t be looking for the bird, then raise your gun later. Instead, your gun should be coming to your shoulder as you look in the direction of the flush. When you see the bird, the barrel of your gun should be coming onto what you are seeing and you should fire instantly. This is not the time for tracking or aiming. This grouse hunting technique assumes that your hunting buddy is behind you, out of harm’s way.
23. Best Grouse and Woodcock Gun
There are disagreements over the bore of a 12 or 20 gauge. However, it seems like there is general agreement about other features of a grouse and woodcock gun like a lightweight, short barrel, fast swinging, and a stock that fits perfectly.
24. Grouse Flying
Grouse fly farther when shot at, not fly as far if they flush wild.
25. Keep Your Covers Secret
Don’t take anyone to your favorite grouse covers unless they are a trusted and confidential friend. If you don’t do this, you will arrive at your cover to find more cars there than at a car lot.
26. Winter Grouse Feeding
During autumn, ruffed grouse can be found near wild berries, old apple orchards, among acorns and beechnuts. As winter sets in, ruffed grouse can be found eating the buds of the plants.
27. Reflushing Grouse
A key to successful and basic grouse hunting is reflushing the grouse.
28. Over Training Your Dog
Don’t make the mistake of overtraining your dog. If you do, he may start pointing to other birds than the ones you want.
29. The Quiet Launch
Ruffed grouse can take off without any noise in rainy or snowy weather when they are in the spruces, hemlocks, or other conifers.
30. Flushing Woodcocks
When you flush woodcocks, you will find out that he is not alone. There are almost always others not very far away.
The Bottom Line
If you want to take more birds home, then the best ruffed grouse hunting tips are just what you need to read. Even if you are an experienced grouse hunter or a beginner, these ruffed grouse hunting tips will make you a better grouse hunter.