Grouse hunting is one of the more exciting types of hunting in much of the United States. The pounding of the wings of an unseen grouse thundering into the air from under your feet is always a pulse quickening event. While grouse hunting with a dog may be more traditional, those hunting without a dog can kick up the birds without the help of a canine by beating the brush and covering a lot of territory. Here are some how to tips to get started hunting ruffed grouse.
Ruffed (not ruffled) grouse live in a wide range that extends along the northern United States and southern Canada as well as down the Appalachian Mountains toward northern Georgia as well as other pockets. Grouse are birds that live in the forest, but are most likely to be found in brushy openings and younger stands of trees where they can seek refuge from predators. Large stands of older timber offer little cover at ground level for the grouse to hide so these open areas are unlikely to hold grouse in large numbers. In addition to brush for protection, grouse of course need a source of food. Berries, nuts, and other food sources near protective habitat are ideal places to poke around for grouse. In late winter I will actually hit any area of the woods that is showing green, but late hanging berries and other obvious food signs should be carefully hunted. A hunter can roam old timber and well roads as well as ridge tops looking for location that grouse may be found. Edges of these old, unused roads, overgrown fields and pastures, and old home sites are also areas to be targeted. Perhaps more important in periods of drought, but always worth considering is sources of water. Grouse will often be found close to creeks and other small streams but most wooded areas provide lots of sources of water. Stands of aspen trees are known as great grouse habitat as well, learn to identify the aspen and always check out where they occur. Whenever possible grouse habitat has been identified, a hunter simply needs to walk into the area. At times, grouse will almost need stepped on to flush so be certain to cover the area thoroughly. Regardless of where a hunter is in the woods, a grouse can explode out of the smallest patch of brush and at times out of more open woods so hunters without a dog need to be ready to shoot at all times when the grouse may appear.
Hunters heading out without a dog to grouse hunt need to be dressed to beat the brush. Tall boots and brush pants are great to allow hunters to stomp into and through briars in search of the grouse. A prefer a light single shot shotgun simply as it is easy to carry in tight places and light, but this is more of a personal preference.
A great resource for those interested in Ruffed Grouse hunting is the Ruffed Grouse Society. Check out their website at ruffedgrousesociety.org.