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Grouse tips


M.T. Bucket

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I'm hoping someone can give me some help. I started grouse hunting in the 2002 season, and in those 2 seasons, I've only shot 3 grouse. It's not really that I'm missing them, I'm just not seeing any. I hunt all types of woods and try to stay off of the beaten path. I don't have a dog. I hunt in Itasca county mostly.

Is it just because of the low population? If I keep going out, will my day come? I get frustrated hearing hunters say they got their limits all the time when I walk 6 miles over a weekend and see one bird.

I'm about to buy a grouse call and grouse decoys and build a grouse stand. (My wife thinks all of these things exist.) smile.gif

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Right now the population is down statewide, but improving. Look for thick pencil popple aspen stands, with some older aspen around. Grouse need the aspen buds to get throught the winter. I spend lots of time in the woods year round, so I am lucky to see where broods where born and raised. They dont really move too far until it's time to disperse. So If you can find some time to get out in the woods in late August eary September you can spot some coveys. Also I like to use my lab for hunting. And a dog makes all the difference in the world. Especially when the woods are real thick.

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M.T.:

I got substantial help from the Forest Service when I went to school in Northern WI. I had to ask the right questions, but if you can get someone to pull out a forest inventory map and show you where some of those more recent cuts (5-12 years ago, depending on soil chars.) exist, you'll be alot closer to more birds.

The closest FS field office would probably be more than willing to help out, but let it be known that many of them hunt grouse too! Find similar areas to the ones they point out...as the ones they showed me saw pretty heavy use. At least in WI, I had success in narrow creek bottoms with thick hazlenut and alder brush as well.

I could find a few here and there, but never hit them! Good luck.

Joel

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Protrapper,

Thanks for the info, I really like the idea of scouting just before season. About dogs, one guy told me that when you use a dog, you see more birds but you don't get as good a shot--does that mean you generally have to shoot them in a mad flush? I use a single shot smile.gif

Joel,

I work in a natural resource related position, so I know where a lot of the cuts are, unfortunately since I hunt on the weekends I usually see trucks parked at every trail head and forest road--so I usually head down to the pine and spruce plantations with little success. Think I should just brave the crowds?

Aldo Leopold preferred hunting grouse in the creek bottoms of WI. You're in good company smile.gif

Thanks guys!

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Sometimes in the early season it will be shooting through thick brush and thats where the dog shines.They find the dead bird. Also I like my lab cause she flushes them in trees then I just pop them out of the trees. And she can smell them before I could see them and they could be 2 feet off the trailin the early season. I hunt alot of alder bottoms also. They are really good in a dry year.

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MT:

You said you work in a nat. res. related field? Thanks for the good work. I don't know what you do, but I know that it's often an underpaying, high-effort affair. I have much respect for those that take on such a task, because it requires a genuine interest in the outdoors and conservation!

As for the crowds, one of the ways I avoided them would be to not use such access points to hunt much of the same cover. Often times, that meant hiking a 1/4 mile or more to the backside of the cut. I didn't see anyone that way, even if I saw their truck at the access. I think that most of them hunted the closest or easiest cover, leaving the other part of the cut to myself. Sometimes it's almost EASIER to get to the backside of the cut off of a forest road that was never meant to be the access point. A good forest map is a wonderful tool to have, as I'm sure you know.

Old logging roads worked well sometimes, mostly because of the easier shooting, but I still don't know what makes a good logging road for grouse, and what makes a bad one. I'm not much of a grouse hunter anymore, so I've lost some of it.

You should switch to a bigger bird, like the turkey. They don't fly away (unless you really scare them), and they cover more of the table!

Joel

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MT,
I'm not a grouse hunting expert but I learned alot the few times I've done it. Setterguy should be able to help you alot.

Here's what I know. Stick to younger aspen areas. If these areas have a smattering of other types of trees like pines or hardwood as well as some low-lying wet areas (think mini-swamps or meadows) or brushy spots, so much the better. Also if the aspens are much bigger around than the business end of a baseball bat don't spend too much time there. Another thing I learned is that areas that have some green vegetation on the ground seem to hold more birds than areas devoid of green vegetation. Grouse are also edge birds. Even in the middle of the woods there are edges. Brushy spots, swamps, different stands of trees are all edges and should be hunted.

If dogless especially, while walking through the aspens, always pick a small clear spot to walk towards next. When you get to the clear spot stop for a few moments. If a bird flushes you'll have an "unobstructed" area to swing your gun at the bird. If no birds flush, then pick out the next clear spot and walk towards it. Also keep your eyes on the ground for moving grouse and keep your ears open too. Some grouse will make a weird and loud blooping noise when they get nervous because you're near them. I can't describe it other than it's a weird blooping sound but when you hear it you'll know it. If you hear this sound a grouse is surely nearby and ready to flush. Walk to the sound and be ready to shoot.

A good how to book on grouse is -
Grouse & Woodcock: A Gunner's Guide by Don Johnson it's available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble usually has it too. I highly recommend it.

Also a dog is fun to hunt with but my dog sucks at grouse (puts too much pressure on them) so I can offer no advice in that area.

Again, try to get ahold of Setterguy. I think he could give you alot of good advice.

Good luck
gspman

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Just go deer hunting, and that way you will have the wrong firearm with you when that covey lands directly under your stand. Its kind of like going fishing without a stringer.

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If you truely want to bag more grouse, invest in a dog with grouse hunting bloodlines. Or you can find someone that has a good grouse dog and start picking up the bar tabs..

First off, I would say that you have the right idea with staying off the path. If you consider how many acres are in a particular forest and then how many acres that path takes up, it doesn't take a mathemitician to figure out that you have a better chance seeing birds off the path. These are a few of the things that I started doing when I first started hunting grouse seriously, and I think they have really paid off.

1. Start keeping a journal. Note where you see birds, what time of day they are there and then investigate the area and figure out why they are there at that time. Look for food sources, aspen buds, chokecherries, or clover. Late season I have my best luck in creek bottoms.

2. Cover edges first. Just like many forest animals groue are edge birds. clearcut/hardwood, field/conifer, swamp/apen thicket have given my a lot of success.

3. If walking without a dog cover ground slowly and deliberatly. Pause every couple minutes and wait for a flush. Grouse like most ground birds will fly only when forced. They do not like to reveal thier location unless forced.

4. Sleep in. Seriously, I used to get up at 4am and be in the woods at daybreak. After looking at my records I realized that a majority of my birds were taken between 9-11 am and then again an hour before dusk when they start to feed and look for a roosting spot. If you insist on getting in the woods real early check out the tree tops, ecspecially if its cold. They will linger on the roost until the sun is high enough to warm them up. Then they will get down to feed.

5. Buy a dog, buy a dog, buy a dog. I am no expert grouse hunter, but there are very few times that I will go out and no at least have my limit pointed. Now I get a shot at about 75% of those, and maybe hit 50% of the ones I shoot at. I have no idea how many birds I would see without her, maybe a third.

6. Scout. Someone mentioned that here already but try this. Go out in the woods before the season right as it starts to get dark. Then listen for the birds flying up to the roost. This will give you a good idea where the birds will be then you can look at that area and try to find land with similiar characteristics.

Hope this helps. If you ever want to get out in the fall just drop me a line. I am in the woods about 30 times a season not including Canada. If you have any more questions feel free to leave them here, or mail them.

good luck!!!

[email protected]

------------------
Keep the tip up, ask permission and shoot straight. Setterguy

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Wow, thanks for all of the great info, everyone! I'm sure this information will boost my success rate.

I'm not sure I want to get a dog for a few reasons--living in town, not enough time to give it the attention it deserves, few other reasons...but I've certainly been moved to think harder about it. I really don't know anything about hunting dogs--good breeds, how to train, etc.--so I'll probably have to pick up the bar tab grin.gif

Thanks again. The info is appreciated.

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Another good source of info I found is the ruffed grouse society home page. They have a link to a bunch of info on grouse. Some of it is just interesting facts, but other stuff in there should help your hunting. Did you know that an adult grouse will usually spend his life within 200 yards of his drumming log. If you flush him on day and don't get him. Try again later as he will not go far. Good luck.

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  • 6 months later...

Don't forget about upland willow/alder patches and birch stands later in the season(they love those catkins).

I don't know what part of itasca co you are hunting in, but I would stick to the northern parts.

Bassman

------------------
cut that sucka'

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  • 3 years later...

Well the upswing is here, thought I would bring up this old thread for review, or addition. wink.gif

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Good idea though. My buddies and I are making our annual trip north on Wed/Thur/Fri...to do our stand building/grouse slaying weekend. Dont mind my sspeilling... I just killed a bottle of merlot. lol.. I will be killing a bottle of Jag this weekend up in the great north woods chasing Mr. Ruffie.

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Of course...The drinking doesnt start until the hunting is done for the day. That is one great thing about grouse hunting...You dont have to be up at 0430 to hunt. wink.gif...

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