Ruffed grouse offer a challenging early-season opportunity for bird hunters. The birds are often tough to find and they seem adept at disappearing when you do find them.
To be successful at grouse hunting it is important to stay focused and to stick to a plan that works. Understanding the birds and their movements are key to bagging more grouse this fall.
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HUNT THE EDGE
Grouse are often found at the edges of two types of habitat. Look for them near where the woods meet a road or trail, or where forest meets a field or clearing. They also like areas with low, sparse vegetation and open ground. If you find an area that meets these criteria, you are likely to find grouse.
TAKE A SHOT
Since grouse are found in forested areas, when they flush, they are often flying through trees. When they flush, many hunters are hesitant to take a shot, because it is not a clear shot. Ignore the urge to wait for a clear shot. You might not hit the bird, but then again, you might hit the bird. You will not know unless you take the shot. If you take more shots, you are likely to take more birds.
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FIND THE FOOD
An important factor that is sometimes overlooked in grouse hunting is identifying what the birds are feeding on. If one bird is feeding on a given food source, it is likely that many of the grouse in the area are feeding on the same thing. This could be seeds, berries, plants, mushrooms or other food sources. If you identify a food source you can identify areas where the birds are located.
KEEP YOUR EARS OPEN
While much of grouse hunting revolves around sight and seeing the birds, do not overlook the importance of hearing the birds. As you walk through the woods, listen for grouse. Unlike some gamebirds, grouse may have to run to a clear area before they can flush, due to heavy cover. The birds may also make sounds before flushing.
If you are hunting without a dog, stop frequently to listen for these sounds. If you hear them, you will have advance warning of a flushing bird.
If you are grouse hunting with a dog, make sure you are moving into the wind. This will make it easier for your dog to catch the scent of a grouse. It seems obvious, but it is a strategy than can be overlooked in the field.
FOLLOW THE FLUSH
When grouse flush it is not uncommon for them to fly only a short distance. If you cannot get a shot off or miss your shot, do your best to follow the track of the bird. If you follow it, the chances are very good that you will encounter it again and have another shot at it. By using this strategy, you will increase the number of grouse you take this season.
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