A successful grouse hunt comes down to so much more than a close working dog and a straight-shooting shotgun. The most important factor is often finding good ruffed grouse habitat. Without that, you might as well be walking around in a parking lot.
RUFFED GROUSE HABITAT – WHAT WE LOOK FOR
Our favorite spots to hunt ruffed grouse are commonly relatively young aspen or poplar stands. We try to find locations that may have been logged in the past 10 years, and we’re ideally looking for sections that were clear cut. The first few years after being logged these areas aren’t very good. But during the 5-10 years after they were logged they can really produce some incredible hunting.
If things go well, these areas will regenerate into some prime ruffed grouse habitat. Our motto is that if it isn’t tough-as-hell to hunt, it’s probably not a spot we want to be hunting. We commonly do far better than most hunters simply because we’re willing to hunt these thick, hard to navigate sections of timber that other hunters simply aren’t.
ALWAYS BE LOOKING FOR NEW AREAS
Just like deer hunting, scouting for perfect ruffed grouse habitat is critical. We often have spots located years before we ever really intend to hunt them. Remember those first 5 years or so after logging aren’t going to produce stellar numbers, but there is a very good chance they eventually will. Keep a map in your truck (yes, like a real-life paper map) and mark the location & year with a sharpie or pen when you see clear cuts. When you come back to visit a few years down the road, if you see a thick stand of aspen or poplar trees growing you’re likely going to be in business!
When you’re heading out to these areas, keep in mind that it’s going to be tough hunting. You & your dog are going to want to be in shape, and you’re going to have to be quick to get your gun to your shoulder if you want to bring any grouse home for dinner. If you’re in a hard-partying group and typically hunt a little under the weather, you may want to stick to road hunting because you’re going to get your ass kicked by this type of timber.
Where we hunt, we probably see more birds than most hunters see in an entire month but we likely are only coming back with a small fraction of that. In my book that’s okay. I would much rather see a lot of birds & not necessarily get good shots than not see any birds at all.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read more about getting after grouse, be sure to check out our article on grouse hunting tips. You’ll gain some great insight into where you’re most likely to bag birds, even if you’re grouse hunting without a dog.