The Ruffed Grouse was at one time a very popular game bird in many parts of the United States. However the combination of the decline of the number of bird and small game hunters, the loss of ruffed grouse habitat, and the decrease in grouse populations have reduced the number of hunters of this fine bird. Few game animals have the ability to startle the hunter like a ruffed grouse does when they unexpectedly flush near a hunters feet. I have been slipping along numerous times deer hunting and have come close to a coronary emergency after flushing an unseen bird at close range. Here are some tips to get you started on hunting ruffed grouse and some things that you can do to help raise their populations.
Ruffed grouse like brushy areas mixed with young trees. This gives them the opportunity for cover from predators as well as a source of food. Hunt for ruffed grouse in these areas, especially when they occur on ridge tops. Be prepared whenever in grouse territory as they can take off from anywhere at anytime. I remember being on a grouse hunt and stopped to take a break on log. My hunting buddy looked down and saw some bird tracks in the snow. He half jokingly stated that they were grouse tracks. After sitting there for a few minutes we started to get up to leave and as we stood two grouse flushed from beneath the log.
Areas that have suffered destruction from forest fires, severe storms, and some areas that are timbered will quickly flourish into prime grouse territory. Most selective timber operations won’t do much for the grouse, but a near total clear cut will provide good hunting in years to come. Look for green plants during the winter and you should have a shot of coming across some grouse.
As far as supporting the grouse populations, here are some things that you can do. Of course, follow all state and national laws and regulations, but kill grouse predators when you have the chance. In my part of the world, coyotes have suddenly sprung upon the scene. Foxes too are more common in many areas as their fur value has declined and thus hunting pressure. Raccoons, skunks, and opossums also will raid grouse nests and perhaps prey on the young as well. These animals that were once preyed upon by humans now live without much natural predation and their numbers are growing. While scientists insist these animals impacts on ruffed grouse populations are small, the removal of a few of them can’t hurt anything.
Ruffed grouse are a magnificent game bird. Consider joining the Ruffed Grouse Society to promote this sport as well.