Whether you’re living off the grid or you happen to be stranded in a forest or on a prairie and your food is running low, grouse will make a great meal. But to hunt these wild birds just keep in mind you’re going to do some serious hiking. Grouse are the perfect thing to hunt if you don’t have any way to store meat or you live alone; grouse are smaller than a turkey—about the size of a chicken—so it’s ideal to hunt them since the delicious meat won’t go to waste. Grouse hunting sounds simple—go into the field or woods and just wait. But expert hunters know there’s a bit more to it than that. Here are some terrific tips.
It’s important to know where certain species of grouse call home. If you’re on a prairie in, let’s say North Dakota, you’ll need to hunt sharptail grouse. This grouse is at ease in the cover of thin, calf-high grass and prefers to be out in the open so they can view any approaching predator; they also like areas at high elevations with views. These grouse generally eat rose hips, buffalo berries, plums and other fruits of the prairie as well as grasshoppers in early season and get their water from an active spring seep, cattle pond or working windmill. Should you be stuck or live in the woods, the ruffed grouse is what can be found there. These birds reside by forested streams, the floor of the woods with spotted clearings and areas that are replenishing from logging or burning. If you’re in the woods in the fall, listen for the ruffed grouse’s drumming sound; this will aid you in finding them. If your situation allows you to, spend a few hours at different times of the day observing them in their habitat.
When grouse are frightened, they’ll normally run into the thicker grass on a prairie or dart into the forest’s brush off the trail; it’s also possible that they’ll fly away or fly twelve to twenty feet up into a nearby tree branch.
Perform plenty of practice shots with some sporting clays, used soda cans, pieces of wood or any items that are handy and it won’t matter if it gets shot to pieces. At sporadic times, get somebody to toss an object up in the air. Lift your shotgun, point it slightly in front of the object and shoot. Once you’ve gotten pretty good at shooting the items, then you’re ready to venture out for the real bird.
Alter Your Hunting Pattern
Many hunters like to follow a particular trail or have their own system when they hunt. However, hunting for grouse, is more unplanned. Grouse are erratic and will suddenly appear where you don’t expect them to be. The smartest thing for you to do is walk over as much land as possible. If you don’t have a compass with you, you’ll need to be very aware of your surroundings so you don’t become lost.
If you have a dog, he may turn out to be an excellent grouse hunter. However, you can’t just use your mutt. If you have a dog that’s bred for hunting, obeys you commands without fail and is well-behaved you may be in luck. Dogs like the American Water Spaniel, Brittany, Springer Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Setter or German Shorthair Pointer will work well for nabbing grouse. Always go against the wind when searching for grouse; it should be blowing in your face so that your canine will have an easier time of catching the grouse’s scent.
Fire Off a Shot!
This may seem obvious, but there are quite a few bird hunters that come up on birds often yet take too much time taking a shot. True, you need to be safe and cautious when using a gun; but if you have the chance to get a meal you should take the shot.
Grouse frequently fly in small groups. If you happen to see a flock but they’re slightly out of your shooting range, rush over and take your shot! You may be lucky enough to find a grouse just roosting. If you use up all of your shells in the first flush, reload your gun and be prepared for birds lagging behind.
Carry the Proper Hunting Paraphernalia
When you’re foraging for grouse, it’s essential that you have the correct tools and gear. Clearly, you’ll need some type of light-weight shotgun. If you happen to have a breach-loading, single-shot .410 shotgun, this will work fine. However, most hunters like to use a 12-, 16- or 20-gauge shotgun; these are outstanding when hunting grouse. Just be sure you have 2¾-inch shells—or 7 shot—to load into your gun; these small pellets will kill the grouse but won’t destroy the meat. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have a gun, you can use a bow and blunt-tipped arrows to go grouse hunting—or you can carve your own blunt-tipped arrows.
In addition to your gun, you’ll also want to have a good, but comfy, pair of hiking boots, a bright orange hunting vest, a knife, a map and compass, extra water for you and your dog, a .22 handgun if you think you need one for protection, a small survival pack, an orange canine vest, extra shotgun shells and bullets and, of course, a storage bin or bag for the dead grouse. You’ll be doing plenty of walking which will create heat, so dress light; but do bring a jacket in case the wind suddenly comes up.
With these handy tips you’ll be ready for any situation, whether it’s a horrific disaster or simply keeping your freezer well supplied with meat. If you’re hunting for the first time, it’s always a good idea to join an expert grouse hunter. With him or her as your teacher, you’ll gain more knowledge and become a better grouse hunter.
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