Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How To Miss A Ruffed Grouse Shot - Video

I went 0 for 8 on quality shot opportunities this day.

I was able to recover over the next two days but am still missing some easy ones.  The previous couple of weekends I was hitting some of the tougher shots.

Grand Rapids / Deer River MN area.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Michigan 2013 Grouse Forecast

Michigan 2013 Spring Breeding Surveys

Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey
Ruffed grouse drumming counts were conducted statewide 
along 97 survey routes during April and May 2013. 
There was an average of 10.7 drums heard per routes 
statewide, a 13 % decline from 2012 (12.3) average
(Figure 8). 

Highest drumming counts were in Zone 1 
(Upper Peninsula; 14.4), following by Zone 2 
(Northern Lower Peninsula; 9.4) and Zone 3 
(Southern Lower Peninsula; 6.4) (Figure 7).

In 2012, 103 survey routes were conducted statewide and 
paired t - tests were performed to statistically compare 
data from 87 identical routes run in both 2012 and 2013. 

Statewide there was a 10.3 % decrease 
(n=87; t=1.15 , P=0.25) in the average number of 
drums heard per route between 2012 (11.8) and 2013 
(10.6). Analysis at the regional scale indicated there 
was no significant difference (n=26; t=0.82 , P=0.41) 
in the number of drums heard per route in Zone 1 
(Upper Peninsula) between 2012 (17.4) and 2013 (14.9). 
There was no significant change in the average number 
of drums heard per route in Zone 2 
(Northern Lower Peninsula)

between 2012 (9.9) and 2013 (9.1; n=53 ; t= 0.90 , P=0.38 ).
In zone 3, there were 8 routes conducted in both 2012 
and 2013. Due to the low sample size, statistical analysis 
at the Zone 3 regional scale is not appropriate.

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Lake Winnie Winnibigoshish MN - Deer River MN - 10/25/2013


The pendulum swung the other way today.  I saw lots of birds but could not hit one.

We ended up going to our second choice.  The same pickup has been in our number one choice the past 3 weekends.  The nice thing is that he usually leaves by 2 o’clock so we can park there for late afternoon hunt.

Within 50 yards of leaving the car I saw a grouse flush wild about 20 yards in the woods.  After a short walk we got to a wide spot in the trail and I was thinking "this is such a good looking spot but I’ve never seen a grouse here"  just then Tasha bumped one and it came flying at me.  I missed a shot while it was flying at me and then one while it was flying away.  If the GoPro was working right I should have a good video of “how to miss a grouse”.   A little farther up the trail I saw a bird flush, as we approached the area Tasha went on point.  I figured she was pointing the one that flew.  Again the phrase “ always trust your dog” proved true.  As I was walking up and thinking that there was nothing there any longer up came another bird and another miss was tallied.

On our 90 minute hunt we moved 7 grouse, 3 of which were pointed by Tasha, none of which did I connect on.

I swapped dogs hoping that Tina could turn the tide.  We hunted for 2.5 hrs and moved 9 grouse and one woodcock.  I shot at 3 of the grouse and the woodcock and missed all of them.  At one spot Tina went on point and I saw something run in front of her.  I was thinking it was a rabbit as she likes to point them and we’ve seen a number of them here.  I walked towards her and a grouse got up low and straight in front of her.  I held off of shooting as I didn’t want to hit her.

On our way out we bumped into a couple of hunters.  One of them was wearing the same hat as I was.  It was a for the kennel, Northwoods Bird Dogs that both of my active dogs are out of.  We chatted a bit and one of them was a guide that works out of the same lodge that Jerry, the trainer / breeder, guides out of.  The grouse woods can be a small place sometimes.

We moved to a different parking spot in the same area and I gave Tasha another run.  She got 2 more points and just to keep everything on the same track I didn’t hit either one.  I did have one take off from about 10 feet up a tree.  This is the second week in a row that this has happened.  Neither time did it seem like it was close to roosting time.

5 hours hunting.  19 birds moved.  18 grouse 1 woodcock.  8 shots taken.  No hits.

I’m switching guns and hats tomorrow.  I mean it couldn’t be me that is the issue...

Friday, October 25, 2013

A First Grouse - Grand Rapids MN Ruffed Grouse Hunt October 19th 2013

The First Grouse That I've Taken Over One Of Tasha's Points ( Fergie looking on )

Saturday October 19th 2013

The MEA weekend curse hit in full force today.  I had to go to a 5th spot to find a place that didn’t already have a vehicle parked at it.  I was at the first spot a 9 am.  It took me an hour to find a spot that we could hunt.  I started out with Tasha and we hunted for about an hour but didn’t move a bird.  The cover looked good but it is a pretty obvious place.

Area #2 looked even better but Tina and I didn’t fair any better.  One of the nice things about this spot was that there were a number of areas around it that had been clear cut in the past year or two so it should only get better.  One of the saddest things in grouse hunting is to have a good area that never gets any maintenance and the cover just gets too old to be productive.

The third spot that we hit didn’t look quite as nice but also didn’t look like it had seen as much use.  We hit this spot for an hour and moved one bird but I didn’t get off a shot.

We returned to the spot that we had hoped to start out at and there wasn’t anyone parked there.  I started with Tasha and about 5 min into the trail she went on point and the bird came up before I was ready... arrgg...  We checked the woodcock area and didn’t move anything and then it was on to the longer trail.  About half way out she locked up.  I missed a left to right shot and then a second grouse got up and I finally was able to take one off of her point.  We finished working the trail out and back and I missed two more grouse by the time we got back to the truck.  I was still excited to have gotten a bird from one of her points.

Tina got the call to finish up the day.  After a short period we started to get some sleet and was thinking of bagging it but I figured we could always take a shortcut back to the vehicle if need be.  We were on our way to an area that Tasha and I had not hit and to get there we went by woodcock hollow ( I decided to name it ).  Sure enough Tina went on point.  I swung out wide to come at her from the other side of the cover.  Two steps in to the cover and the woodcock came straight at me.  The dang bird almost flew right into me.  After dodging it I took a shot and missed but was able to connect on the second shot.  We worked an area with pine trees and Tina made another nice point and I was able to connect on an easy shot.

On our way out we ran into a guy from West Virginia.  He had been hunting in the area for two weeks and commented on how many hunters there were.  I told him that with the National Ruffed Grouse Hunt and then MEA weekend he picked two of the busiest weeks to hit the area.  He was leaving the next day for two weeks in SD pheasant hunting.

I went 1/1 on Woodcock but only 2 out of 7 or 8 on grouse.  Still, getting the first one over Tasha made it all ok.


We woke to a steady wet snow falling.  We hunted for two hours and only moved one bird.  I did hear some shooting but I decided to pack up and head home early.

Tasha and Tina With Their 2 Grouse and 1 Woodcock

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Grand Rapids MN Ruffed Grouse Hunt October 18th 2013

3 Dogs 3 Grouse
Friday October 18th 2013

I am guessing that like most people I like to hunt the weekdays when possible.  I like the feeling of being alone in the woods.  We hit our first spot at about 1 pm.  I was surprised that no one was already parked at the spot when we got there.

I decided to start with Tasha.  I thought that by giving her the first shot at the area that maybe I could take her first grouse over a point.  I was able to take a woodcock that she  had pointed but had not yet connected on a grouse.  She has had a few flash points but nothing real solid yet.

She started to work the cover right away and seemed to be more serious about her approach.  We hit an area that usually produces a woodcock or two but didn’t move anything.  The second stretch is a longer piece of trail.  In this area she seemed to be working a bit slower and not quite as sure of herself.  We reached a split in the trail and as we got about 25 yards from the split Tasha stopped.  I wasn’t sure if she was pointing or just stopping.  I took another step and the grouse flushed.  I wasn’t quick enough to get off a shot but it was nice to see her respond to the scent.  We continued working the trail to the end but didn’t move any more birds.  Unfortunately this is an out an back trail so you end up rehunting the same area.  As we worked our way back Tasha moved farther out into the side areas and really worked a nice pattern most of the way back.

After getting back to the truck and having a bit of a snack I put Tina on the ground.  With Tina I sometimes go on autopilot and just wait until I quit hearing her bell and then the beeper goes off to signal her point.  Just a few minutes after getting back on the trail she went on point.  I moved in and a bird broke right to left and I took a shot.  I wasn’t sure that I had hit it so I was focused on marking the spot when another bird got up and went the opposite direction.  I took a quick poke but the bird kept flying.  We went into the cover looking to see if I had downed the bird or not.  After a bit of searching Tina found the bird.

We hunted some of the area that Tasha and I hadn’t covered but didn’t move any birds so we decided to recheck our favorite trail.  A short way down the trail Tina locked up and I had an easy straight away shot and was able to connect.  Toward the far end of the trail Tina again had a nice point and as I moved in a double got up from the opposite side of the trail.  I was able to spin around and get one of them.

We worked our way back to the truck, loaded up, and headed to the motel and Friday Night Fish Fry.

I was happy with how the dogs worked though I was still hoping to take a grouse over a Tasha point.

I was 3/4 on grouse and 0/1 on woodcock.  I expected to see a few more birds but has been better than I expected after my first few hunts where we saw so few birds.

Roughing it at the motel after the hunt

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Deer River - Grand Rapids MN Grouse and Woodcock Hunt Oct 13 2013

4 Grouse and 1 Woodcock

Sunday October 13th 2013

The dogs and I were back in the Deer River area to try our luck at finding some more grouse.  It had been a long drive the day before to get there.  We had started Saturday by heading up to Willmar, MN to talk with a farm owner about getting access to his land to try some pheasant hunting.  He agreed and we spent just over an hour making a quick pass to see if we could get a rooster.  All the corn was still up and it was starting to rain so we pulled the plug and made the drive to Deer River.

We went to what has become our favorite spot in the area.  There was already an ATV parked in the spot that we like to start out at.  It is a large area so we drove to a secondary parking area.  Tasha got the call to be the first one to hunt.  At 17 months old I am just wanting to get her into birds.  I’m hoping that she will handle them well when she finds them but I won’t get bent out of shape if we get more bumps than points.

After about 5 min she started to get birdy and a grouse broke from the cover.  I fumbled with the safety but didn’t get the shot off.  While I was cursing myself another bird got up and was away before I could get on it... We approached an area that is a bit lower and wetter than the other cover.  Tasha made a nice flash point on a woodcock and I was able to take it on the second shot.  On the way out Tasha bumped another grouse.  I wasn’t upset as we were working with the wind and as soon as she scented it she spun to point and the bird got up.  It was a little bit farther out than I am comfortable shooting so I passed on it.

Our second spot is an area that Marge ( my setter who we put down this spring at 17 1/2 ) had good luck hunting at 16 years old.  It was a shorter trail and she usually was able to get a good point in the first couple of hundred yard or so.  Tina got to hunt this one.  We worked the trail that we normally do but then were able to check out a new cut.  As we hit one spot I was saying to myself “ how can there not be a bird here “ and sure enough Tina locked up and I was able to take it with a single shot.

The third spot is another small area.  This is my third season hunting this area and we have always seen a bird here but have never taken one.  I was hoping that Tasha would break the streak and we could take a bird.  We worked the trail out and then bushwhacked it back.  She moved well through the woods and was working the cover but we didn’t move a bird.

For the last hunt of the day we returned to the first spot and were able to park in the spot that we wanted to start out.  About 20 minutes into the hunt Tina made a nice point a ways into the cover.  As I started to move up towards her the bird came charging out and I made a quick right to left swing and took a shot.  I didn’t see the bird go down but it did look like it maybe bobbed a bit.  We went in and looked around a fair amount and didn’t see anything and as we started to walk out I happened to look down and it was tucked into some brush.  It had gone an amount farther after my shot than I had thought.  As we neared the turnaround on the trail Tina made another nice point and I was able to take it on a straight away shot.

On the way out she made another point and I walked past her a good distance to try to trap the bird between us.  As I walked in Tina held steady but I didn’t move a bird.  As I got right next to her a bird broke a good 25-30 yards behind me.  I hadn’t gone quite far enough up the trail before cutting in.  About 5 minutes later she went on point again so I went even farther up the trail this time hoping to not have a repeat.  I got to within 5 or 6 feet of her and started to think it might be a woodcock holding tight and then right between us was the grouse.  I could have thumped it with my barrel.  I finally got it to flush but didn’t hit it until the second shot.

We ended up taking another grouse on the way out.  It was a nice flush and a easier shot but I’ll take an easy one as I know most are not that way.

For the day we moved 13 grouse and 8 woodcock.  As far as shooting I went 4/6 for grouse but only 1/5 on woodcock.

Another Hunter Beat Us To Some Prime Cover

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

6 tips for hunting ruffed grouse without the help of a dog

Even though I only hunt with dogs I thought this was a good article and was worth sharing.

Ruffed grouse (colloquially called partridge) are the premier upland game bird of northern New England and are both delicious and incredibly difficult to hunt. They often dwell in the kind of thick, previously logged, new-growth forest habitat that is nearly impossible to walk through and offers a wall of brushy cover that can make spotting and hitting birds a tall order.

A hunter with a well- trained canine companion can level the playing field somewhat due to the fact that a good dog can sniff out birds and give the hunter a slight edge. Unfortunately, not everyone is in a position to give a hunting dog the proper home and training it needs and are thus stuck hunting solo. All is not lost, however, and the following tips will improve a hunter’s chances of bagging a few grouse without the aid of a dog.

1. Locate fruit sources
Omnivorous ruffed grouse have a varied diet that includes insects, snails, slugs, mushrooms, and the leaves and buds of trees (usually poplar), but they have a particular affinity for the various fruits that are common to their habitat. For example, Vermont, where I learned to hunt, has an abundance of now-wild apple trees mixed into its thick, new growth forests. It is inevitable that when apples are an option, grouse will forsake greens, bugs, and slugs in favor of the sugary, high calorie fruit. Indeed, most of the grouse I bagged while living Vermont were shot within 30-yards of an apple tree.

In areas where wild apples are uncommon, as they are in eastern Maine where I currently hunt, an observant hunter willing to do a little exploring will likely still be able to find concentrated sources of fruit bearing plants. For example, hobblebush, which is common to the woods of northern New England, yields bright red berries that are relished by grouse.

Other fruits that may attract grouse include choke cherries, blackberries (if they are still present at the start of hunting season), and the fruit of hawthorn trees or “haws”.

2. Stick to the beaten path
Whenever it is possible, safe, and legal to do so, it makes sense for a grouse hunter to stick to established trails and decommissioned logging roads. The primary reason for holding to roads and trails is that these travel ways provide grouse with a convenient source of dust and pebbles. The birds dust themselves to control parasites, and eat small pebbles to aid in the breakdown of food stored in their gizzards. It follows that grouse often stay within easy striking distance of a path or road. Areas where a food source, such as a stand of apple trees or poplar saplings, is immediately adjacent to gravel path or road typically yield a lot of grouse.

Trails and roads also facilitate easy movement through the thick, brushy, and nearly unwalkable new-growth forests that comprise typical ruffed grouse habitat.

3. On rainy days, take to the pines
Grouse, much like any other terrestrial animal in existence, don’t like to be rained on and will seek shelter during inclement weather. This shelter often takes the form of such coniferous trees as balsams and spruces. Stands of pines that are in close proximity to food sources are particularly good places to look for grouse on wet weather days.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Two Woodcock Points - Bigfork MN - Video

I was grouse hunting near Bigfork, MN Sept 23, 2011 and was able to capture video of two separate Woodcock points.

It was the Friday before the Woodcock season opened.  It was fun to get a couple of nice solid points on them.

The spot that we hunted has been my best grouse area for the past 15 years but this time we didn’t move a single grouse.  This was the first time that this had happened at this area.

For More Bird Hunting Videos Visit

Friday, October 4, 2013

Grand Rapids - Deer River MN 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunt 2nd Weekend

Tasha and Tina with our first grouse of 2013

Friday Sept 20th

The weather forecast was for clearing in the afternoon but driving in rain all the way from Forest Lake, Mn to Grand Rapids, Mn wasn’t too encouraging.  The clouds started to break as I arrived in Deer River and my mood improved.  I met up with my hunting buddy Tony.  

We hit an area that I’ve had good luck at for a few years.  I put my new setter, Tasha, down to give her a chance to get on some wild birds.  Tony went down a different trail to work his two dogs.  We worked the area for about and hour and didn’t move any birds.   Tasha did get birdy a few times and gave me 2 or 3 unproductive points.  Even though we didn’t see anything I was happy with the way she was working the cover.  When we got back to the trucks I asked Tony if he had gotten anything as I heard a couple of shots.  He said that 3 had flushed wild ahead of him on the trail but that he hadn’t gotten them.  As a bonus though one of his dogs did roll in a dead skunk that was on the trail...  I’ll be skipping that area this year.

We continued to work our way around the Winnie area and found lots of good looking areas but no birds.  It started to drizzle as we hunted the last area and as we were walking out I had two grouse flush from under some pine trees.  I didn’t get off any shots but it nice to actually hear something.

Saturday Sept 21st

It was going to be just me and the dogs today as Tony decided to hunt closer to his cabin. 

If the lower bird counts were going to be keeping hunters out of the woods this year you wouldn’t know it by how many vehicles were on the forest roads this morning.

We started on the trail that we left off at the previous evening.  The cover was wet with the previous evening’s rain.  The area had the right cover and we hunted even farther down the trail than the day before.  Unlike the day before we didn’t move any birds.  We continued hunt some of the areas northwest of Lake Winnie but still were not having any luck.  We stopped in Black Duck for a late lunch and decided to head to a different area.

Our next spot was an area the my first dog, Marge, had good luck hunting in her 15th season.  I put Tasha down hoping that somehow Marge would have passed some of her mojo to us and that I’d be able to get Tasha her first bird.  The area looked even better than before as there had been a new trail cut through some birdy looking cover.  Tasha worked the cover well but still we were not able to get a point.

At the last spot I hunted my 11 year old setter, Tina, by herself.  One of the reasons that we added Tasha to the family is so that I wouldn’t have to hunt Tina all day long.  She would do it if I let her but she does better if I don’t run her into the ground.  I also switched guns to my 16ga in the hopes of changing our luck.  This area was where we had started yesterday but I decided to enter it from a different point.  The path we took was a newer cut path and a bit tougher to follow but it still looked good.  About five minutes into the hunt Tina locked up solid.  As I moved forward the grouse got up from right in the middle of the trail.  It was an easy shot that I actually connected on.  It was a young bird.  It felt good to finally harvest one.  As we moved along the trail she went on point ten minutes later.  I could see the bird on the ground about 10 yards into some thick cover.  I moved past the bird and then angled into the woods to get the flush.  It held longer than I thought it would and when it flushed I lucked out as I was in a spot where I could actually get my gun up and get a shot off.  Tina went and stood by the downed bird.  She doesn’t always like to retrieve but will usually go to the bird if she sees it fall.

We got two more flushes but no more shots.  After returning to the truck I started to feel the effects of getting caught in the cool drizzle from the night before.  I fed the dogs back at the motel while I cleaned up and got all of my gear into the truck.  I decided to pull the plug a day early.  It turned out to be a good move as by the time I got back to the Twin Cities I was coming down with the chills.

Additional notes:
When I first started hunting I didn’t like using bells as I don’t care for the extra noise in the woods but this year I’ve been using them a lot more often.  I am finding that with a young dog and the thick cover that it just makes it easier to keep track of them and I end up using the beeper a lot less often.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

PA State forest roads open, Ruffed Grouse Society hunt

State Forest Roads Open. Hunters heading into Pennsylvania's state-owned will find additional roads open in 18 of the 20 state forest districts, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "More than 400 miles of state forest roads normally open only for administrative use will be available to hunters in state forestlands this year," DCNR Bureau of Forestry Director Daniel Devlin said. "We hope to improve accessibility while promoting hunting where it is needed to benefit forest regeneration and the overall ecosystem." 

More than 3,000 miles of state forest roadways are open during the state's main archery season, which opens Saturday, Oct. 5, and closes Nov. 16. They will continue to stay open through the rest of the hunting seasons until January 2014. "Whether their quarry is deer, bear or turkey, hunters in our state forests will find more than 90 percent of that land now is within one-half mile of an open road," said Devlin. Hunters traveling to some northcentral areas of the state are reminded some hunting areas and travel routes may be impacted by Marcellus Shale-related activities. Some state forest roads may be temporarily closed during drilling operations or other peak periods of heavy use to reduce potential safety hazards. To avoid potential conflicts on state forest roads during times of high public use, DCNR will attempt to limit or restrict truck traffic at the outset of major hunting and fishing seasons. Some state forest roads will be opened only for the second week of the traditional rifle season because they cannot withstand the expected heavy traffic of the first week. Two- or three-month long openings will be in effect only where there is minimal threat of damage or deterioration to road surfaces or forest surroundings. A complete listing of open roads, effective dates and district office telephone numbers can be found on the DCNR website.

Ruffed Grouse Society Hunt. The Ruffed Grouse Society, based in Coraopolis, has scheduled its fifth annual Upland Bird Hunt within the Pennsylvania Wilds Region of Pennsylvania for Oct. 31-Nov. 2. Reservations are $350 per hunter and $175 for a youth hunter or non-hunting guest. With limited availability, the base of operation will be the Red Fern Inn, Kersey, which is central to thousands of acres of public hunting land, including the Allegheny National Forest, several State Game Lands and State Forest lands. A Pennsylvania resident or non-resident hunting license is required. The UBH adventure includes two days of hunting with a huntsman Nov 1-2 and a "Meet the Artist" program featuring a number of recognized wildlife artist and carvers. For more information, visit the RGC website.