Ruffed Grouse Hunting 101

Like most monarchies, ruffed grouse hunting is steeped in tradition. 

Ruffed grouse hunting can be quite challenging and requires a unique set of skills. If you don’t do your homework and you show up unprepared, they’ll make you look dumb. Success in ruffed grouse hunting often comes from experience, observation, and adaptability. Each hunting trip provides an opportunity to learn and improve your skills. 

Grouse hunting is primarily a public land pursuit. Open to anyone and everyone who’s willing to burn boot leather behind a bird dog. Public lands offer a more inclusive experience, allowing people with different resources and levels of expertise to engage in this challenging and rewarding pursuit. Their part of our American identity, offering a sense of adventure and the chance to experience our country’s natural wonders firsthand. 

The Northwoods in October is hard to beat. Two-tracks lined with vibrant orange, red, and yellow leaves. The steady rhythm of bells, echoing through the aspen and alders. The anticipation of silence, followed by a flush so strong you can feel it. The smell of burnt gunpowder in the cool autumn air. Those images, sounds, and smells are imprinted in your mind forever. Never leaving. Never fading.   

The literary credentials of the ruffed grouse are impressive. There are many notable authors who have written about ruffed grouse hunting, showcasing the bird’s allure and the challenges associated with hunting them. Burton Spiller, George Bird Evans, George King, and William Harnden Foster are among the renowned writers who have contributed to the literature of ruffed grouse hunting. These authors have written about their adventures, strategies, and the unique characteristics of hunting this iconic species. 

Grouse hunters are an opinionated bunch, particularly when it comes to bird dogs. While William Harnden Foster may have advocated for pointers and setters as the ideal grouse dogs, it is true that any well-trained bird dog can be effective in grouse hunting, including flushers. 

Different breeds and individual dogs have their own strengths and characteristics that can be advantageous in various hunting situations. Pointing breeds such as pointers, setters, and brittanys are known for their ability to locate and point gamebirds, allowing hunters to approach and flush them. However, flushers, such as spaniels and retrievers, excel at flushing birds from thick cover. 

Ultimately, the success of a bird dog in grouse hunting depends on their training, instincts, and the relationship between the dog and the handler. Each type of dog brings its own unique set of skills and challenges to the table. So, while opinions may vary among grouse hunters, the truth is that any well-trained bird dog, including flushers, can be successful in the grouse woods. 

By God the guns, where do we even start. The classic shotguns often hold a special place in the hearts of many grouse hunters. Ithacas, Parkers, and Smiths are revered for their exceptional craftsmanship, artistry, and the legacy they carry as American-made shotguns. These vintage shotguns were designed with the grouse hunter in mind. The craftmanship and attention to detail that went into making these shotguns contribute to their reputation as sought-after pieces of art. 

While it’s true that the era of classic American-made shotguns maybe a thing of the past, there are still many high-quality shotguns available on the market. Modern gun manufacturers continue to produce shotguns that combine reliability, functionality, and aesthetics to meet the needs and preferences of a grouse hunter. 

Whether it’s a classic shotgun with a rich history or a modern firearm, the most important factor is finding a shotgun that fits well, handles smoothly, and provides the confidence you need in the woods to be successful. Each hunter has their own preference and requirements, and the choice ultimately comes to down personal preference, budget, and shooting style. 

No penned-raised birds here. It doesn’t matter where you hunt them, they’re all wild. Their refusal to conform to human expectations is part of what makes grouse hunting so special. It requires hunters to adapt to the natural behaviors and habitats of the birds, honing their skills and knowledge of the terrain and their quarry. 

The pursuit of grouse is a test of skill and patience. The connection with nature and the challenge of matching wits with a species that refuses to be easily caught or outsmarted is part of what draws hunters to grouse hunting. It reminds us of the untamed beauty of the natural world and the resilience of the creatures that call it home. 

There’s also something special about a species that gives you the middle finger and refuses to play by our rules. All hail the King!

Rob Seilheimer 


Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Wolf Population Continues to Grow

Time Together the Greatest Gift for Father’s Day