Positioning yourself for the clearest shot is key. It works best if you've got the bird pinned by a pointer; anticipate the flight path, check for clearings, note the sun direction, and position yourself accordingly. I have hunted spots in Minnesota where very thick vegetation abuts lonely country roads. Here, it's legal to shoot small game from roads, so early in the season when it's too thick to shoot in the most birdy woods, I walk the shoulder and send the dog in, often getting wide-open shots at road-crossing birds.
I don't know how many friends I've hunted with that would have birds flush in front of them all day and hardly ever shoot. I just saw a blur and couldn't shoot, they'd say. I realized they didn't understand that in grouse hunting, especially the thick early-season woods, that's about all you get. Start mounting the gun at the first indication of a bird, make visual contact as it flushes, swing ahead and shoot.
7. Hunt Early Season
At the beginning of the season, grouse are still in their family broods, prior to October's scattering, or crazy flight. They are more numerous and susceptible to hunting now than they'll be later.
8. Go Where No Man Has Gone Before
As the season progresses, the effects of hunting pressure will reduce the birds you see in the easy places. Now is when I seek out the unhunted spots, which usually means places difficult to hunt or get to.
9. The Wader Trick
Here's my best secret grouse hunting technique: I pack some lightweight stockingfoot waders in my game pouch and head to a place where a medium-size river divides an easily accessed area from a no-access zone. I slip from my boots to my waders and in a quick, easy wade find myself in virgin country!
10. Stop Hunting In December
Remember, I said these tips were about being successful on a long-term basis. Biologists have concluded that ruffed grouse taken in the early part of the season do not affect the overall survival numbers, but those taken in winter will. Stopping your hunting in December, it's proven, will result in more birds next year.
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