Being a Deer Hunter and Grouse Hunter can be a good match.
As someone who comes from a strong background of deer hunting, it has weighed on my mind more than once whether I could also pursue the “king of the birds” and still balance my deer habits. Could I be both a grouse and deer hunter, or would grouse hunting negatively affect my deer hunting? For fanatical deer hunters like myself, I have narrowed down the how and why of grouse hunting to four reasons.
When hardcore deer hunters think bird hunting, they think dogs. They think it’s inviting scent contamination into your life. I have thought about this plenty. It’s why I have never got a bird dog. But you can be a successful grouse hunter without a dog.
Being a good grouse hunter means having a basic understanding of habitat. In the deer woods, we look for funnels and bedding areas and food sources. All of that equates to good deer habitat—and deers in our freezer. Like deer, ruffed grouse tend to be creatures of habit. Getting a basic grasp on grouse habitat is really the most important skill you need to become a decent grouse hunter.
Grouse Hunting is Casual
I hate to use that term to ever describe grouse hunting, but hopefully it gets across the difference in practice between deer hunting and grouse hunting. I spent the better part of a decade hunting big buck, living and breathing single buck’s lives. Often I have preached that to be a successful deer hunter, you need to hunt where you live. This allows you to actually spend the time setting stands, checking cameras, and doing all the homework. It could be all the difference in the moment of truth.
With grouse hunting, you can find a covert. As long as the habitat remains fit for the grouse, they’ll be there. That’s why I became a deer and grouse hunter. I could travel to the North Country, hardcore hunt grouse for a few days, and then head home. As a suburban bowhunter, being in the vast northwoods is a drug.
My coverts survive for years. I add new ones each year and explore, which just adds to the adventure—or “escape” as I have always called it. In my opinion, you cannot really just be a big buck hunter for a few days here and there. Maybe you can be through classic methodology like the “Big Woods” tactics of guys like Hal Blood. But that’s a whole other monster.
Grouse Hunting is Tough
I know I just got done calling it casual, but grouse hunting is actually pretty tough. You might at times be frustrated beyond belief at a single bird putting the slip on you over and over again. I find the context of failure important. Getting beat up by grouse is an enjoyable defeat for me, because in big buck hunting, defeat can literally be like a crippling rollercoaster.
I am by no means a fair weather hunter or weekend warrior in the derogatory sense. I am merely someone who wants to experience the big woods in all its glory. When I head away for my short escapes in the grouse woods, you can be sure that I will be busting coverts no matter what the weather or time of day.
Grouse hunting is open all sorts of times throughout the year. In some states like Massachusetts that can be well before the deer season. In states like New York, it is well after deer season. More importantly, grouse hunting can happen very much on a whim.
There have been many times where I would head off after successfully putting a buck on the ground. It helped me to mentally reset or escape an ongoing failure in the deer woods. With any decent shotgun and a box of shells, you can go and enjoy a pastime that, if you’re like me, eventually turns you from casual to fanatical.
Last modified: December 2, 2018