There is something magical about walking a logging road in October while keeping an eye on my Lab as she noses around the grouse woods. The weather is usually pleasant, the woods vibrant, and the flushes are aplenty. The problem I have with the early season is that besides not having much time to hunt, I also enjoy flushing ruffed grouse that I’ll have a chance to shoot.
That’s why I get serious about grouse in the latter part of the year. With the woods open and the birds concentrated, the hunting tends to improve for procuring a killer meal or two of grouse breasts. Aside from the higher odds of getting a good shot, there is a different reason for hitting the grouse cover now, which revolves around little to no pressure.
When the temperatures dip and the snow grows deeper by the week, an awful lot of the fair-weather grouse hunters hang up their orange vests for the season. I primarily hunt public land, and in a decade of hunting hard during the last few weeks of the season I can’t remember ever running into another hunter.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few road hunters left, or a few individuals who employ an ATV up icy trails, but for the most part the pressure is nonexistent. This allows me and my hunting partners the opportunity to pretty much walk wherever we want on public land, and we know that if we walk enough we will find birds.
This is especially true when we veer off of the main trails and work brushpiles or any thickets we can find. The thicker the better in the late-season, and if you can find a magical patch of gray dogwood mixed in with a 5-year-old clear cut, you can usually find a few wintering birds. Sometimes you find more than that, which is always something to see.
Either way, if you’re into higher odds shot opportunities and having the woods to yourself, consider lacing up the boots and motivating the pup one last time.