Patchy but productive late-season ruffed grouse hunting
I’ve almost reached the point where I transition from nearly non-stop deer hunting to chasing late-season birds.
The upland game that receives most of my attention is the ruffed grouse, largely because of where I live and partially because I love the fact that most public-land hunters have hung up their spurs for the fall.
I’ve managed to sneak out a few times with my Lab this year to check the grouse situation, and while we’ve run into some birds, it hasn’t been lights out. This is no surprise given the drumming counts this year. There are birds, but it takes some work to find them.
I don’t mind because there are few things I enjoy more than following my dog through the woods for hours. At 5 years old with a couple hundred various birds under her belt, she basically calls the shots. I put us in an area, then follow her through the thick stuff until I see her demeanor change and the tail really starts whipping.
I know that this year, that might only occur a couple of times during a long walk, but that’s OK. Grouse hunting, especially on public land, is rarely easy. It is obviously easier when the numbers are high, but we aren’t there and lamenting that doesn’t change a thing.
The good news is that there are enough ruffs on the landscape to make any time devoted to their pursuit worth the effort. I know that I’ll be out there, and if you enjoy good dog work and having big parcels of public land to yourself, you should, too. It won’t be easy, but it will be fun and rewarding. And that’s the bottom line.