Jump to content

Rookie grouse hunter and bird dog owner.


Recommended Posts

This season, I will be taking my first gun dog out for his first season (WPG). He has been formally introduced to birds and guns. I grew up hunting over a flusher and am excited to hunt over a pointer, as it much more fits with my style and pace of hunting. I have the gear side of things pretty well handled, but there are other areas I have no clue. All that being said, I have a few questions for those experienced on this site. 

 

1. Are there any written resources on what to look for in terms of good grouse habitat? I'm never one to ask for spots, but knowing what to look for can send me in the right direction. MN has so much public land up north, it's a bit overwhelming. 

2. I was talking with a guy who made a wolf encounter seem like an all but guaranteed thing. He kept telling me to "be prepared", which....I frankly have no idea HOW to prepare for that. 

3. Any general insight is always appreciated! 

 

And since SOMEONE will ask....I shoot a 16 😁

Link to post
Share on other sites

Others will likely reply as to where, but there is a lot on this in the past on this site so you can do a search.  I use a relatively close working flusher and am unconcerned about wolves, but can't answer for pointers that work out farther.  There was an article in Wisconsin outdoor news about a GSP that was killed by wolves, but I believe it's not common.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is hard to pinpoint good grouse habitat besides looking for diversity.  I like areas that have a good mix.  Right now since it has been so hot, i have been focusing on areas with creeks and lakes, not so much for the birds, but my dogs.  I tend to not hunt in big clear cuts full of young poplars unless I am specifically targeting woodcock.  I know the grouse like them, but they suck to walk through, they are hard to shoot in, and I don't seem to find any more grouse there than other spots near by.  I like young growth near by, a bunch of conifers mixed in, alder, etc.  I avoid old growth maple or oaks, but I have shot plenty while walking through them to get to a "good spot".  They are where they are.  It goes without saying that it helps to avoid popular spots.  Any place with a good parking spot and signs will have much spookier birds than a place where you have to wedge your truck into the alders to get it off the road enough to allow traffic to pass.

 

Your best bet for finding grouse habitat is to just start walking.  When you find grouse, and you will, pause an look around and see what type of area it was in.  Focus on more areas that look the same.  Keep repeating this throughout the season, because they will shift food sources constantly.  

 

I see multiple wolves and bears every year, but I have yet to have any issues with them while grouse hunting.  I could say I have been lucky, but I don't think its luck.  I know a lot of bird hunters and only one had their dog tore up by wolves.  And that one instance didn't happen during a hunt, but in their back yard.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Grew up & hunted in Lake County MN, currently live and hunt in Itasca County MN with pointers - are there wolves in the woods? - of course. Are they running around killing everyone's dogs? - absolutely not. You could have an unwanted run in anytime in the wilderness 4 or 2 legged but anyone that says be ready for a wolf attack is goofy. I've bumped in to all kinds of critters but dogs are smart and I've had them heel better than you could teach a dog to heel in the middle of a hunt, seemingly out of no where. They know when something doesn't smell right. I'm not saying a few people haven't had a bad experience but it is deffinetly not the norm or guaranteed to happen. I worry more about traps and porky's but in all honestly don't worry about much of anything while bird hunting. It's like what I would assume meditation is like. Go enjoy the fall woods, it really is a special time and place to share with a hunting dog. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

First off congrats and good luck but be smart. In the big woods it’s easy to get in trouble, big trouble real quick. Most important is have a compass and know how to use it. Be sure you know the direction you’re heading BEFORE you step off the road. Always have some emergency gear like first aid for your dog, water, snacks, emergency blanket (they’re tiny rolled up) bring your phone and have a compass downloaded as a back up. Did I mention use a compass, don’t always rely on electronics. I also carry a water filter just in case I have to spend the night, in the woods and waterproof matches. You’ll find birds, it takes time to develop that 6th sense so be patient. I also suggest having a buddy, preferably an experienced one. Google earth is your friend, use it, it’s an amazing tool. I save pics of areas I don’t know so I don’t need cell service. Your gonna have a lot of fun. I’m excited for you. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

1) I'd start by checking out the DNR's Hunter Walking Trails: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/hwt/index.html  They're not honey holes, but they'll give you a sense of what reasonable grouse cover looks like.

 

2) As @GrouseGuy said, wolves are far from my biggest worry.  I worry about traps, snares, and bears far more than wolves.  I've cut my current pointer out of two snares, and had to medivac him out after a fight with a bear.  Wolves, not so much, thankfully.  To me, being prepared means carrying a compass/GPS, a cable cutter, and a hemostats for porky quills.

 

3) Woodcock are the t-ball of grouse hunting.  They sit really well for a young dog, and they're surprisingly hard to hit.  To find them, try walking within a couple hundred yards of a north-south river in October.

 

Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just take your dog, your gun and start walking.  Enjoy this sights and smells of the fall woods.  The grouse will tell you where they are...or where they aren't.

 

Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Enjoy your Griff they a blast to have with you as for birds they are where you find them once you find a place they are in look for a similar place.

 

One last thing no matter what let the dog have fun.  A first year Griff is not a bird finding machine let the dog explore and work things out it will pay off in long run.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I second the advise on having a compass.  I carry two, plus a GPS.  

 

I've never had a wolf encounter and hunt the lake states and each year I hunt for at least 10 days/100 miles walked in MI, WI, or MN.  My experience is bear dogs are much more likely than bird dogs to have issues with wolves.  What is way more likely than problems with wolves is problems with traps.  Each year, there are dogs who die in snares or connibear type traps.

 

 I carry an emergency "trap kit" with a high quality cable cutter for snares and pre-tied ropes for releasing connibear traps. I was unfamiliar with traps and watched some videos on how to release them.  I then bought a 220 connibear.  I set it and use stuffed toy to spring the trap.  I then practice releasing.  I hate to think about these things but they happen every year.  

 

Minnesota's trapping season opens earlier than MI and WI.  From my research, not coincidently MN seems to have the most trapping related incidents.  

 

To all, I'm not anti-trapping.  But bird dogs do die each year in traps and its much more likely problem than a bad wolf encounter.  Best thing to do is be prepared.  

 

As far as finding cover, ATV pressure can be a real issue in MN on trails where they are allowed (and often where not allowed).  "Traditional" looking cover (e.g. young aspen 7-15 years old) can produce birds but often gets pounded, especially close to roads.  There is an interesting article in this months American Hunter about hunting "secondary type cover" that gets less pressure.  This type of cover is usually an older forest type, often hardwood, with good ground cover and some pines.  There are way less woodcock in this type of cover.  If you are having trouble finding decent grouse numbers in "traditional cover", or they are flushing unbearably wild, consider changing habitat types or getting "further back" in the woods.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not an expert compared to some on this forum, but I have killed a few partridge in my time.

 

I can tell you the three most important things I have determined to be necessary to become a successful grouse hunter...

 

1) look for ecotones...grouse inhabit them....

 

2) bring toilet paper (you CAN get by with leaves, but it ain't so great)

 

3) bring extra shells (if you runout you cannot get by with leaves)

Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, FSZ said:

 

Minnesota's trapping season opens earlier than MI and WI.  From my research, not coincidently MN seems to have the most trapping related incidents.  

 

 

We have very lax connibear regulations in Minnesota.  I don't really grouse hunt in Minnesota after Halloween.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're new to ruffed grouse hunting you have a lot to learn but that is also a big part of the fun.  A couple books that might help you along the way are "Grouse of the North Shore" by Gordon Guillion and "Ruffed Grouse" by Sally Atwater and Judith Schnell.  There are lots of photos and information in both that will aid you in recognizing potential grouse cover when you see it.  Your state DNR office has a lot of info and maps to help the grouse hunter as well.  Learning to be a successful grouse hunter is a journey and anyone who does it seriously has worn out a lot of boots searching potential covers.  Your pup will likely figure it out before you do, they are born with more hunting instinct than we will ever have.   Grouse hunting can become a life long addiction.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you have a Ruffed Grouse Management Area or two near you I would recommend spending some time hunting and wandering around in them.  Has served me well when it comes to understanding what good habitat looks like and how diverse it needs to be in both age class and cover type to be productive.  They see pressure especially if there are walking trails but do hold (often hard to kill) birds and IMO are instructive.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Kre said:

Just take your dog, your gun and start walking.  Enjoy this sights and smells of the fall woods.  The grouse will tell you where they are...or where they aren't.

 

Good luck!

I like that first sentence and it has a lot of truth IMO. Spend your first years exploring and observe carefully what you see, where you see birds and how your pup behaves.

After a good year of this kind of observation--what you read and hear from others will make more sense and find purchase.

 

At least that is how it worked for me....when I started, I knew nothing and nobody that hunted Grouse.

I decided it would be a good thing for me to pursue after reading an article--and I was done with other activities I had long done. It made sense to pursue something that kept me in the woods I loved, so I went out and walked with upland birds in mind, got a pup from a local breeder and we learned together. A wonderful thing it was.

You are in for an adventure.

A couple years later---I was able to actually hear what folks like Lee Sykes told me.

🙂

Link to post
Share on other sites

 I'm no grouse hunter and by the results of the month spent chasing them in the Appalachians, it's apparent that I'm not fit to advise on that matter...

 

 However, on beginning upland hunting, I feel like I can contribute a little bit. 

 

 1. The first year, focus more on learning to work your dog and training than killing birds. Sitting here at year 4 as an upland hunter with a dog, this has paid back immensely.

 

 2.  Keep notes or a journal, write down everything that you find remotely important, successful trip or not. Looking back over a journal is a great learning tool and I personally enjoy seeing the progression of my dog and myself in written form. 

 

 

 3.  Keep it fun. If birds are few, pressure is high or dog isn't cooperating, do something else for a little that's fun. Hunt less difficult game ( woodcock, preserve birds or even rabbits) for a bit. Point being, don't try too hard to force your goal to happen quickly. You'll get good at anything you're interested in in time, it's human nature. Take it easy and enjoy the journey. Good luck!

 

 Edit to add: Use the collective wisdom here on UJ, there are good folks here who are helpful. But don't be afraid to find your own way that works for you. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...