Hunting Tips from the Pros

grouse_hunting_2003_mdHunting the Ruffed Grouse

by Jeff “Cubby” Skelly

Northern Minnesota is home to what I consider the king of upland birds, the Ruffed Grouse. Minnesota ranks among the top three states in total harvest- regularly alternating with Michigan and Wisconsin for the number one spot. I have been guiding grouse and Woodcock hunters every fall for the past twenty years and can remember many days afield where we have had 40 to 50 grouse flushes in a day! The king is here and Lakewood Lodge is located in the heart of it all. Given the edgy nature of the bird and the dense habitat they are typically found in, your senses have to be on full alert to have a chance at harvesting one of these explosive balls of feathers. Hunting Ruffed Grouse on a beautiful fall day is truly a memorable experience and in my opinion, there is nothing else like it! Northern Minnesota has thousands of forestry roads open to public hunting, giving the Grouse hunter ample room to pursue him.

Ruffed Grouse can be found in Oak, Maple and other woods, but in Minnesota they prefer aspen[also called popple]. The highest densities of birds will be found in areas that have been previously logged off or clear-cut. Young aspen, 10 to 15 years old, with silver dollar sized trunks are particularly important for protecting Ruffed Grouse from aviators such as Owls and Goshawks. Birds will hang out there spring, summer and fall eating succulent forbs and insects protected from raptors.

It has been said that Ruffed Grouse are a bird of the edge and Iam here to tell you that it is absolutely true! When ever Iam hunting Ruffed Grouse I try to steer my dogs along some kind of edge. Whether it is along a logging road, the edge of a swamp or where a 5 year old cut meets a more mature clear cut; this is where you will find your greatest numbers of birds.

Ruffed Grouse hunting can be an easy way to introduce young people to hunting and because Minnesota’s grouse population is rebounding from their ten year cycle, Ruffed Grouse numbers will again be at there peak for the next few years. Although there are many ways to pursue and hunt grouse, I prefer to hunt them behind a well trained pointing dog. My two English Setters love the sport of grouse hunting as much as I do and there is nothing better than to walk up on a dog with his eyes bulging out of his head telling me that the king is right here and get ready for the explosion of wings, for me there’s nothing like it. So when you are able to tear yourself away from the excellent accommodations and hospitality you will find at Lakewood Lodge you wont have to go far to find the king of upland birds, The Ruffed Grouse.