Tips for the Solo Grouse Hunter
Ruffed grouse are never easy to hunt. Going afield with a partner or small group gives an advantage as does hunting with a dog. For those of use whose hunts tend to be solitary there are several things you can do to increase your chances of success.
- How You Carry Your Gun Matters Most of us gravitate toward the “two handed” or “ready” carry when hunting game like grouse that tend to flush quickly without warning. It’s not a bad choice and it allows for fast shifting of one’s body to get into position to shoot, such as when a bird flushes off to the side or behind. I generally find it slower than I like for getting on target. I’ve taken to mounting the toe of the stock in position at my shoulder and keeping the muzzle pointed down while I walk. That way all I have to do is raise the gun, flick off the safety and line up for the shot. This carry does result in fatigue, especially in the biceps and shoulders, so don’t expect to do it all day. And don’t walk through the woods with the gun fully mounted at your shoulder Elmer Fudd-style unless you know there is an excellent chance of flushing a bird in the next 10 yards or so.
- Keep Your Head and Eyes Up Grouse cover can be uneven and it’s tempting to drop your head and gaze to the ground and watch every step. But don’t do it! If you’re looking at the ground you aren’t going to be prepared when a bird flushes. You’ll be left looking frantically about trying to figure out where the bird is. Glance down with eyes only to momentarily assess the terrain. If the ground cover is bad enough to make you drop your head down, then stop walking while you plot your course. Don’t walk again until you are looking up.
- Stay Focused It’s easy to let your mind wander, especially on a crisp day when the woods are full of autumnal color. Problem is, while you’re enjoying a daydream session there could be a grouse close by ready to startle the snot out of you when it flushes. And it will startle you, to the point where you’ll be left fumbling, trying to shoulder you gun while trying to remember how to flick the safety off. Any time you find your mind wandering, be aware and call yourself back to the task at hand. Stop and take a break if need be, but don’t stroll the woods absentmindedly.
Hunting grouse by yourself without a dog is tough. For every 10 birds you flush you only see five and of those five you only have a chance to shoot at two or three at best. Give yourself every advantage you can!