Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Tips

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The start of fall is primary time for upland bird hunters who are pursuing Grouse & Woodcock. These secretive birds present an exclusive challenge that keeps hunters coming back year after year.

Grouse & Woodcock are tiny woodland birds that can be hard to find and tricky to shoot. However, if you go after these hunting guide tips you will have a great possibility of bagging your limit Grouse or woodcock hunting this fall.

Good Hearing Can Pay Off Big

When the leaves in the woods are dry and crinkly, say on a perfect US summer day, you can actually hear the few steps ruffed grouse take to launch into flight. The sound is a sort of dry, “tick, tick.” Once you’ve heard it a couple of times, followed by a flushing bird, you’ll know what to listen for.

Grouse and Woodcock HuntingGrouse Hunting Teamwork

It’s fun to hunt grouse with a buddy, but you must know each other’s location at all times, and even then you may not be able to take a shot. (That’s the very reason most grouse hunters shoot better when they’re hunting alone.) In keeping track of one another, use a simple call-out, like, “Ho!” or “Over Here!” instead of constantly shouting sentences like, “I’m over here, Bob, on your right.” The more grouse hear of such talk, the more likely they are to flush wild.

Second Shots on Early Season Grouse Coveys

When you flush a couple of early season grouse and fire only one shot, don’t break your gun to reload right away. You may be into an entire group of birds hatched that year, and one of the birds that are been sitting tight will jump late— just when you break open your gun. On the other hand,  if you ’ve fired both shells, try to reload as quickly as possible.

Keep Track of Where You Shot From

Woodcocks are small birds and their feathers make for excellent camouflage on the forest floor.  This can make finding one you ’ve shot hard to retrieve, especially if you’re hunting without a dog. After you knock one down, hang your hat on a branch or drop a spent shell on the ground where you were standing when you pulled the trigger. If you get confused about where you thought the bird landed you’ll be able to return to the exact place you shot from to restart your search.

Cock Bird or a Hen? How to Tell

The black band on the tail of all ruffed grouse tells you whether you’ve bagged a male or female. The cock bird always has a continuous band, while the hen’s is broken. As in all things in nature, there are exceptions sometimes, mostly among young birds.

Noise Flushes More Grouse

Yes, grouse can be a tight-holding bird, but when you’re approaching their location with a lot of chatter and constant commands to your dog, you’re almost guaranteeing you’ll get a wild flush, out ahead of the point.

Flushing Dogs as Grouse Dogs

It makes a lot of sense to use flushing/retrieving dogs like Labs, Springer’s, and Golden’s as grouse and woodcock dogs. In addition to flushing the birds, they retrieve and make great family dogs. When trained properly to hunt close to the gun, these dogs can do a good job for you in grouse and woodcock covers. When not properly trained, running wide distances and out of control, they are worse than useless. You’d be better off walking up to your birds alone.

The Perfect Grouse and Woodcock Gun

When it comes to grouse guns, arguments may rage over the bore—12  or 20 gauge— but you’ll find general agreement over these details: lightweight,  short barrel, fast swinging, and with a  stock that fits so perfectly that it instantly becomes part of you when your face touches the stock.

Hitting More Grouse: The Big Secret

Here it comes, the grouse-hunting technique that will put more birds in your coat than any other: When you hear the flush, don’t stand there looking for the bird, then raise your gun. Your gun should be coming to your shoulder as you look toward the direction of the flush. At the first glimpse of the bird, the barrel should be coming onto what you’re seeing, and you fire instantly.  There’s no tracking, no aiming. It’s a “throw” shot, as I prefer to call it, instead of the oft-heard “snap” shot. Of course, this method is assuming a hunting buddy is behind you, out of harm’s way.

The Dead “Giveaway” on Woodcock

Going into strange woodcock terrain ‘cold’ can be disappointing. Two coverts may look alike, yet only one many attract ’cock. Whitewash is the best clue, next to seeing actual birds. The white splashing disintegrates rapidly and when you see them you can almost count on woodcock being nearby.

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