OutdoorHub Editor: Keenan Crow 10.27.20
So you want to go grouse hunting, you say? Well, besides an iron will and a passion for the great outdoors, there’s a whole laundry list of grouse hunting essentials you’ll want to have on hand before you traverse the North Woods. If you aren’t quite sure where to start, this article aims to assist you as you gear up to bust some covers, and hopefully flush some birds!
Ruffed grouse can be found in a variety of locations spread out all across the continental United States. They’re in states as far south as Georgia and as far north as Alaska. However, recent population numbers have drastically declined in the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.
With that said, anyone who has put any amount of time in trying to locate these finicky birds knows what I’m talking about when I say grouse hunting requires an ‘iron will’ because, well, let’s just say walking through most grouse habitat is no walk in the park. They most often opt for mixed stands of young aspens, birch, confers and thick brush.
According to the Ruffed Grouse Society, ruffed grouse “thrive best where forests are kept young and vigorous by occasional logging, wind storms, or fire; and gradually diminish in numbers as forests mature and their critical food and cover resources deteriorate in the shade of a climax forest.”
Now that we covered that, let’s get to the grouse hunting essentials you’re going to want to have on hand this fall:
This is first on the list for a reason, and it’s not just for you. If you’re hunting with dogs, make sure you have the proper first aid equipment for your four-legged hunting partner. Chances are you’ll be using it more on them rather than yourself anyways, so get all the good stuff – bandages, gauze pads, forceps in case of porcupine quills, some type of non-toxic adhesive for small cuts and so on. This K9 First Aid Kit on Amazon is a great place to start.
I also recommend asking an experienced hunter who hunts with dogs, or check with your vet to make sure your first aid kit is up to par for the course.
Again, this is important to bring ESPECIALLY if you’re hunting with dogs. You might get tired walking through the thick covers that grouse hunting requires, but your dog is working twice as hard and will appreciate a nice gulp of water from time to time.
I use a cheap Gatorade squeeze bottle like this one. It’s less than $4, and my dog doesn’t seem to mind all too much.
Bird Hunting Vest
Bird hunting vests are noted for their large sized pockets that allow you to carry a variety of items, along with the actual birds you (hopefully) manage to shoot. Go with a vest that comes with a variety of pouches and pockets, along with shell loops and an easily accessible game bag.
A word of caution; finding the right vest for you might take a little trial and error. I know hunters who have switched out their vest for five consecutive seasons, so you may have to go through a few before you find the right one. You’ll know it when you find it, but either of these vests below will definitely get you started on the right foot:
Shooting gloves that can also keep your hands and fingers warm in cold and wet conditions will also be a good thing to have. The more insulated your gloves are the better, but you also want to make sure that they give you fingers plenty of room to work as well. Gloves that are loose fitting will likely get in the way of your trigger finger making a clean shot, and in the grouse woods, every little second matters!
Also, remember that you’ll be moving a lot of sticks and branches out of your way, so having a glove that keeps your hands protected is super important.
This one is more a matter of preference, but I don’t like getting poked in the eye with sticks, so I always bring eye protection with me if it looks like we’ll be walking a gnarly cover.
You don’t have to pack energy bars specifically, but you should absolutely bring food with you. And to be more specific, you should bring food that is high in calories and can provide you with a badly needed energy boost while also being compact, portable, and not requiring refrigeration or freezing or anything like that.
Good alternate choices to energy bars would include protein bars, granola bars, jerky, or mixed nuts.
Ruffed Grouse Society Membership
The final thing you’ll want to consider is signing up for a Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society membership. If upland hunting is important to you – which I’ll go ahead and assume is since you’re reading this – there’s no better way to show your support and lend a helping hand than by joining the thousands of other like-minded members of the RGS and AWS.
Sign up today by following this link right here.