Long live the king of upland game birds

In some states, it’s considered the king of upland game birds. After this break, find out why the ruffed grouse has earned that reputation.

Ruffed grouse hunters in the parts of the country where the birds are hunted heavily might flush 60 birds in one day, see six, get shots at four and come home with two. They consider that an average day.

The birds are not easy to see, even when you know where they are. If you happen to catch a glimpse of one, it’s even harder to hit. Ruffed grouse are built to fly in densely wooded areas, and they can zip in and out of trees without clipping so much as a primary feather on a limb.

The ruffed grouse we have in Wyoming don’t usually act the same way.

Unless you have a dog, they’re more likely to hunker in the brush and not move than fly. Or they might run, much like a pheasant. They’re a lot like blue grouse in that way. That’s why many of the ruffed grouse in the Cowboy State are harvested by big game hunters.

But if you have a dog, you might get to experience at least some of the excitement of a Great Lakes-area grouse hunt. Even where we have ruffed grouse, we don’t have the hunters they do in Minnesota and Wisconsin. For that reason, the birds don’t see people as much of a threat. They don’t have the inclination to get far away from us as fast as possible. But dogs look a lot like their natural predators – coyotes and foxes.

So if you put a dog on the ground, that dog’ll do a much better job of getting the grouse to fly than you will by yourself.

But if you try it, be ready. A ruffed grouse taking flight will definitely get your attention. The first reaction of most novice hunters is to jump, rather than bring the shotgun to bear. That’s not a good reaction if you’re trying to knock down one of the most agile birds on the planet.

Get your dog, or your buddy who has a dog, and head for the forests of the western side of the state. Find some good grouse country and give it a shot. It may take a few trips before you bring the gun up quick enough to get a shot, but stay with it.

By the way, ruffed grouse taste fantastic. Exciting hunts, beautiful country and excellent eating. What more could you want from a game bird?