Any worthy bird hunter knows grouse are some of the tastiest upland birds out there. So when does grouse season start? We'll give you a big hint: if you're reading this in mid-September or early October, it's starting right now!
Since grouse are plentiful in certain areas and require little equipment to hunt beyond proper clothing, game vest and a shotgun, it's no wonder that hunting them is so popular. Couple that with the spectacular fall weather and the camaraderie of hunting with your buddies (or solo, if you prefer), and you have the perfect reasons to make grouse season an annual event.
But, there are still a few hunting tips and tricks to be aware of to successfully hunt grouse, which holds true for both new and veteran hunters. Plus, even though you won't need much equipment, you should take a few minutes to learn about grouse, upland bird hunting, and gear you need to optimize your hunt.
What Are Grouse?
Grouse are a type of upland game bird which are typically about the size of a small chicken. Other examples of upland game birds are quail, pheasants and doves, or any other game bird not classified as waterfowl which can be hunted using pointers, flushing spaniels or retrievers.
Depending on which US region you hunt in, grouse can be anything from ptarmigans, which frequent alpine areas; to forest grouse, which are found in the mountains and forests of most of North America; to prairie chickens and sage grouse which prefer the open expanses of prairies and sage lands.
Since there is little chance of a shot bird dropping into a body of water, there is no need for canine assistance in hunting them, although some people do prefer to hunt with dogs. There also isn't any need to spend long, cold hours in a duck blind hoping to be lucky for the day, since hunting upland game birds usually entails actively moving about in search of them.
Upland Bird Hunting Tips
Grouse hunting is most popular in Northern regions, especially in areas of young, new-growth forest. This can mean forest which is regrowing after having been burned or logged, which is their main habitat.
And, these wily birds don't exactly just stroll up to you and make it easy, which is what makes grouse hunting so uniquely challenging. Remember that you are on their turf and they have no predictable migratory behavior, nor will they fall for decoys, so you need to be on your toes and ready to swing the gun at any hint of a flush.
Grouse seasons usually go from mid-September to around the end of November - though some species or regions as late as the end of January. This means dressing for both hot and cold conditions, depending on what part of the season you hunt.
However, no matter when you hunt, the one piece of equipment you will need beyond a good shotgun (12-gauge with either 7 or 8 shot is best) is a blaze orange upland game vest.
Don't Forget the Gear
When hunting any kind of upland bird, it's critical to equip yourself with a game vest. The reason a game vest is such an important piece of equipment is that it offers you a variety of pockets and compartments for carrying the essentials - shell boxes, water bottles, radios, and (most importantly) your quarry. The bright blaze orange color is also a critical safety feature which is required in most areas to avoid hunting accidents.
ALPS' Upland Game Vest X is an excellent example of what to look for in a quality vest, since it has ample room and organized compartments to carry items you need, as well as a detachable and easy-to-clean game pocket for carrying birds home to the dinner table. It has thin shoulder straps for maximum shooting comfort, and the waist belt features two flip-down gun rests for either right or left-handed shooters.
Grouse season is a time of year which is easy to get excited about, since upland bird hunting is one of the most enjoyable hunting experiences you can have. Since grouse have no standard feeding rituals or other predictable behavior, hunting them is hunting in its purest form, and the results are addictive.
And, when you outfit yourself with the right gear and a game vest which is both comfortable and functional, you are more apt to be successful in your fall outings and to bag your limit for a tasty fall feast.
So, with that in mind, the final hunting tip we will give you is this: don't miss out on grouse season!