It’s hard to believe the hunting season is upon us yet again. Sure, there’s a spring turkey season and a few small game seasons that are open all year round, but here in Wisconsin, hunting really begins in the fall.
Growing up, I was taught deer hunting with a rifle. Almost every year my dad would bring my brothers and me out gun hunting, and as a kid, I remember being more concerned with carving sticks, eating snacks and surviving the cold than actually seeing any deer. However, as I got older and started hunting on my own, I’ve come to look forward to the hunt more and more and the chance of seeing a good size buck.
In the past couple years, I’ve started to expand my horizons, namely in the form of grouse and small game hunting. The first time I went grouse hunting, it was so unlike deer hunting that it was practically a different sport entirely. When you’re gun hunting for deer, you’re either sitting in a blind or sitting in a tree stand, and your main task is to be quiet and observe. This means sitting as still as possible and, as a result, getting cold fast. You can do drives or do a slow walk through the woods to try to kick up game, but the majority of deer hunting is just sitting. That has been my experience anyway.
With grouse hunting, it’s almost the complete opposite. First of all, walking is pretty much required. Grouse don’t migrate throughout the day like deer. They like to settle under a bush or perch in a tree, and this means you have to walk to find them. Walking keeps you warm and gives you a chance to enjoy different scenery.
In grouse hunting, instead of having to be totally silent, a little noise is actually encouraged. Grouse don’t like to move unless they have to, so to flush them out, you have to make noise. Snapping twigs under your feet or talking quietly with your hunting partner is a great way to do this.
Finally, when you’re small game hunting, firing your gun is a much more common occurrence than it is in deer hunting. You might flush five different grouse during the duration of your hunt, shoot ten times and bag two or three (if you’re good). In my experience with deer hunting, you shoot once or maybe twice all week. I don’t mean to knock deer hunting; I still look forward to it every year. I’m just saying I appreciate a good combination of both.
If you’re planning to get out there for grouse hunting this year, take some time to brush up on regulation from the DNR and advice from other hunters. There are probably a thousand different websites and forums that can offer good tips and tricks for bagging more birds, so a good way to improve your own skills is to look up some info online. Here are a few things I found helpful:
- Don't always settle for the easy road. Take the time to work your way through thick woods, especially pines.
- Bring plenty of shells with you. If you get on a roll, you don't want to waste time having to go back to the car for more ammo.
- Stop every 20 yards or so to listen for movement. Grouse get antsy when they can't hear you. Stopping and waiting will help flush them.
- If you hear a flush but don't see the bird, follow the sound. Grouse habitually fly for short distances when spooked, so following the direction you heard them flying in will likely kick them up again.
- Even if its not required, wear some orange. A hat or vest of hunter orange will quickly idenify you to other hunters.
- Be smart. Even if you're not hunting with a partner, always have control of your gun and be sure of your target and beyond.
Articles on Grouse Hunting
I’ll be the first to admit that I never look forward to the approach of winter. Even with the holidays and fun in the snow, I’m never quite ready when the leaves begin to change. That being said, getting the chance to be out in the woods for a few hours on the weekend, enjoying creation and perhaps bagging a few birds, definitely makes the transition a little easier.