First, to find the elusive grouse, a hunter needs to focus his/her search on two crucial elements: food and warmth. Grouse need both to survive, especially in cold winters.
Some valuable winter grouse hunting tips include:
· Stay Warm, Ye Grouse! – In areas where the snow exceeds 10 inches, grouse are known to fly into a snow bank to bed down for the evening. This climate is much like an igloo, helping conserve valuable body heat. Grouse typically forage only a few hours daily, during the late mornings or midday. In heavy snow conditions, hunters are advised to hunt grouse between the hours of 9:30AM and 2PM for best results. If a grouse is not able to burrow into a snow bank, hunters should consider looking under dense evergreen trees, as these provide some protection from the elements. Brush piles are also excellent areas for hunters to search for grouse.
· Dietary Habits – Each distinct area of the U.S. differs for grouse eating habits.
o Western States – Grouse eat the small conifer needles from Douglas Firs and in lower elevations, gravitate towards aspen trees for nutrition.
o Northeast and Upper Midwest – The dormant winter buds of the male aspen and birch trees contribute to the majority of a grouse’s diet. In this area, the Highbush Cranberry is another grouse favorite, as some twigs retain their berries through the winter months.
o Southern Appalachians – In this area grouse have a wide variety of foods, including mountain laurel, hornbeam buds, clover, white oak acorns, sumac berries, hazelnuts, teaberry, greenbrier, dried wild grape.
o Farmlands – While not specifically a region within the U.S., grouse love to feed on the forested edges of cornfields. This high-octane food provides valuable nutrients to grouse during these cold winter months.
· Learn New Tricks – The famous saying, “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – Well, bah-humbug. Some of the best hunters don’t remain in steady ruts, but consistently search out new hunting areas and techniques for grouse.
· Long-Range Loads – As winter grouse have a heavier, dense coating of feathers to protect them from the elements, and most hunters are forced to take longer shots, many experienced winter grouse hunters recommend using a 20-gauge double, with 7/8 ounce of hard No. 7-1/2 for winter months.
· Hoppin’ Grouse Season – There are several states that are renowned for excellent winter grouse hunting. These include: Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, West Virginia, Tennessee and Vermont. Check with local wildlife game divisions and conform local rules and regulations prior to planning a hunt.
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