Really, how can an upland bird get any better? The ruffed grouse is
a stealthy, sneaky creature. He's patient and can hold tight to let
you pass right on by. He'll bust cover like a feathery rocket, and
even if you've experienced 1,000 flushes, he'll always make your
heart skip a beat. Oh, Mr. Grouse, you're such a wonderful bird!
Every grouse that hits the ground with a thump is a trophy, for the
gunner and gun dog alike. Having the weight of just one in the game
bag will make you feel good. Having a limit will make your day
To help you experience the joys of a successful grouse hunt,
there are a few pointers I can share from my years in aspens and
tangles. The first tip is to look for aspens and tangles. Wherever
the cover is thickest, that's where you want to be — because that's
where Mr. Ruff wants to be.
If such cover exists on some kind of an "edge," even better.
Whether it's the edge of a slough, agricultural field, clear-cut,
pine grove or whatever. Grouse are just like deer and fish and every
other wild thing — they like transition areas where one topography
Once you get into grousy cover, keep your ears open. Sometimes a
bird or a covey will give themselves away before flushing by
rustling or calling. If you're lucky enough to get tipped off before
a flush, take advantage of it. Immediately square off to the sound
and bring your shotgun up, at the ready. Flushes happen fast, and
boy, you better be set!
And remember, you can't connect if you don't shoot. Point that
gun quick, and when you see the chaotic blur of ruffed grouse
feathers down your barrel, give him a load of 7½'s fast!
[to top of second column]
Naturally, it's a huge asset to have a good bird dog with an
accomplished nose when poking into grouse coverts. If you're
anything like me, watching a dog work is more gratifying than the
actual harvest of a bird. My springer spaniel Scamp and I have
shared I-don't-know-how-many flushes. When I miss, he gives me that
look. It always makes me laugh. And when I connect, he brings me
back the bird with a tail wag that says, "Good job, Boss."
Now, as the title of this column suggests, there's a healthiness
to grouse hunting. Fresh air, exercise, camaraderie, the list goes
on. But I want to end by talking about the healthiness of eating
grouse. As far as I'm concerned, a ruffed grouse is the finest table
bird on planet Earth — for the body and soul. Even though I have
always left the cooking up to my wonderful wife, Kris, and her
talents, I want to recommend a meal the next time you have a couple
of fresh grouse in your hunting vest.
Breast the birds and pre-rub them with a little seasoning salt,
ground pepper and a tiny dusting of cayenne. Heat a cast-iron pan to
medium, melt in some butter and pan fry those grouse breasts to
where they're just done. Careful not to overcook them!
Then, serve the grouse on top of a bed of wild rice with some
sautéed mushrooms. My, oh my, it doesn't get any better than that!
And remember to give your dog a few bites. He deserves it.
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information.