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10 ways to kill more grouse

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Ruffed grouse are hard to hit in any situation. They’re wild, just like the terrain in which they live. Here are 10 tips to improve your hits. They’re ones I learned the hard way which is short-handle for the fact that I've missed one hell of a lot of birds.

1. Get Fit as a Fiddle If you want to kill more grouse then you'll need to wear out your boots says Stephen Faust of Stoneybrook Outfitters and Gordon Setters, a Eukanuba Sporting Dog pro trainer says, “Grouse and woodcock hunting isn’t easy. Weaving around alder whips and lifting your legs over deadfall is tiring. While you’re training your gun dogs in the summer make sure to work out yourself. A blend of cardiovascular work like running, walking or biking combined with stretching gets every uplander ready for the season.”

If you’re going to work out, explore your core. Your midsection If you are short on time, rip off some crunches, planks, and jackknifes. If you had to do only one exercise then pick the half-kneeling wood chop. That single exercise strengthens shoulders, back and midsection all at once. Those are the muscles you'll use when grouse hunting.

And if you don’t run then walk. You’ll need some stamina for those 8-12 mile days. While you’re running or walking, hit some stairs. Picking up your knees is the same as stepping over deadfall. Plus, your hip adductors won’t scream during hunting season.

2. Using the Wrong Gun The gun you love should be the one that drops birds. Sure there is the nostalgia of hunting with grandpa's side-by, but pull it out of the case only if it fits. Modern shotgun measurements are average in length and flat. Length of Pull is usually 14 1/2 inches, Drop at Comb is 1 1/2 inches, and Drop at Heel is 2 1/2 inches. They fit the average shooter well, and no tweaks or modifications are necessary.

“Older shotguns have different dimensions, and that means the stocks are shorter and they have a lot of drop,” says Lars Jacob of Lars Jacob Wingshooting. “Short stocks make hunters roll their shoulders to get their cheeks on the stock. But too much drop puts your eye in alignment with the safety...and not the rib. If you don’t have a shotgun that shoots where you're looking you’ll miss more than you hit.”

If you are consistently missing a lot of birds then get a professional gun fitting. Compare your measurements those of your favorite shotgun to see if that's the problem. To hit more grouse you might need a new stock. If you don't want to restock a firearm then sell yours and buy one that fits. What's so bad about buying another shotgun, anyways?

3. You've got the wrong choke. If it's not your stock, you may miss grouse because your chokes are too tight. Last fall I killed a grouse under my setter's point and because of the thick foliage I would have bet it was a 50 yard shot. I paced off the distance, but the bird fell at 21 yards...which is the same distance of clay targets thrown in the grouse shooting game called skeet. Those chokes are named appropriately, so if you're shooting a double then make your first barrel Cylinder and your second either Skeet In or Skeet Out. You'll get great pattern spread from the cylinder choke, and then have a tighter choke for your second shot. To supercharge your pattern spread shoot lighter loads for your first shot (i.e. a 3/4 ounce 20 gauge instead of the standard 7/8 ounce 20 gauge). Then, shoot the 7/8 ounce load in your second or third shot.

4. Stand in the open, shoot into the thick. It's easy to think that if you stand in thick cover and shoot into the open you'll kill more grouse. You'll tell yourself that the bird is in the open so you'll have better target acquisition. You'll follow that thinking with reduced shot dissipation as your #8's won't be deflected by branches. But when you're in the jungle, branches check your swing and when that happens you'll shoot behind and miss.

If you shoot from an open area into the thick cover then you'll be able to swing and keep up with the grouse. Don't worry if you lose sight of the bird as it flies into a leaf canopy. Keep on swinging on the bird's flight plane and pull the trigger. Grouse aren't grizzlies; only a few, well-placed pellets are necessary to bring them down.

5. The Eyes are the Prize While some grouse will flush from a tree (think Station 1 High House in Skeet), the majority are feeding on the ground. Focus your attention on your dog and the terrain and you'll acquire the target more quickly than if you're looking around and yakking with your buddy. The grouse whirr startles most hunters which makes them break their concentration. If you're slow to pick up the bird's flight plan the odds are you'll rush the shot. Concentrate on the cover in front of you, watch your dog, and be ready. When the grouse flushes focus your eyes on its flight, and then mount, swing and shoot.

6. Don't shoot your shotgun like a rifle. If you're a whitetail hunter who also grouse hunts you're probably guilty of this one. You match the buck with the front sight with the rear sight and your eye. A lot of confidence comes from that approach, but shotgunning isn't an exact science. To bring down a grouse we just need our shot pattern in the grouse's general area. Concentration on the bird and not on the bead. There is no need to be precise with a shotgun.

7. Head lift. We all want to know if we hit the bird, and that's why shooters lift their heads. Lifting your head causes your cheek to come off of the stock, and when it does you'll typically shoot under the bird. If your cheek is off the stock then the odds are you're not swinging your muzzle, either. Keep your cheek on the stock and lift it after you're done shooting.

8. Rushing a shot. Rushed isn’t the same as quick. With a rushed shot, gun mounts are sloppy. Cheeks aren't on stocks, eyes aren't looking down ribs, and buttstocks don't land in the hollow of your shoulder and chest. Also, target acquisition is weak and unfocused. Lastly, front and rear hands aren't working smoothly and in synch, and that muzzle rock is a big reason hunters miss birds. Rushed shots usually don’t come with follow through, so find a speed that is quick but also allows for smooth mechanics.

9. Poor gun mount. Poor gun mounts often relates to gear. Bunched layers mean hunters wrestle to get a good mount just as they do when cotton jackets grab rubber recoil pads. That herky-jerky mount causes missed birds. If you've got a rubber recoil pad cover it with smooth, electrician's tape (which you can remove at the end of the season). And wear a shooting shirt and a strap vest. Vests offer more movement than jackets, and you can layer in a fleece vest when it gets cold. A smoother, quicker swing kills more birds.

10. Get up on your dog. If you've got big running dogs then you've got to keep up with 'em. Hard-charging dogs cover a lot of ground and find more birds. But if you're lollygagging then it'll take time to get up on that point. Pinned wild birds will hold, while unpinned birds feel the dog's pressure and will walk away or wild flush. Hunters that aren't keeping up with their dogs miss the best opportunities at killing grouse. It doesn't matter if your dog runs big or inside of bell range, you've got to keep up with them. That way when they get birdy you're not too far away.

Ruffed grouse are hard to hit under any condition. If if you’re huffing and puffing or cramping up with every step then you’ll be out of position to make the shot. Try these 10 points into your season then you'll kill more birds without having to learn how the hard way.


About the Author

Tom Keer
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Tom Keer owns The Keer Group, an outdoor marketing company which works perfectly with his freelance writing career. He casts his four English setters in Northeast upland coverts and Southern quail fields with fortunate regularity. Hes been lucky to be surrounded by people and dogs that are much smarter than him. Visit him at or at


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