Hunting ruffed grouse in winter is a good excuse to get outside with family and friends—especially with young or new hunters who could use extra time in the field with a firearm. Finding “ruffies” in our snowy season can be a challenge, so you’ll certainly have a chance to build confidence in skill and safety as you look for your birds!
Here are a few tips to get ruffies on your dinner table.
In winter months, expect ruffed grouse to hang in aspen and poplar groves, or clumps of conifer, for warmth and shelter. Dense trees halt the wind so birds can conserve some crucial body heat. Thick, long grass is a no-go. Logged areas, 10-year-old burns and overgrown farms filling up with poplars are good bets too. Look at it this way—if there’s no annoying brush scratching at your pants, look elsewhere.
Border patrol If it’s a sunny and calm winter day, ruffed grouse might make a trek out of the trees to feed. They love edge cover. From mid-morning until late afternoon, look for ruffies where forest meets field (or swamp or road—basically wherever mature forest meets new growth). These borders usually offer up food sources not found in established forests.
In fall, look for ruffed grouse on the ground where you see salad ingredients…i.e. small leafy plants, berries, seeds and mushrooms. Come winter, they move into stands of trees where aspen and hazel buds keep them going until spring. You might also find grouse nibbling spruce needles so don’t forget spruce woods too.
If it’s early or late in the day, walk the edge of spruce or pine forests. Ruffed grouse roost here at night, but then usually fly down at first light to feed along the edge of the trees. Looking for their favourite foods can take them pretty far, but you can bet at dinnertime they’ll be back near their roost area.