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How to Create a Ruffed Grouse Hunting Haven On Your Property

Ruffed grouse hunting is a tradition in many areas around the US.

 For some hunters their first memories are grouse hunting with dad, mom or maybe a grandparent. Those are some special times when you can get out in the woods and do some walking with someone you care about. 
As a kid you learn from the wise hunters in your family and eventually you learn enough so you can pass along the knowledge to the next generation.

What is required for those good hunting memories, though, is a quality ruffed grouse hunting habitat.

If you’re a landowner and you’re looking to understand more about how the ruffed grouse uses the land to survive and actually to thrive we’ve put together some basic guidelines. These should hopefully help you as you develop that sanctuary for the grouse in your area.

Creating a ruffed grouse habitat on your land is an investment in the future. You’re giving your kids and their kid something to enjoy for many years. If you remember those good times of walking around the woods then now is the time to take action so those memories can become real in the future.

The Basics of Ruffed Grouse Habitat

The biggest need for ruffed grouse is essential cover. If you’ve spent time in the field or in the woods watching upland game you know that cover is essential to survival. Grouse, especially the young birds, are in danger from a variety of predators.

There are hawks and eagles flying overhead. There are foxes and coyotes on the ground. All these predators are looking for an easy meal and a young grouse without cover stands no chance. Even as the birds age they face predation if there is a lack of cover.

Mixed woodland is typically where grouse are ideally located. If your property has mixed woods with aspen you’re likely in a great spot for a grouse habitat. If you are missing aspen trees it might make sense to plant some as you plan for the future generations of grouse hunters in your family. Obviously this takes time, but investing now will ensure success in the future. You can work with other trees in the meantime.

It is typically a young forest that hosts the best grouse habitat. As the new habitat comes about the grouse seem to thrive in the new underbrush that gives them ample food and cover.

Ann Jarderona is an expert in grouse. She lives in Wisconsin and knows the best places to find Wisconsin grouse. She looks for bunchberries and wild strawberries on the forest floor. These are indicators of good habitat for ruffed grouse. New forests that have recently been logged with a good mix of aspen trees usually make for a prize habitat.

Creating the Necessary Canopy

As Ann Jarderona mentioned in the links above, the ruffed grouse needs substantial canopy above. This provides the protection the birds need from the predators in the sky. The grouse tend to look for low canopy with not too much large ground cover. This allows the brooding grouse the ability to hatch the chicks while giving the chicks room to move around to forage for food.

Higher canopies are needed for the drumming birds. The mails put themselves out in the open during the drumming season and they need high cover to protect from the overhead predators. Nesting can occur in slightly open areas, but for the most part your property will need good canopy cover at multiple levels to be a prime habitat for grouse.

Likely you’ll need breaks in the timber to ensure the variety the grouse need at various stages in their lives. You can do this by planning where the forest will be new and where it can get a bit older over time. As the years go by you can plan to make changes to the harvest of the trees while allowing succession to take place so grouse can continue to come back on their 10 year cycle.

The Need for Proper Underbrush and Cover

The big word you’ll read in any literature about grouse habitat is “cover”. We touched on this with the canopy, but the underbrush and cover is essential for the ruffed grouse to survive.

A variety of ground over is needed for grouse. When the birds are young they don’t need real thick cover on the ground because it would be difficult for the young birds to move around looking for food. Instead it’s good to have a mixed variety of cover. Some thick cover is good underneath the high canopy for the older birds. The mature birds will want to find protection knowing that they are in harms way when predators are in the area. The cover allows the birds the protection they need to sit tight even as predators come close to the bird’s location.

Food and Resources

A variety of plant life is necessary for the ruffed grouse habitat. Breeding hens will look for a good mixture of nutritious plans and berries for themselves and their chicks. Areas with some moisture are ideal for the young birds because they provide a lot of insects.

You don’t want to endanger the young birds with areas where there might be flash flooding, but wetlands of some nature are good for the birds because insects like wet areas. If you can create a good mix of medium and lowlands on your property there should naturally be good food and resources for the growing birds.

Grouse can eat a variety of plants. Look for those that are five feet in height or less. The berry varieties are good as are hazelnut and dogwood. A good mixture of the undergrowth should provide good food and resources for the grouse population in your area.

A Hunting Pastime for Generations

Grouse hunting is a classic pastime of the American hunter. For generations hunters have been hitting the woods walking along logging roads looking for nature’s most difficult bird.

The ruffed grouse provides a challenge that is enjoyable for both beginners and seasoned hunters. A family expedition for grouse makes for a great early morning or late evening. You can spend time with the ones you love and hone your skills with your trusty shotgun.

Hopefully these guidelines help you with the development of your own grouse habitat. Be sure to follow the links included for even more information about logging and specific trees and vegetation to plan on your land.