We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, January 20. 2021
This northern chicken-like (gallinaceous) bird prefers first-growth areas, with access to water and open areas. I most often find them in aspen, birch or alder thickets, but they can be seen in piney woods, old orchards, ferny woods, and in streambeds. In regions where birch and aspen are the climax forest, they can be found everywhere or anywhere, but never in large numbers. They are most commonly encountered when they flush with a startling whirr of wings.
Once known as "fool hens" for their tameness, Ruffies have somehow learned to avoid human encounters once they have had contact with them.
These birds do not migrate, and winter very well, since they are very happy to thrive on tree buds all winter, especially protein-rich aspen and birch buds. Their numbers have been declining in the Northeast as the old farms have become either mature woods, or housing developments, but clear-cutting of mature woodlands is a great help to them, as it is to most species of wildlife (it imitates the natural effect of wildfire to regenerate forest succession, which is key to habitat diversity and thus species diversity).
The Ruffed Grouse is the noblest game bird in the US. Wary, they do not often hold to a dog's point and when they do flush, their flight assumes warp speed immediately and is unpredictable. (Gwynnie's theory is that they have a random-direction-generating gyroscope in their brains.) They have an uncanny talent for putting tree trunks between the hunter and themselves, or for flying at your face, or flying between you and you pal, whose life you may (or may not) value more highly than you value bagging a Ruffie. And even the most considerate hunters ( yes - you, Craig) will pop off a snap shot regardless of whose bird it is, and rightly so. You cannot wait with Ruffies.
Grouse hunters (a very special and scarce, and, to my mind, elite fraternity of intrepid woodsy folks who don't mind cuts, bruises, wet boots, and hours-long struggles through underbrush, raspberry patches, thorny thickets of hawthorn, and impenetrable streamside alder growths) require very quick reflexes and a high degree of "relaxed alertness", but they require, most of all, strong legs for all of the hours of difficult wilderness walking which is required to find these wonderful creatures. It is said that grouse "are killed with legs, not guns." Dogs help, a bit, but they are huntable without dogs. When a hunter finds one, they are generally very difficult to shoot such that every Ruffie is a trophy and is regarded as such. And they are also regarded as a rare gourmet treat, because, with their subtle woodsy flavor, there is no finer fowl for the table.
Why "ruffed"? The males have a dramatic black neck ruff which they display for courtship purposes, while they fan their tails and strut around like little Thanksgiving turkeys. Their courtship drumbeat from an old log is also one of their well-known features: many have heard their deep thumping from deep in the woods, and have no idea that it is just a horny male Ruffie looking for a date.
Read more about the wonderful Ruffed Grouse here. The very worthy Ruffed Grouse Society, which Maggie's Farm supports, pays for research on grouse and woodcock ecology, which benefits all woodlands and woodland creatures.
More summer samplings from our archives
The Americans With No Abilities Act of 2006Clear-cutting and ConservationShelby Steele on White GuiltThe Dog's Sense of SmellThe Ruffed GrousePhoto: Name that actress
Weblog: Maggie's Farm
Tracked: Aug 17, 07:17
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Hmmm. I've never tasted grouse, and I wonder if it's taste is similar to our Bobwhite Quail? If so, it is indeed, a delicacy.
just browsing, i like your post on grouse. i'm an ole southern hunter. anything that won't eat me first!
To both of you Southern dudes: Nothing like your quail. Much better.
The (red) grouse that we get in the North of England & in Scotland is fantastic eating ... nearly as good as shooting them
Yup, I 've eaten the Red.
Only thing with grouse - dont overcook 'em.
I am a ruffed grouse hunter from southern West Virginia, and have hunted them for around 25 yrs. There is nothing finer than and point and kill. They're not too bad on the dinner table either. My hunting companion is a 3yr old english setter named Belle.
This question is always good for starting a heated debate :)
Typically best if asked as follows "what breed of dog do you choose to hunt grouse with".
I happen to be partial to setters. Especially those of the not-so-hightailed breed.
Yep, the state bird here in PA, and my favorite hunt. I leave the dog at home, it is safer hunting solo because of those crazy unpredictable flight patterns. My ancient 16ga side by side handles well in the thick stuff where the ruffians reside. Not many of my peers are still hunting them, though.
they are, indeed, one of the noblest gamebirds in the US, second only to desert quail.
Tienda Nº 1 en Camiseta Atletico de Madrid
Encontrarás cada tienda atletico de madrid y ropa de entrenamiento
para adultos y niños.
When I was a boy we hunted them either alone or in pairs. Never had dogs. There were plenty of grown up fields and orchards and plenty of cutting so there was no lack of birds. This was forty years ago in NH. We considered them easy game and if we happened to miss the first shot we learned not to take a second or move around or make any noise, but just take a dozen or so paces back to some comfortable cover and wait. They always came back to feed, either walking or flying in short hops from tree to tree, sometimes two of them. We could shoot them sitting if we were of a mind. We often were, being more concerned with supper than with sport.
Interesting that you referred to the ruffed grouse as a "fool hen". When I was growing up in the wilds of Idaho the ruffed grouse, of which there were a few, were considered wily, smart and difficult to hunt. The Franklin's grouse on the other hand, was tame and dumb enough that one could smack one off of a branch with a stick and it's cohorts would stand around and watch it as we picked it up. They were wonderful eating late evenings while listening to the elk bugle around us. They were the ones we called fool hens.
Concerning dogs, our Irishmen were very good on grouse, quail and other upland game, but were hardy enough to wrestle a Canadian honker when needed. My old Sean swam the Snake river more than once, trying mightily to keep up with his black lab friend. He was not smart enough to know it was not for him.
Hell Bird Dog, it's you.
You're the Bird (in name only) of the week, like you've been for 52 weeks out of every year for decades.
You da man, and I salute you and your family for it.
My dad and I had some modest success hunting these birds for a couple of years in northern Minnesota when I was a kid. Then suddenly the birds seemed to be gone. The operative story at the time was that they flourished in five year cycles. I don’t know if that was really true, but the Mossberg 20 saw no more action for a long time. The grouse was delicious they way Mom prepared it, but I lost interest in hunting because I didn’t like to destroy the peacefulness of the woods with the blast of the shotgun.
I had a buddy in WV used to hunt them with Brittany's.
Great little dog in heavy cover, I used to love to watch them work.
Grouse hunting is hard. The pinnacle of acheivement is to bag them using a .410 gauge.
Don't be expecting to see too many in Connecticut....the current attitude towards big landowners (i.e. the state and water companies) cutting trees has pretty much doomed successional growth in the state. Because without those contracts the few loggers left are going to be SOL once all the ash is dead in about five years. So much for grouse, bobolink, woodcock, towhees, native sparrows, blue birds, and the list goes on. Though Shalt Not cut trees! Nor shalt thou have fires! And if a blow down happens thou shalt plant a tree! (except if it bothers 'my' ability to have uninterrupted power and internet, then why didn't you cut it down yesterday!?) Idiots.
As Dan D mentions, the state bird of PA, where I grew up. Saw them frequently.
Tasty little guys.
Thold Yooper spent many days as a boy in the woods of Michigan’s UP. Lots of ruffed grouse met their end thru the old single shot 16ga...lots of logging in those times and after a few years the clear cuts were prime habitat. No dogs then but,before I was old enough to carry a gun, I was the retriever for my dad. Still an upland hunter now and still partial to the 16ga...old habits die hard.
Save those tails for your fly tying friends. They are necessary for breadcrust nymphs which imitate cased caddis.
Up here in Alberta we've got ruffies, plus sharp tailed grouse, sage grouse, spruce grouse and probably more I can't remember, all with 83 different regulations on when and where I can shoot them, which I can't anyway, because they're either sitting there 6 feet away lolling about looking smarmy at me, which means I probably can shoot them, but I'm not sure, or they're flying in around and through 4th dimension trees and my brains which means...
I shoot ducks and geese, civilized birds.