So far this season, my days in the woods have produced more flushes than last year by a good margin—perhaps not as big a bump as predicted but an obvious increase. This is corroborated by many of our clients, guiding customers and other serious grouse hunters.
And I do mean “flushes.” A majority of the grouse encountered were heard but not seen due to the latest leaf fall I have ever experienced. Leaves of most trees and shrubs hadn’t even begun to fall until well in mid October—and then many were still green. Later, the culprit was the foliage of hazel, the brushy shrub with foliage at just about eye level, which didn’t drop leaves until late October.
The season has been unusual in another way. Though the prediction was for higher grouse populations, during September I found fewer birds and broods than last year. Or at best, hunting was spotty. By the second week of October, though, I found substantially more birds. Where did they come from? Why couldn’t I find them earlier?
Despite years of research, no one really seems to completely understand ruffed grouse. They are still somewhat of a mystery. But that is okay with me and one of the reasons the ruffed grouse is called king of upland game birds.