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Hello to the 'fire this evening!

On Sunday, I went to the Black Hills in Northeastern Wyoming to look for ruffed grouse. Not sure what I thought would happen but I did not find any. Normally, I see them in the brush along the road, or while walking a ridge (single birds). I wont be able to get a shot in the timber most likely, so I went to an area that was an old burn. There was oak trees about arm pit high, lots of open space, a little down timber, water in the bottom and I suppose it was about 40-60 acres in size. I walked it all around with the dogs and they didnt pick up any scent at all that got them going. I am an old guy at 53, but it was the first time going to the hills to chase ruffed or blue grouse.

The question I have.... how do I find the right spots to find ruffed and blue grouse in the Black Hills of Wyoming or the Big Horn Mountains? Where to go for sharptail grouse in the prairie? I find them often while hunting deer, but its by accident and in random spots. Any tips for an old newbie at upland grouse?

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Don't know your area but at this time of year here they are in berries and seeds. Harvest season.


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There isn’t a very large population of ruffed grouse in the Black Hills. Not only from my own experience deer and Elk hunting; I also read an article in Pheasants Forever or Gun Dog (I forget which one) about it. I believe they shot three in as many days of hunting. It was later in the year and they were finding them in scrub oak and Aspen stands.

I have seen Ruffed grouse in the Bighorns. I’ve only ever been around 8,000 ft in late summer/early fall and just happened to bump into them.

Sharptails. If you can find any type of crop fields which have been harvested (or not) hunting the nearby cover of grasses and trees in mid morning or evening can be productive. I often see them flying back and forth especially in the morning. Not up high like waterfowl, they fly a couple hundred yards at a time. Stop to rest, the. Fly a couple hundred more. I would start by hunting good cover near any crops including alfalfa. They don’t need the crops but if they are around that will up your odds for sure.


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First you need to get an empty burlap bag.... (sorry, all I got!)


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Grouse, much like elk, are where you find them. By accident and in random spots. So there's that. There are not many ruffed grouse in the black hills. I have seen them but have yet to take one. Perhaps this week. You might define success by seeing one as opposed to killing a limit.

Sharptails will be more likely to be found this time of year, prior to freeze up, relating to water, shade and insects. I find that they prefer hoppers and crickets to grain. Once there's a freeze, they'll switch over and eat sunflowers and waste wheat. I wouldn't spend much time looking in places that don't have these three things nearby. Past that, I look on the downwind side of ridges, toward the crown of the ridge. Not in the bottom like a rooster would be but up near the top, on the downwind side. If a pasture has no water and no hoppers in it, it won't have much for grouse in it either.


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Ruffed grouse stick close to berries and seeds. They love berries and thick cover near them. Find that and a water source, and you've upped your odds at finding the grouse.


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And he does hunt sharp tails too.

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Originally Posted by Oakster
Hello to the 'fire this evening!

On Sunday, I went to the Black Hills in Northeastern Wyoming to look for ruffed grouse. Not sure what I thought would happen but I did not find any. Normally, I see them in the brush along the road, or while walking a ridge (single birds). I wont be able to get a shot in the timber most likely, so I went to an area that was an old burn. There was oak trees about arm pit high, lots of open space, a little down timber, water in the bottom and I suppose it was about 40-60 acres in size. I walked it all around with the dogs and they didnt pick up any scent at all that got them going. I am an old guy at 53, but it was the first time going to the hills to chase ruffed or blue grouse.

The question I have.... how do I find the right spots to find ruffed and blue grouse in the Black Hills of Wyoming or the Big Horn Mountains? Where to go for sharptail grouse in the prairie? I find them often while hunting deer, but its by accident and in random spots. Any tips for an old newbie at upland grouse?


Hunt draws with aspen, water, look for food sources ( berries). Drive and hit a lot of areas. Kill a bird. Open up crop and see what they are feeding on and look for that type of forage

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also need good pair of boots, last ruffed grouse I killed was 11 mile round trip only bird I flew. kinda felt bad as it may have been the last one, (and maybe the last one I get to shoot at) ,

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Originally Posted by DeanAnderson
First you need to get an empty burlap bag.... (sorry, all I got!)


And a flashlight.

But, I thought that was for snipe huntin'?

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If you were hunting primarily in oaks, you were in a low percentage area at best. If the area was only 60 acres and not adjacent to a known producer of grouse, you are unlikely to ever find a ruffed grouse in that area. Ruffed grouse are most at home in aspen from about 5 years after cutting to about 25 years or so. That type of habitat will meet pretty much all the birds needs if at least a section in size and better yet would be thousands of acres.

Your best bet would be to go to the areas you have seen ruffs and start hunting. You will find the birds where they wish to be, not where you wish them to be. Ruffs are creatures of relatively heavy cover so you will have to learn to see the bird, mount the gun, and shoot in a fairly compressed time frame.

I used to look at the crops of birds but no longer. Listing what ruffs won't eat is a far shorter list than that of what they eat and like people at a restaurant, it is not uncommon for the birds to have different foods in their crops. What stands out is when I shot two grouse from the same dogwood patch. The berries were ripe but the one bird had a crop full of clover, the other mushrooms. And not a single dogwood berry to be found though the robins were thick in there.

As for sharpies, I look for regions where less than 50% of the area is planted into crops with the rest grasslands. Start getting more than that percentage and sharptail numbers drop quickly. Grass should be no more than knee high as a somewhat joking rule of thumb is sharptails like to sit up and look over the grass when they want to. It is a reason they are often found in cut wheat, barley, or rye fields. If you would expect to find pheasants in a spot, it is probably not going to be very productive for sharptails.

Some brush is good too, it provides shade and cover to load in. I like seeing loose clumps rather than thick patches as it is easier to hunt. Trees aren't so hot as Hawks often in them waiting to pick off prey. On windy days I've found sharptails on the leeward side of tree lines but a good 50 yards out or more.

Prairie grouse are why I added English setters and a Pointer to my dog string. There can be a lot of country between birds and a bigger running dog increases your odds of finding them. A couple dogs puts the odds a little more on your side. 16 dogs out at once is a riot. Though not always a funny one. I've had my dogs a quarter mile out and that can be pretty nice when you have several sections of land to cover. As long as the dogs are staunch on point and both of you are able to keep tabs on one another that range isn't a problem. Just bring binocs as you can determine if the dog stopped on point or is answering a call of nature.

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Originally Posted by gunscrew
also need good pair of boots, last ruffed grouse I killed was 11 mile round trip only bird I flew. kinda felt bad as it may have been the last one, (and maybe the last one I get to shoot at) ,

There were 9 in the apples trees in the yard tonight. I walked back to my deer stand Sunday to check cameras and saw 19. We have a bumper crop of Ruffies this year.

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The old way in central WI was to put a case of Point Special in the back seat and a shotgun in your lap and drive the back roads until you had your limit or the case was empty. Either way it was a good day.


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thanks for the info guys! That all helps. NE Wyoming is a high plains desert. There isnt any crop lands... just open, sparse prairie grass and sage brush. Its cattle land, not farm land for sure. The sharp tails I normally find are near the roadside ditches or around oil field pumping units and buildings etc. A few times we have gone out looking for them, we found them in the foothills of a rolling prairie with a rough draw and ponded water in spots. Unfortunately, the area was open for "walk in" hunting, but big game only and not upland birds. I will keep trying and pay more attention when I am mule deer hunting this season. We see sharp tails occasionally while mule deer hunting but they see to just be in random spots on the prairie.

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A good pointing dog helps. From what I know, ruffs aren't super plentiful in the black hills. Sharptail would be easier to find, however I would not hunt them without a dog.

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