October is one of my favourite times of year around home. Across the Sunset Country region, fishing is excellent in the fall for walleye, bass, crappie, pike and musky. Plenty of options and arguably the best time of year to catch the biggest specimens of each species. Great hunting opportunities exist in our big country as well.
My first hunting memories as a kid were grouse hunting with my dad. Like with fishing, I was lucky that he took me out in the field as a youngster and taught me where to find game, how to think safety first when in the woods and how to have fun. I took the hunter safety course when I was in high school and have spent considerable time in the woods every fall since.
While grouse hunting might not be as exciting as chasing big game species, it is one of the things that I look forward to the most every fall. These little wild chickens are one of my favourite things to eat and it’s hard to imagine that there could be better places to hunt them. Even though their populations are known to by cyclical, I can’t remember a time when the grouse hunting wasn’t good.
After the long winter and late spring we just experienced, I was not as optimistic that the grouse hunting was going to be that good this fall but it’s been as good as ever. Their hatch this spring was good evidently because there seems to be excellent numbers of young birds.
Like a lot of the fish that feed heavily in the fall to prepare for winter, grouse are kind of on the same program. They know a long winter is coming so they are eating as much as they can right now to bulk up and conserve as much energy as they can before the snow flies.
When you clean a grouse it’s hard to miss seeing their full stomachs. The stomach lining is clear so you can usually see the contents and it’s always interesting to see what’s inside. That might sound gross but the contents are usually quite dry and intact, so it’s not that bad. Some are filled with clover or the buds from birch trees. They will each just about any colourful berry they can find, bugs and the buds from other plants along the ground. Once you get an understanding for the things that they like to eat, you’ll understand why some trails and areas produce more birds than others. Much like fish, they are often found where the best food is.
I mentioned earlier how good grouse are to eat. I could literally have them every day and I wouldn’t get tired of them, they are a real fall treat for me. Most often we batter them like we would fish and make chicken fingers that we dip in honey dill sauce. They are so good. We also make stew with them, bacon wrap them and cook them plain with some seasoning. However you like chicken, you can substitute grouse.
If you have never hunted before, Ontario has made it easier than ever to take the hunter safety course online, so you can get a hunting license. The course is fairly extensive but you learn a lot of important information if you did not grow up with experience hunting. Once you complete the course, you have the privilege of getting a hunting license the rest of your life. Grouse hunting is a fun activity that you can do with friends or family and again, they are excellent to eat!