Great grouse hunting this year

Every year around this time, I usually write a column about hunting—and make mention of the great grouse hunting we have right across Sunset Country.
We’re now a good way through the 2016 season and I’m going to say that this year has been one of the best I can ever remember for grouse.
These tasty birds probably are my favourite thing to eat on this entire planet and they are so much fun to hunt.
For those who enjoy hunting, but have not been in the bush yet this year, the grouse numbers are plentiful. They will be pretty easy to find for at least a few more weeks until the snow starts to fall around here.
A few things you should know about grouse are that they hate the wind. I’ve been getting out at least a couple of times a week over the past month or so, usually on a calm morning or evening.
My routine is to get on a good trail and go for a walk for a couple of hours. The result usually is a limit of five birds that I can bring home.
Most of the trails that I find are old logging roads or snowmobile trails. Riding a bike or, of course, an ATV is a good way to cover ground, as well.
The reason why we see these birds more frequently now than during the rest of the year is because much of the foliage has dropped, so they are not able to hide out as well, and because they are eating machines—trying to fatten up before winter.
When we clean them, their stomachs are visible and nearly every single one is absolutely full of clover, tree buds, or berries of any kind. They really love those red wild rose berries.
Basically, anything that’s still green and has some colour, they seem to like to eat.
When you are choosing a good place to hunt, mixed wood areas with a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees seem to be best. They like to be around heavy cover, yet they like to strut their stuff out in the open next to it.
When you find one of these birds all puffed up, with their tail feathers fanned out, it’s one of the most beautiful sights in the forest.
Because I enjoy eating them so much, I usually hunt them with a shotgun, but there is much more challenge in using a .22 caliber rifle. I like to use #6 shotgun shells and always try to aim for head to avoid damaging any of the breast meat.
When it comes to cooking these birds up, I like to fillet the breast meat, then batter it in flour, egg, and corn flake crumbs (the same as you would do with walleye) and then cook them in butter and a little bit of olive oil.
You get the best chicken fingers you’ve ever had! We like to dip them in honey dill sauce, as well, but you really can’t go wrong however way you cook them.
While I know grouse populations are cyclical, I’m not sure where we are in that cycle right now.
What I can tell you is that the woods are healthy with these birds right now, so if you have a hunting licence, considering giving it a shot and cook them for somebody who has never had them—they will be amazed!

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