While the state of Maine is most incredible for many reasons, many hunters regard it as one of the greatest places in the country to hunt for ruffed grouse. These little birds are one of the most sought-after upland bird species in the country, and many wing shooters will travel to the best hunting locations every year to find them. One of these includes the state of Maine!
The Ruffed Grouse
Ruffed grouse are one of the most plentiful and widely distributed game birds on the continent. They are on the smaller size when it comes to most grouse species, and range in weight from 16 to 25 ounces. They are beautiful birds that have many markings and colors in their feathers that help them to better blend in with their preferred habitat. Unlike other bird species, ruffed grouse are monomorphic. This means that both genders, male and female that have lost their juvenile plumage and colors, look alike.
Ruffed grouse eat a variety of different things, including leaves, fruits, and insects. During the winter when snow is on the ground, they will eat things such as flower buds and catkins. Ruffed grouse will live an average of 3 years, although some birds can live up to 7 years. During the spring, male ruffed grouse will become more territorial of their area and start to “drum.” This is a display that helps them to ward off other males and attract females.
Habitat and Locations
Ruffed grouse can be found throughout almost all of the state of Maine, although in various densities. The highest densities tend to be found in transition areas where thick forests and developed fields and farmlands meet. Cleared land and fires can create excellent grouse habitat, as it provides mixed-age aspen (a favorite of ruffed grouse). These types of areas provide everything that the grouse need to live, including food, shelter, and enough space to drum. Because ruffed grouse have such a small home range, all of these requirements should be found within a small area of around 30 acres or less. This can provide key clues to finding grouse while out hunting.
Equipment and Gear
The great thing about hunting ruffed grouse is that you do not need a ton of new or expensive gear to have a successful day in the woods. In fact, a good day of grouse hunting should only require things like a blaze orange vest, extra food and water, a navigation device (GPS), a shotgun, tough pants, long sleeve shirt, and some waterproof boots. A jacket and thicker clothing might also be a good idea if the weather is cold.
Almost any shotgun you already own is probably more than adequate for grouse hunting. The most popular 20 and 12-gauge shotguns are some of the most widely seen, but even the 28 gauge and 410 can be used. Pair this with an open or improved choke as grouse shots are usually at close range, and size #6 or #7 shells are a great option.
Many ruffed grouse hunters will often choose to hunt with a dog. But, unlike other bird species such as pheasants, ruffed grouse hunting can be achieved very successfully without a dog if you don’t have one. While almost any breed of dog can be taught and trained to hunt for grouse, most any sporting breed or pointers make for the best grouse dogs and provide excellent companionship while out in the woods.
Maine Ruffed Grouse Season and Limits
The ruffed grouse season generally runs from the third week of September until December 31st of every year. There is a bag limit of four birds per day, with the possession of eight birds at any time. You will need to purchase a hunting license before you are able to hunt ruffed grouse in Maine, and this can be done either at a hunting license dealer found around the state, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife office, or online at their website (https://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting-trapping/hunting/licenses-permits.html).
Tips and Tricks
In order to best hunt ruffed grouse, you will first need to locate the best cover and food sources that the birds are using. This will ensure that there are birds nearby to hunt. From there, your job is to now flush the birds out in order to get a clear shot at them. Here are a few simple tips to help to get you started when it comes to hunting ruffed grouse!
Hunt early/late – Ruffed grouse tend to be very inactive during the middle of the day. The best time to hunt for them is the early morning and late into the afternoons. This is when they will move around to look for food, and when they are the most vulnerable.
Cover more ground – Although ruffed grouse live in relatively small areas, you may still need to cover plenty of ground in order to find them. Lace-up a comfortable pair of boots and don’t be afraid of covering plenty of ground!
Be ready and quick – When ruffed grouse get flushed, they are quick and explosive. Always have your gun at the ready and try to be as quick as possible when you see or hear them. You may not get another opportunity after you flush them so always be ready and move as quick as possible to get a shot.
The ruffed grouse is a favorite animal to hunt in Maine for many people, and it’s easy to see why. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of these amazing little birds and know where to find them and how to better hunt them. With the abundance of habitat and their excellent numbers, there are few things as enjoyable as a ruffed grouse hunt in this amazing state!