The Best Caliber for Hunting Grouse
So you’re gearing up for your first grouse hunt. Awesome! Have you picked out a caliber – or rather, gauge – yet? No matter what kind of hunt you’re planning to go on, picking the right gauge is one of the most important parts of the pre-trip planning process, and a grouse hunt is no exception.
Of course, there will be plenty of differing opinions out there, and it will eventually be up to you to pick the right one.
Knowledge is key, though, so how about we give you one more opinion about the best gauge for a grouse hunt? I mean, it certainly couldn’t hurt, right?
What is the Best Caliber or Gauge for Grouse Hunting?
Asking for the best caliber or gauge for grouse hunting is kind of a loaded question. There are a lot of different answers out there, and most of them are backed up with logical reasons for the conclusion.
The best gauge is the one where you know the capabilities and limitations of the cartridge and its load, how the cartridge and load pattern and perform in your chosen shotgun, and you as a shooter.
If you’re asking our opinion on the best gauge for grouse hunting, we think it is the 20 gauge. The 20 gauge is kind of a sweet spot of performance and compromise that makes it great for a beginner grouse hunter. It’s not so large, like the 12 gauge, where it could impact your shooting abilities, and it’s not so small, like the 28 gauge, where the payload and pattern may be too small for a beginner to get some hits on the birds.
Other Calibers for Grouse Hunting
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the 20 gauge is the only gauge for grouse hunting. There are plenty of other great options out there. These include – but are certainly not limited to – the aforementioned 12 gauge and 28 gauge. For truly skilled shotgunners and grouse hunters, some even go for the challenge of the .410 bore shotshells.
Any one of those gauges will get the job done so long as you’ve got the right load, the right shotgun, and the right individual behind the gun.
Our Favorite Grouse Hunting Shotguns
There are no truly right or wrong answers when it comes to a favorite grouse hunting shotgun. You can use a side-by-side, over-under, semi-auto, or even a pump if you wanted to.
Whatever you choose will be great, but a 20 gauge Parker side-by-side is truly an American classic shotgun. You cannot go wrong with one, but they’re not made anymore, so you’ll have to look on the used market.
Other great options are the Benelli UltraLight semi-auto, the Beretta 686 over-under, or the Winchester 101 over-under.
Tips for Your Next Grouse Hunting Trip
Here’s a few tips to help you out when you’re gearing up for your next grouse hunting trip.
Wear the Right Gear
Given the ground you’ll be covering, it’s a good idea to have a sturdy pair of boots and a durable pair of brush pants. A long sleeve shirt is best, and a game vest to carry your birds in is definitely handy.
Aside from that, the only mandatory thing you wear is some blaze orange. Grouse hunting is rarely if ever done alone, and being able to see and be seen by your fellow hunters is paramount to safety and success.
Recognize Grouse Covert
Grouse are found in 38 of the 50 states, so their habitat can vary widely. In the northeast, you’ll be looking for areas of gently rolling hills. In the Midwest, the terrain will be rather flat. The mid-Atlantic area is full of hillside slopes. Once you know the terrain, look for drumming logs. These are elevated vantage points where male grouse scout for mates. They’ll usually be located in dark, damp spots with surrounding vegetation that is thick but not impassible. Usually located within a half-mile from the drumming log, you can expect to find female nests for after they’ve mated.
Locate Their Food
Grouse eat lots of berries. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, they eat them all. They also eat acorns, beech nuts, and birch or cherry buds. It all depends on the time of year. Berries are frequent in the fall and nuts and buds are more plentiful in the winter months.
Use the Wind to Your Advantage
The wind is one of your biggest advantages when grouse hunting. More specifically, a lack of wind is a big advantage. Most hunters have little to no success on windy days. This makes it harder for dogs to get the scent and harder for hunters to hear movement in the cover. Generally speaking, grouse tend to hunker down in the wind. If you watch the weather and avoid windy days, you should have better luck.
Grouse Hunting With a Dog
Grouse hunting with a dog is a lot of fun. It adds a whole new dimension into the experience and can make flushing and retrieving the birds a lot easier than if you have to rely just on your own two feet, two eyes, and one nose.
Patience is key to grouse hunting with a dog. You can’t just grab a dog and head into the field and expect results. You’ve got to first identify the right breed, get training for both you and the dog, and be prepared to have a lifetime commitment to the sport and the dog. If that doesn’t sound like you, then it’s best to hunt over someone else’s’ dog instead.
Grouse Hunting Without a Dog
No matter what some people say, you do not have to have a dog to hunt grouse. Plenty of hunters have success without any four-legged assistance. You just have to plan accordingly to use what you’ve got to the best of your abilities.
Pause for the Flush
True, you’ll need to walk to find birds, but pausing is very important. You’re the predator and they’re the prey. If a prey animal notices that a predator has paused, it generally means they’ve been spotted. As a result, grouse will flush in an attempt to get away from the prey quickly. When they do, you can take your shot.
Plan Your Retrieval
Without a dog, retrieval of the grouse is up to you, and you shouldn’t underestimate a shot and wounded bird. After your shot, hone in on a landmark where you saw the bird go down. Make your way there, looking for signs of blood or feathers. Focus on the ground in front of you, but don’t forget to look ahead and beyond as well. If you’re having a hard time finding the bird, stop. Pausing can also cause a wounded bird to flush in an escape attempt.
Don’t Let Time Fly By – Start Hunting Suppressed Today
If you’re in the planning stages of a grouse hunt, then there’s still time to add a suppressor to your list of gear to bring. Yes, that’s right: you can suppress a shotgun! Be sure to contact us here at Silencer Central to get your order started today.
We’re the nation’s largest silencer dealer, licensed to sell in all 42 states where silencers are legal. Our staff have helped thousands of new customers pick out the right suppressor for an upcoming hunt, and we’d love the opportunity to do the same for you.
The buying process couldn’t be more simple when you buy from Silencer Central. We’ll walk you through the entire process and then mail your suppressor right to your front door upon approval. It doesn’t get any better or easier than that!