Fair Chase for Grouse
Be worthy of your game. A statement from George Bird Evans, a well-known writer and setter breeder.
Fair chase of your prey, in my mind is being worthy of your game. However, for many years and many generations, our beloved ruffed grouse, known as the king of game birds, has been subjected to a total lack of fair chase. It’s called road shooting or road potting. Note that the word hunting is not part of the description. It’s shooting…not hunting. True hunting is skillfully pitting your skills against those of your prey.
Road shooting is also robbing the ethical hunter of opportunities to harvest grouse using fair chase methods. A forest worker told me several years ago that if you come to the big woods after the first week, a good 80% of the birds have been shot by road hunters. This past fall, we went to the north country the end of the second week. We were told by one of our friends, a long-time and native resident of a small Maine town, that there were local people that already had 100 birds in their freezer. This type of slaughter, greatly reduces the opportunity for eager hunters using fair chase to harvest game. The old saying that for every bird on the road there are 100 in the woods is pure b.s.
When bringing up fair chase, I often hear the “if it’s legal” argument. Legal and ethical clash here. And, road shooting is not always legal. My wife and I have witnessed vehicles suddenly stopping on the woods road and shooting out the window. In fact, we were told last year that one person was arrested for using a Judge handgun (shoots 410 shot shells) to shoot road birds from the window of their truck.
For my wife and I, it’s all about dog work. There is nothing more exciting in the bird hunting world, than shooting on the wing a ruffed grouse over good dog work. It’s the ultimate experience in upland hunting. When you sit at the dining room table to enjoy the delicious meat of the ruffed grouse, the memory of how you harvested that bird will be told to the other folks at the table. It’s an exciting story.
However, you can still ethically hunt ruffed grouse without a dog. Every year we discover hunters simply walking the logging roads while looking for a flush from the ditch along the road. There is often clover in those ditches and grouse love clover. Last year we met a father and son, local residents, hunting exactly this way. They had each shot a bird, on the wing, from flushes along the road. We were happy to see this.
There is an encouraging sign. Younger people we’ve met over the past few years appear to be more interested in fair chase. I’m not sure if it’s because fair chase is being taught in hunter safety courses or it’s just an ethical attitude these youngsters have. No matter what, it’s a good sign for the future.
Although the ruffed grouse is not considered big game, I like the Boone and Crockett Club’s description of fair chase. Fair chase, as defined by the Boone and Crockett Club is the ethical, sportsmanlike pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.
Copyright 2021 Paul Fuller