How To Shoot A Grouse
In the past, my October column has always been centered around locating and hunting ruffed grouse and woodcock. However, in this column, we’re going to talk about how to shoot a grouse or woodcock. Here’s why.
Just about all articles on “how to shoot” talk about balance and footwork. You step forward with the foot opposite your gun shoulder. Your feet should be about the same distance apart as your shoulder width. Your weight should be slightly forward while remaining relaxed. The eyes and brain take over and you swing through the flushing bird.
All that sounds wonderful. How could I miss with such a perfect shooting style? The problem with that perfect shooting style is it only works for prairie bird shooting or plantation quail. In other words, wide open territory. You visually see your dog point, you approach the dog in a calm manner, your field of view is wide open, you flush the bird and in a second you properly step forward, mount the gun, remain balanced, pickup the target and fire. All perfectly executed.
Now, let’s talk about hunting in jungle cover for ruffed grouse and woodcock. You know your dog is on point but can’t see it. You fight the jungle cover to locate your dog. There are times your dog may only be three to four feet from you but you still don’t see it. A grouse or woodcock flushes while you’re stepping over a log and have your gun in an awkward position due to heavy brush. Executing that perfect style described above is simply impossible. Although you may not be able to execute the perfect style, here are a few tips for the ruffed grouse and woodcock hunter.
First, make sure you have a gun that fits you. A quick and inexpensive gun fit check is to close your eyes and throw the gun to your shoulder. Open your eyes. If you’re looking straight down the barrel, it’s usually a good fit. Even a quick hail mary shot will be more successful with a well-fitted gun. When approaching a dog on point, look carefully for an opening in the brush. Just the smallest clearing in the jungle cover may be all you need. When the bird flushes, no matter where your feet are, get the gun to your shoulder and fire. Remember, there is no intentional aiming in bird shooting. The eyes and brain do the aiming.
Most ruffed grouse and woodcock shots are 20 yards or less. The shot is taken within one second. And, it’s usually one shot. At 20 yards, the shot spread is about 3 feet. If you’re able to get the gun to your shoulder in one second (or micro second), you should be able to connect with the bird. You can practice this shot. Go to either a trap or skeet range and always have your gun in the carry position and your feet in many different positions and then call “pull”. The pros at the range will criticize you for poor style, however, ignore them. Their goal is to break as many clay birds as possible; your goal is to get ready for hunting season.
One more comment on gun fit. The eye hand coordination for the human being can be pretty amazing. I’ve watched professional shooters break clay bird after clay bird shooting from the hip position. I have my wife on film being surprised by a grouse flush in front of a point by Dena. My wife, Susan, shot before the gun got within six inches of her shoulder. She dropped the bird. I recall reading an article in the Pointing Dog Journal magazine about the writer having shoulder surgery before hunting season. Before he went afield, he practiced shooting from the hip and became rather good at it.
Hunting and shooting in the ruffed grouse and woodcock jungle is not easy. Practice and keep a positive outlook and you’ll be successful. And remember, the only bird that you can brag about has been shot on the wing…not on the ground.
One more suggestion. My February 2022 column in Northwoods Sporting Journal is titled Selecting A Gun. In that column, there are also tips on shooting. It’s available on my website: www.birddogsafield.com.
Copyright 2022 Paul Fuller