Tales from the Grouse Hunt

By Joel Schnell on Jan 29, 2021 in hunting | No Comments

One wet dog

2020 wasn’t all bad. 

For ruffed grouse hunters, 2020 was the year of the Great Comeback. For a change, we had a relatively dry spring and summer. Normal, you could say. And grouse numbers improved with it. Best year I’ve seen in the last four. Our friends the woodcock were around as usual to supplement the bag. This was a year you could go just about anywhere without flooding your boots. Dry enough to hit all those little covers on the other side of the swamp I normally can’t get to.

three in the bag

As always Levi and I hit the cover running. We slogged through the steamy, wet jungle of early season aspen. And the birds were there to reward our efforts. Whatever was holding them back- poor weather, poor nesting, West Nile, the cycle- it relented for a season. Hopefully for good.

drying out

Not everything got the memo. Here a little tamarack jumped in front of the gun to save a woodcock. It lost it’s crown for the effort.

clipped by a load of 20 gauge

My grouse camp was a welcome respite from days in the thickness. Nothing beats a Northwoods cabin off the grid but fully stocked with firewood.

view of the tamarack

looking outside the window

Life goes on in the grouse woods- old covers grow past their prime, new covers mature. Here a beaver flooded a favorite trail with his dam. Making early successional forest you might say.


A grilled grouse and woodcock combo makes my day. 

It’s my favorite recipe: pluck the birds and leave the skin on. Oil the birds to get the seasoning to stick, then dust in Montreal chicken or lemon pepper. Or if you have dried basil from the garden, crush it in your hand, then douse the bird with sea salt and cracked pepper. 

Oh, and as long as you have the charcoal hot, throw on tomorrow’s thick-cut bacon for breakfast.

Kingsford ‘licious

I suppose it’s normal to have a few bumps in the road. A few times i stopped at a trailhead where someone’s camped. But then I have to chase the dog out of the food trash they left behind. Pack it out, folks. My dog doesn’t need to eat your leftover chicken drummies.

bad manners

One thing I can count on, is the companionship of a bird dog. He never let me down. Even made his first water retrieve across a creek. He knows not the good season from the bad. They’re all good to him.

lunch break

The best was yet to come.

Grouse Week.

It should be a national holiday. It was for us. Tune in next time for the rundown.

Joel Schnell is publisher of Ruffed Grouse Minnesota.

He can be reached on facebook messenger

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