Search For:

Share This

Stalking The Sneaky Grouse

A long time ago, in a place far away from here, I was creeping along the forest as silently as a teenager wearing size 12 boots would allow. My hands grasped a lever-action rifle, the same kind used by the movie cowboys who never missed. I was big and bad, ready to take down any deer foolish enough to cross my path.

Then I screamed like a little girl.

From out of nowhere, a chicken-sized ball of feathers exploded in my face then sped away like some nightmare from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It turns out, however, that my Blair Witch Project moment was nothing more than an encounter with a ruffed grouse.

That’s what grouse hunters find so appealing about this extreme shotgun sport.

“They’re fast and explosive when they flush—that’s what makes them difficult to shoot,” says John Morgan, a wildlife biologist and grouse hunter. “By the time you get your wits about you and get your gun up, they’re almost gone.”

Kentucky’s grouse hunting zone includes 53 counties in the eastern end of the state, with the best hunting found east of Interstate 75. Grouse season is one of the last hunting seasons open in winter. It continues through the end of February.

State Wildlife Biologist Steve Beam, another avid grouse hunter, says the thicker the cover the better when it comes to finding these birds. Look for thick stands of small trees in the forest—such as old clear-cuts, mine benches, and trees damaged by fire or brought down by ice—for the best places to hunt.

“If you can walk through an area comfortably, then you’re hunting in the wrong place,” Beam says.

North-facing slopes hold grouse because they generally have more moisture and plants that grouse like to eat, such as ferns. Grouse also stay near food sources in late winter, so look for them near oaks, beeches, grapevines, and green briars.

Once you’ve found the food and cover that grouse prefer, it’s time to hunt. While you can stomp through thick cover and scare out a bird, it’s much more effective if you let a hunting dog work the heavy stuff.

Morgan says grouse hunting is popular in the Daniel Boone National Forest, especially in the district around Morehead. A ranger can help you find areas with the heaviest cover. State-owned lands such as Clay, Paintsville Lake, Begley, and Yatesville Lake wildlife management areas are also popular grouse hunting destinations.

For a real challenge of your shotgun skills, try grouse hunting. Just try not to scream.


Get a free hat when you keep a log of your small game hunting season. This information helps the department manage game. See the back of the current state hunting guide for more information.

Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.