All About the Ruffed Grouse

The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is the most widely distributed gamebird in North America, found throughout Canada and in 38 of the 49 continental United States. The bird is named for the band of dark feathers circling its throat, which the male will flare out into a prominent "ruff," or collar, during courtship. —JACK LARSON

[1] WINGS Stout, cup-shaped wings allow the ruffed grouse to navigate through dense forest after the flush. Early in the season, when foliage is heavy and birds are holding tight, maximize your chances of hitting a bird through cover with No. 7½ or 8 shot. When the canopy thins and grouse flush at greater distances, use harder-hitting 6s.

[2] TAIL You can determine the sex of a downed bird by measuring its tail feathers. The plucked central tail feather of an adult male will almost always measure 6¼ inches or greater.

[3] BEHAVIOR In the spring, adult males aggressively defend a 6-to 10-acre parcel for their exclusive use. The birds proclaim their property rights by perching on a log, rock, or mound of dirt about a foot off the ground and beating their wings against the air. The vacuum created by this motion produces a sound similar to a lawn mower that's reluctant to start. Keep your ears open and you'll know where to hunt.