For some reason my neighbors thought it would be a good idea to let me borrow one of their 90cc dirt bikes one archery season when I was in high school. They also thought it would be a good idea to let me stay in their “cabin” near Stanley Idaho. I must have had someone fooled but I took advantage of the situation.
Me and the 1960’s era dirt bike with my bow strapped to the front found more goat trails and nearly inaccessible areas than my legs ever would have. The problem, I was a young hunter, was all the noise I was making. The concept that wild animals did not wait around to see what the loud noise coming down the trail was didn’t occur to me. After all, the grouse still hung around.
And man would I see a lot of those birds. Families of 5-6 running then fluttering up into a pine tree at eye level. I had never shot one so I just left them alone. Back at the cabin that night I looked up these seemingly slow birds in the upland regulations. I could shoot two and the season had opened the same day as my archery tag. Sweet.
The next morning I found the birds fifty yards from were they had been the night before. They seemed way to calm as I approached them, arrow on the nock.
The first one that I shot was with a blunt. Bad idea. The treed grouse was only about 20 feet away when I gave it hell out of my 55# compound. The blunt went clear through the breast of the bird and both came crumbling out of the tree. I tried saving as much of the bird as I could but the breast meat was essentially ruined.
The next grouse I shot was with a broad head, out of a tree again. I am fairly sure that an archeologist will find an arrow is stuck in a tree in the SawtoothNational Forest that has my name on it. The bird, luckily, came sliding off the shaft of the arrow and tumbled to the ground. Yet again most of the breast meat was ruined.
Limited out on grouse I went back to thinking a deer would be standing in the road just around the next corner, to no avail.
Back at the cabin I boiled up the remainder of the meat and had a nice snack. I vowed that I would figure out a non-wasteful manner of harvesting these birds with my bow. That…or just come back up with the dog and shotgun.
Tips for grouse hunting
With a bow I have found that a good judo point works great on grounded and treed grouse. I carry a judo point on my bow during archery season that I mark a special color, easier to identify. I would hate to have a judo point on the knock when sneaking on a buck.
Good six shot is normally more than enough for a grouse. But sometimes they flush fast after some pressure. At that point I switch to a size four “long shot” on my 16 gauge. These seem to give me an extra 10 yards or so of range and that comes in handy putting birds down.
Turkey season is a great time to do some grouse “scouting”. In the spring the mating call of a grouse is a distinctive low tuned thumping noise. The males pick a location, often a fallen log, and make that there home base. They hang near this log all year round. If you hear the thumping in the spring remember the location, or better yet mark it as a waypoint on your GPS. The bird should be within a few hundred yards of where you heard him in the spring.
Young grouse are just flat stupid; they are called “fool hens” for a reason. These birds make awesome “practice” for young bow hunters. I would carry my bow behind my father all season just for a shot on a young grouse. In grouse prone areas I have even made self bows and arrows and hunted the birds for more sport. Nothing says “mountain man” like coming out of the woods with a grouse and a self made bow.
Flocks of Sage Hen tend to frequent the same areas year after year. They stay in “stands” and when you know a flocks location keep it a secret. I have hunted the same bowl in OwyheeCounty for 4 years in a row. Limiting out by 8am most days.
Know your different types of grouse. Some areas have sharp-tail and sage hen, but only sharp-tail is open season. Shooting the first chicken that takes off can lead to some tense moments if the wrong type of bird is on the ground.
Know the coverage that holds birds. In tree lined areas I tend to hunt the ridgelines with the buck brush. In heavy cover I tend to hunt the logging roads. Your area is different so take notes from year to year about what type of area holds birds and what does not.
Tips for cooking Grouse –
A grouse, aside from a sage hen, is just about the closest wild-game animal to a chicken that I can think of. As such, I treat the bird as if it was a chicken. First, I will decapitate and then pluck the bird. Then I will disembowel, saving the heart and liver for a fireside snack. A big grouse will then surprisingly resemble a skinny legged chicken.
Since the meat on a grouse is white it will need to be cooked until it is well done or 165 degrees. This will kill just about any bug or parasite that the fool hen might have.
When cooking a grouse, just like a chicken, the recipes for the breast are always the easy ones to come up with. Chicken Parmesan, chicken alfredo, chicken piccatta are all great classic ways to eat the bird. The one problem with those recipes – what the heck do you do with the rest of the grouse.
One cool thing that I like to do is separate the “tenderloin” off of the breast meat and then use it as stuffing for the thigh meat. First I breast the bird out just like I would normally. On the bottom side of the bird will be a little finger of meat that is no longer attached to the breast. This is the “tender” or the “strip” that has accompanied countless kids meals for the past 100 years. Remove the tender and set it aside.
Then, I take the legs and separate them out at the thigh/knee joint. With the tip of a sharp knife I will then remove the equivalent of the femur bone from the thigh meat. Folding the tender onto itself I then will place the meat back where the femur had come from. Using the skin and a thin slice of Prosciutto (cured Italian pork leg) I then wrap the whole package, placing it seam side down to allow the natural moisture to form a seal.
These little thigh/tender bundles are great for grilling. Bacon will also work as a substitute for the Prosciutto but it will often over power the flavor of the grouse.
Peaches and Cream Grouse Bundles, Serves 2
4 ea Prosciutto grouse bundles (see above)
1 ea almost ripe peach
1 shallot, fine diced
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper
Heat grill to medium high. Bring a small sauce pot of water to a boil, just big enough to hold the peach. Cut an X on the bottom of the peach and, with a pair of tongs, submerge it into the boiling water and count to 20. Carefully remove peach and run under cold tap water for one minute. The skin should come right off. Core the peach and slice thinly.
Grill the grouse bundles until the juices start to run clear, about 3 minutes on each side.
Heat butter in a medium sized sauté pan on medium high. When butter is melted and clear add the shallots and sauté them until just tuning brown. Add the peaches and the honey to the pan. Let cook for a few moments until the peaches begin to brown.
Add the cream and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the cream gets thicker. Taste the sauce and then season with salt and pepper as needed.
You can serve the grouse bundles whole or sliced, both presentations look good. Serve with mashed potatoes. Dip the bundles in the peaches and cream sauce and enjoy a classic!