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Grouse Hunting Without A Birddog

by Aidan Pike
March 30, 2023

People hesitate to get into upland bird hunting because they don't own a dog. A common misconception is that without a dog, finding birds is close to impossible.  Although hunting with a dog is often much more enjoyable and productive, you can still bag birds without one. Not everyone is in the position in their life to train and take care of a dog and that's okay. Many upland bird species can be effectively hunted without a hunting dog.  As a college student owning a dog isn't in the cards for me. But it doesn't stop me from lacing up my boots and hitting the woods. It truly kills me that I'm unable to have a dog but there are a lot of things I've learned from hunting alone. Spending these college years exploring and finding grouse hunting spots allows me to have great places to hunt once I get a dog. Discovering areas that have consistent numbers of birds now provides me with an arsenal of places to exposea young dog to wild birds.

Walk a Little Stop a Lot

Often hunters with bird dogs can rely on the nose of their dog to direct them in thewoods. During the fall of 2022, I've been able to grow my knowledge of habitat and scouting forgrouse. Relying more on my knowledge of the vegetation, understory, clear cuts, food sources,and aspen stands in the area. Hunting without a dog this year I gained a weird subconsciousunderstanding of where birds wanted to be. Not because I have any supernatural powers I justs pent a lot of time getting after it in the mountains.  One thing that is important to do is to take incremental pauses while walking. Doing so encourages tight-sitting birds to fly. Walking 15-20 yards stopping and looking around can considerably increase the number of flushes on your next hunt. Consciously slowing my own pace in the woods this fall led to many successful hunts. Birds that normally would have held tight and waited for me to pass by ended up flying just a few feet from me. One instance, inparticular, this year I was looking at my Garmin GPS trying to get back to my truck, and ten feet from me a blue grouse flushed. I dropped my Garmin and shot the bird flying away through a thick douglas fir. That bird would have never flown if I didn't stop. By slowing the hunt downand taking deliberate pauses you put pressure on nearby grouse to flush. This strategy works with many other upland species as well. Doing the same thing flushes prairie and desert birds too suchas bobwhite quail.

Although hunting without a dog isn't as attractive as watching a pointer weave throughthe woods you can still have great wing shooting opportunities even without mans best friend.  Without a dog, I was able to harvest many grouse in the months of September and October. Not only was I successful but I learned a heck of a lot. If you're one of those people debating on heading out into the woods next fall because of a lack of dog power I will confidently tell youthat being successful is a goal that is very attainable.