by Aidan Pike
For many, the best time to get out grouse hunting is whenever possible. With a small season and a busy work schedule, getting out in the woods can be difficult. This is why strategically timing trips to the grouse woods is incredibly important to the modern wing shooter. Spending the majority of your vacation days during the leaf drop in October isn't the wisest decision. When people ask me when is the best time to go grouse hunting I jokingly say whenever you can get out. But the truth is there's a particular time in Michigan when the fall becomes magical. This time of the year is what bird hunters live for. It's equivalent to the hex hatch of a fly fisherman. There's a small window between the end of October and the beginning of the gun season for deer in November. During this portion of the year, grouse become increasingly vulnerable to the wing shooter. No matter if you have a flushing dog, a pointing dog, or one that does a little bit of both the birds become easier to find. Once the leaves are off the trees a bird hunter's life is dramatically easier.
Now that we have established a time frame let's talk about the weather. Without a doubt, rain or any sort of precipitation is the least favorable condition to go out bird hunting in. Additionally, high winds are also something to avoid. The wind howling and the trees swaying violently cause the grouse to become extremely spooky. Within this late October to early November time frame, it can often be cold.
Looking at the forecast and paying attention to the weather can give you a significant advantage. This is why finding days of optimal temperatures can often produce incredible results. When the temperature during the day is barely above freezing for a couple of weeks and it warms up to 47-55 degrees for a few days, that is the window of opportunity.
Basically, look for weather anomalies. Warmer weather is going to get those grouse out and about. Thus making them easier for the dogs to find and for you to shoot. I had exactly this happen in November of 2021, creating some of the most memorable grouse hunting I have ever had. In two and a half days between my dad and myself, we were able to put 16 grouse on the tailgate. We moved birds on every walk and had excellent shooting opportunities.
The best way to make sure this time of year is the most productive for a bird hunter is to really hunt hard and often when the weather allows. The window of opportunity is small so being properly equiped allows for a more enjoyable and effective hunting season. Early in the morning getting the dogs ready and heading out the woods the temperatures are usually in the low 30s and often drop below freezing. Making the first walk of the morning just as enjoyable as the last is what PYKE Gear has allowed me to do. My favorite pant throughout the whole season is the Tongass pant.
Shedding water, drying fast, and allowing maximum range of motion I use the Tongass pant from September through February on all my hunting trips. One thing that I do in particular while grouse hunting when the leaves are down is pairing a Kiowa shirt with a Tongass pullover. This allows me to be warm on the first couple of walks of the day and then I shed the layer once it warms up. Often I'll end up leaving the pullover on all day because of wind and low temps. For guys who are getting after it and busting brush, I would definitely recommend a pair of versatile pants such as the Tongass pant as well as the Kiowa and Tongass pullovers.