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Shikellamy

First Time Grouse Hunting. Where?

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Hello all,

I have been lurking on this message board for a while now. My bird hunting has been limited to ducks and pheasant hunting in the southern part of state for the past couple of years. I purchased a started 1 yr old French Brittany in the spring and I have been working with her throughout the summer. She has a lot of potential, (Works close, retrieves to hand, great nose) and I can’t wait to see her do her thing in the woods.

I have never been grouse hunting before, but am sure once I do I’ll be hooked for life! I have read several posts about how to find them- walking trails, getting off the trail, finding clear cuts, old vs. new growth and transition areas, water / swampy areas etc… I have deer hunted for 20+ years, so I feel like I know my way around the woods and can find these areas.

Anyway, I am taking off of work 10/1-10/4 to head north for my first grouse hunting foray. Just me and my dog! I was hoping someone could tell me where a good destination might be. I am not looking for GPS coordinates or anything that gives away a specific secret spot. Rather, I am looking for some friendly advice on where to start. To be honest, I am a little intimidated. I live in the twin cities and I know I could travel to Blackduck for example, but where do I go when I get there. Is it as simple as looking for forest roads (no posted signs), parking and start hunting?

I thought about going up to the Chippewa NF and making a base camp there. I saw online that there are walking / hunting trails marked off and offer fair pursuit for the birds. Has anyone hunted these trails? Any recommendations on where to start?

I am hoping someone in this on-line community could provide me with some guidance. Any help you could provide, even through e-mail, would be greatly appreciated

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I just returned from hunting the Chippewa NF and found plenty of trails and roads to walk. The first thing I suggest is getting a map from the forest supervisors office. I think they can be had for less than $10 and you will not regret the expense. The supervisors office is located in Cass Lake and is open M-F, so if you get there during the week you could pick one up yourself.

We found the leaves to be way to full still, but by Oct. 1 that should change. Not a lot of bird sightings, but the cover was still thick. It was nice to be out and about. Its no secret that grouse like young aspen, so if you find that along the walking trails, that's the place to be, usually. You have to get out and walk to use the dog, and that is the most fun anyway.

If there is a car parked at a trailhead, you move on to the next one. What you will not be able to determine is if someone is down the trail with an ATV, but don't be discouraged if you meet an ATV. I have on several occasions shot a grouse only minutes after seing the ATV. I'm sure they get a few too....., but drive by more than the guy with a good dog.

Also, the map doesn't show all of the trails, so driving around and getting familiar with an area is the best advice I can give. Like any new adventure, discovery is a lot of the fun.

One technique others use if there are two is to have about 20 yards between on the trail and work the dog back and forth between the hunters as they walk down the trail.

Have fun. By the way, if you get a Superior National Forest map you will find an incredible amount of trails to try there also. Anywhere from just north of Duluth to the BWCA there are grouse.

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Check some of the county websites and look for either recreational opportunities or the county forestry/land department. They will most likely have a map of county managed lands with roads or access points. Stopping in an office on the way up and they might be able to tell you the age class of some stands of timber. Check at a local DNR office too, should find the same info. Good luck!

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Thanks very much for the replies! Chippewa NF is where I will go. I will definitely stop by the forest supervisors office for a map. Good advice and this will be my starting point. Maybe he/she can point me in the right direction. Not sure where to begin, but I geuss any trail head without a car/truck is as good as the next.

I geuss I expected to see some ATV hunters. Doesn't really bother me none. Plenty of woods to go around.

I love an adventure. My wife thinks I am crazy to be heading off on my own, to a place I have never been, for a couple of days. I am defintely looking forward to doing some exploring, enjoying the changing colors, hunting (killing a few would be a nice bonus)and bonding with my dog.

Quick question- Can I use lead up there or do I need steel?

Thanks again

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Yeah, lead shot is allowed up in the Chippewa. This will be my 20th year grouse hunting up there (Turning 30 early in October), and have had many good years up there, followed by years of not much luck. Like has been said, hit the trails hard, and you will be rewarded, if not then it is still better then being at home doing nothing.

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My wife thinks I'm crazy too......... I'm still trying to convince her I NEED a solo trip to the BWCA.

Solo trips can be very rewarding or very boring. The beauty is, you only have yourself to blame if its boring. I'd say go for it. Have fun and good luck.

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If your dog isn't bad with other dogs, I would be willing to meet up with you with my GSP's and show you some areas to work over. I could possibly just meet you at your base camp or in town as well and go over a map with you. I don't want you to come up to our area and go home bummed out... wink

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Very generous offer Matt. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you. My dog gets along well socially with other dogs, although I have not personally hunted her with other dogs...so I am not sure how she would react. I assume she would be fine?! This is kind of our maiden voyage as far as hunting goes.

I tried to do a PM, but it says I do not have access to this feature(It might have something to do with work). I will try again at home.

If you can send me an e-mail offline, I can provide my cell number. Probably the best way to get in touch. My e-mail address is:

L T G o d l e y @ M S N . C O M

Thankas again, everyone, for the advice!

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I have a question and it might help him out as well. I was wondering if you stick to the ridges mostly, next to swamps, and times of the day. I have hunted them before north of Thief River Falls and we stuck to the ridges for ruff grouse and near the swamp edges or low areas for the sharpies. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks!

Ryan

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Ridges and swamp edges are the best spots for ruffies by far, especially in the Chippewa where you've got so much land to investigate.

Time of day depends so much on the waether, time of year, dogs or lone, etc.. I like to stick to trails or near trails in the early a.m. so the dogs can scent birds from there. Most of the day you'll find me in the dark deep woods, and back to trail edges in the evenings.

Poplar stands are good, oaks when the 'corns are dropping, fallen timber areas, 2-3 year old clear cuts, hazlenut groupings, my brother's apple trees, etc... They can hide anywhere, but you've got the right idea to get yourself started...

Sharpies are an entirely different breed. They're much like a pheasant in the fact that they roost in CRP or the like, and feed on prairie foods (i.e. berries, buds, etc..) and crops. Find a beanfield near a sunflower field, with CRP or managed prairie grass nearby, and you'll be golden. It's tough finding public areas that hold good numbers of birds however, so knowing people and having access to private lots is the best.

Shikellamy, e-mail will be to you tomorrow a.m.

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For the first timer good luck to ya. You said you'll be up in the balckduck area. Will you be going up highway six? if so there is good hunting off the crooked lake twnsp atv trails. We have a place in outing. Plenty of grouse in the area just have to put in some hours walking, you've got the right idea with the clearcuts and other info on your post. Listen for them aswell they make a high woop noise when they get nervous then they will run a little ways and stop if they think their not being followed. Had a buddy of mine say "You here that frog" mind you it was mid to late oct. but anyway we had just stopped the wheelers to take a break and he heard something and it ended up being a grouse, walked into the woods and sure enough he was walking away from me but just not fast enough..HA HA

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Cass County has a very good HSOforum where you can view maps with lots of good info if you'll be in that area. The BEST source I've found is the MN DNR's Forest Road and Trail Reclassification webpage, seriously it has maps for every state forest and some counties tax forefit land that show most of the trails&roads. There are a tremendous number of links. There is another forest page that will show you stand make up, age, etc. I will be in that area October 2&3 if you would like to go out together.

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