What makes a grouse dog?

Hunters Dick Taylor, on left, and Henson Orser happily pose with their birds after a successful hunt behind Blue Shaquille. High stem density of the aspens combined with a rather open forest floor is a favorite habitat for ruffed grouse.

Hunters Dick Taylor, on left, and Henson Orser happily pose with their birds after a successful hunt behind Blue Shaquille. High stem density of the aspens combined with a rather open forest floor is a favorite habitat for ruffed grouse.

No one who is at all sensitive to criticism or who does take kindly to being disagreed with, should speak openly of his grouse dog ideas; much less permit them to become recorded in lasting print.
~ William Harnden Foster, New England Grouse Shooting, 1942

Ruffed grouse tend to inhabit wooded areas with high stem density which makes it more difficult for ground predators to approach. Generally, they prefer a bare forest floor with good visibility and an over story for protection from aerial predators. Grouse live singly and are therefore responsible for their own survival. Their preferred means of travel is walking. When threatened, evasive options are many and grouse will run, flush, fly into a tree, sit tight or any combination.

What Betsy and I seek in a grouse dog are qualities that allow the dog to find the most birds and the ability to point them in a manner that provides the best shooting opportunities. We choose our grouse dogs based on the habits, and habitat, of the birds.

Ruffed grouse are solitary birds that live in big woods.
Even though the woods are vast, only a small portion holds grouse. We require a dog that will cover a good amount of territory searching for these individual birds while staying in contact with the handler.

Ruffed grouse inhabit some nasty areas.
Not only does a grouse dog have to penetrate the bird’s realm but it also has to get there. This includes traversing rough cover of debris-strewn, moss-covered, logged-over areas, tall grass, thorny berry briars and lots of water—whether in swamps, streams, marshes or ponds. A grouse dog is constantly ducking under, jumping over or otherwise dodging something in its path. We want a tenacious dog that is not deterred by tough terrain.

Ruffed grouse also like bare forest floors.
A grouse leaves little scent on a bare forest floor. That open-ness at bird level also gives grouse a good view of its surroundings. We require a dog with superb scenting ability that can follow a bird’s movements. The dog should have the dual qualities of strong pointing instinct and boldness to engage the bird.

After a good hour or two in the grouse woods, Blue Shaquille has had to ford streams and search large areas for his quarry. Among many points this day, he pins a bird in this very likely spot.

After a good hour or two in the grouse woods, Blue Shaquille has had to ford streams and search large areas for his quarry. Among many points this day, he pins a bird in a very likely spot.

In addition to those qualities that are bird-oriented, Betsy and I want a tractable, intelligent dog with physical ability and style. It should have good hearing with natural ability to orient to its handler. It should effortlessly adapt to different cover. It should move easily and hunt for long periods of time, even under hot, dry conditions. Finally, we want a stylish dog that hunts with zeal.

We know that’s asking a lot of a dog but we’ve seen many dogs do it.

And the only way to find out is to work dogs on grouse. It takes time, knowledge of the bird and boot leather. Some abilities can be ascertained when a dog is young but most will be at least three years of age before its true capabilities are known.

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    RIP Slate

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    CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon
    January 2016 - September 2017

    Good stuff about puppies

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    A pointing dog’s first hunting season
    Bird and gun introduction
    Early development of puppies
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    How to pick a puppy
    Patience and puppies
    Picking puppies: the unimportance of picking order
    Puppies and fireworks
    Puppy buying mistakes
    Raising puppies at Northwoods Bird Dogs
    The pointing instinct
    Training puppies on a stakeout chain

    Good stuff from previous posts

    blog sidebar hunting steve oscar 250

    Finer points on...

    A brace of bird dogs
    Accuracy of location
    Bird finding
    How to flush grouse and woodcock
    Hunting pattern
    Range
    Running grouse
    Scenting ability
    Speed and scenting
    To point a bird, first a dog has to find it
    Using grouse dogs on pheasants

    Training

    A bump or a knock
    Backing point
    Bird dog basics:  hunt, handle, point birds
    Bumping grouse
    Electronic training collars...a little perspective
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    Patience and puppies
    The pointing instinct
    Transition to wild birds
    Unproductive points
    WHOA and NO

    Breeding

    Dogs, not averages, matter in breeding
    Evaluating litters
    Pointers of Northwoods Bird Dogs
    Proper conformation
    The tail of a bird dog

    Health

    Bird dogs and hidden traps
    Feeding bird dogs
    Feeding for ideal body condition
    First aid kit for bird dogs
    Get your dog ready for the season
    Hazards in the grouse woods
    How to maintain a good weight for your dog
    Quick lesson on poisoning and how to induce vomiting
    Tick-borne diseases in dogs

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