December grouse season offers chance to expand hunting horizons

Michigan Ruffed Grouse Society member Brian Sneller hunts every December to celebrate his birthday, reflect on the season and plan for the next year.  (Michigan DNR photo)

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
MARQUETTE—With Michigan’s most popular hunting season – firearm deer – now put to bed, some hunters might not be ready to call it a day just yet.
    The December ruffed grouse season, Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, offers an entirely different hunting experience for deer hunters who just can’t stay still, are always second-guessing the blind they chose or just want to get a few more miles out of their base license.
    The base license – which all Michigan hunters already have, as it’s required to purchase other hunting licenses – is the only license needed to hunt ruffed grouse.
    “I go because I’m crazy, I guess,” said Michigan Ruffed Grouse Society member Aaron VanderWall. “I would religiously go out on New Year’s Day, despite conditions, in hope of killing what would be both the last grouse of the season and the first grouse of the next year.”
    Deer hunters who have never tried bird hunting might consider calling that friend or family member who’s always talking about his hunting dog, suggested Al Stewart, Michigan DNR upland game bird specialist.
    “During the December hunt, it’s helpful to use a dog,” said Stewart. “Not everyone has a dog, but several hunters can work together with one.”
    Stewart added that the December season is a great time for grouse hunters to introduce their deer-hunting friends and family to the sport.
    “Now is your time – invite your favorite deer hunter, set a date and go,” he said. “Imagine if each bird hunter took just one person new to the sport out.
    “Just like other hunting pursuits, bird hunting isn’t seeing an upward trend in new hunters. Fresh blood is needed, and a great way to get someone hooked can be taking them from the field to the table. Cook and enjoy your harvest or grab some game from a previous hunt from your freezer if you didn’t get a bird. Share the bounty.”
    The late grouse season is a prime time for hunters to get out and walk without the worry of busting their deer season by traipsing through areas where the deer were hanging out during late November.

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