The other day I found myself reading an interesting article after being directed to the Outdoor Life website via Sporting Classics Daily. The article was nominated for a 2014 magazine award and basically consisted of 51 tips, tricks and hacks to make one a better outdoorsman.
Interestingly enough, one of those 51 tidbits happened to be titled “Re-Flush a Ruff,” which naturally caught my attention. After reading it, I instantly sat back in my chair, closed my eyes and lost myself while replaying some of my hunts from years past. I thought to myself whether or not I’d utilized any sort of technique while following up birds, to which I can honestly answer, not really. I know that re-flushing birds is an effective method for bagging birds and one that I have had happen to me in the past but it seems as if it were only that, something that “happened to me” not something I directly made happen. I imagined myself thinking something along the lines of “well, the bird flushed this way and that’s the way we’re heading so maybe we can put it up again.”
The fact of the matter is, I haven’t had much success following up birds for the second flush. Perhaps that’s because I’ve always attempted to do exactly as the article suggests not to do, which is charging up behind the bird along its direct line of flight. Or maybe it’s because I’ve rarely felt a strong desire to chase up a bird for another flush. I’ve been fortunate to have enough success in the grouse woods where I’ve often found myself thinking, “Good day to you Mr. Ruff, I’ll simply press on to find your brethren.” I also feel this sort of cavalier attitude stems from the fact that I did most of my hunting, prior to this year, without a dog, which has of course changed now. I simply found more success slowly creeping along old logging roads and trails than I did busting through brush trying to stay ready for a wild flush. During the past season however, I would have done just about anything to put up a bird for the second or third time just to get my young setter pup another contact or two!
Regardless, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been doing something wrong and I assume there are plenty of you out there that have found success while following up a bird for the second flush. In the article I linked to, the suggestion is that once a bird has flushed, one should circle around and ahead of the bird before beginning to work back on its suspected landing area. The distance of how far to circle around the bird is to be determined by the thickness of cover the bird flushed into, shorter distance for thicker cover and vice a versa. I find the strategic approach to following up a flushed bird to be an interesting concept and one that I will certainly be experimenting with next fall. So often we find ourselves simply reacting to the events that unfold in front of us, which is not always a bad thing. However, often enough I find that a little planning and strategy can go a long way when it comes to achieving greater results.
The below snippet was taking from the complete article by Tom Carpenter:
With the element of surprise on its side, a ruffed grouse often wins its first encounter with a hunter. What you do to find and re-flush that grouse can be the difference between walking home with a heavy game bag and a light one.
Don’t follow straight after a flushed grouse. The bird is watching its back trail, expecting danger from that direction. Instead, swing off to one side, loop around and ahead, and come back at the likely landing area from the opposite direction. Most ruffs fly only 25 or 30 yards in the thickest brush tangles, or 50 or so yards in a little more open cover, before landing.
If you don’t reflush the grouse on your return push, start making “cloverleaf” loops, with the bird’s suspected landing zone as the start and end points of your loops. If the wind was crossing, make your first swing downwind of the probable landing zone; ruffs like to veer with the wind at the end of a flight to foil predators’ noses.
Expect re-flushes from tree branches, where inexperienced or unpressured birds sometimes alight to watch their back trails.”
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts that have experience following up on a bird that has been flushed at least once already. What has worked? What hasn’t? Maybe the experience resulted in one of your classic grouse hunting highlights which we all love to hear about! Let us know in the comments section or on Facebook.