The best partridge and grouse hunters always bring the right gear to the hunt. Taking unnecessary items will weigh you down, but forgetting the essentials can ruin your hunt!
Of all the upland game birds, partridge and grouse are definitely some of the most challenging to hunt. However, those that have experienced the excitement of a successful hunt know that it’s all worth it.
Many grouse and partridge hunters find themselves tempted to focus on the next shiny piece of equipment or gear. Just a few minutes with the latest hunting catalog can make even the most budget-conscious hunter want to purchase unnecessary gear.
For those who are considering getting started with grouse and partridge hunting for the first time, it can be a huge relieve that the gear essentials are typically low cost. Every aspiring partridge and grouse hunter should learn about which gear items are must-haves, which ones are just really nice to have, and which ones don’t make much of a difference.
Whenever partridge and grouse hunters meet, the topic of shotguns is almost always going to stir up a spirited debate. Like in any bird hunting scenario, selections such as gauge and action-style definitely play a role in choosing the right shotgun. However, when partridge or grouse hunting, many hunters forget to acknowledge the importance of weight and barrel length.
Grouse and partridge habitats require hunters to take long walks through rugged mountainous or hilly country. During these hikes, a heavy gun will become a burden. Weight also comes into play when a hunter needs to bring his gun up quickly and swing on a very fast moving target within a few seconds. Typically, most experienced hunters will tell you to get down to 6 ¼ to 7 ¼ pounds for your grouse and partridge gun.
Barrel length is important for many of the same reasons. A long barrel creates a problem when working through thick, briar-filled cover where these birds thrive. Even worse, it can easily get caught on low hanging branches while you try to mount and fire. The best grouse and partridge shotguns usually have a total overall length of 45 to 46 inches. For a double barrel shotgun, that equates to a barrel length around 28 inches. For a pump or semi-auto, it may be closer to 26 inches.
While many hunters use their trusty 12 gauge to hunt grouse and partridge, a 20 gauge is really a better fit since it has enough power to bring down these smaller birds and keeps the overall weight low. Action styles are greatly up for debate when it comes to grouse and partridge hunting, but you should stay away from single shot guns. Other than that, it just comes down to what you personally like best!
Shotgun Loads for Partridge and Grouse
The shotgun load you need to effectively hunt grouse and partridge greatly depends on the cover you’re planning on hunting in. These birds are fairly fragile so it doesn’t take a lot to bring them down, so it is best to put as many pellets in the air as possible.
When hunting in normal grouse and partridge cover, the close range shots you’ll be taking will be most successful with 7 ½ or 8 shot. If you plan on hunting unusually clear terrain or late in the season when most of the brush has died off, 6 shot can be a good choice.
The Right Choke for Partridge and Grouse
Choosing the wrong choke is one of the most common mistakes for upland game bird hunters, and this choice is even more important when grouse and partridge hunting. Almost all of your shots are going to be short range due to the thick cover these birds love. In fact, some may be as short as 10 to 15 yards. Anything more than 30 yards is a very long shot for grouse and partridge.
Considering those ranges, open chokes are typically the best choice. In more clear cover, an improved cylinder may be better. However, anything tighter is rarely a good decision.
Clothing for Hunting Partridge and Grouse
When looking for the right clothing for grouse and partridge hunting, traveling light may be the most important factor to remember. You may be walking as much as a mile through dense cover between shots, so each extra pound of clothing will make your experience less enjoyable. On the other hand, durability and protection are also very important.
Your grouse and partridge clothing should start with a good pair of comfortable, sturdy boots. The perfect pair of boots for grouse and partridge hunting would be lighter than a feather, as durable as steel armor and waterproof. While some boots come close to that ideal design, some of them can cost you more than a week’s pay. As long as they are going to be comfortable on a long hike and keep you protected from the elements, you should be ok.
Pants are also extremely important for protection during the hunt. Brush pants that can deflect briars and stickers are a necessity. You should also consider a pair with an adjustable waistband for comfort.
Your shirt or jacket depends mostly on personal preference and the weather conditions. If most of the briars are less than waist high and the weather is nice, a comfortable cotton shirt and a light nylon hunting vest works great. Just add layers as the temperature drops while keeping overall weight in mind.
Hats and glasses are also important to bring along. If you’re hunting in an area that requires blaze orange gear, a simple blaze orange cap goes a long way. In fact, a bright colored hat is a good choice for safety no matter what your state requires. Glasses are essential for eye protection and different tints can help you see grouse and partridge more clearly depending on weather conditions.
Partridge and Grouse Dogs
A good bird dog can add a lot of fun and excitement to a grouse or partridge hunt. Although it is great to have a dog that will point when a live bird is nearby, finding and retrieving downed birds is the most important skill for a hunting dog. No matter what breed you prefer, you will need to spend a lot of time training your dog. Every minute of time you spend will be worth it when you’re out in the field!
A small emergency kit, snacks, water and some survival gear can also be extremely helpful when hunting grouse and partridge. However, as with you shotgun selection, keep your weight down as much as possible. Bring just enough to have a safe and enjoyable hunting experience, then get ready for a great time and some amazing memories!