Small Game Hunting: Useful Information for Getting Started and Harvesting Ruffed Grouse


September 3, 2021


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Fall is known for being THE hunting season! It’s during this time of year that both beginners and experts head out to the woods for the chance of bringing back a prize. Yet, this activity can be strenuous if you have never hunted before. That’s why small game hunting is a popular start for those who want to learn about hunting or simply improve their technique. We’re recapping the subject in 5 questions.

Learn more about small game hunting:

  1. What is considered small game?
  2. What is the best time of year to maximize your chances of harvesting?
  3. What is the best small game hunting gear?
  4. What are the possession limits for small game hunting?
  5. How do you harvest ruffed grouse?

Find everything for small game hunting

What is considered small game?

Small game describes any smaller-sized animals that one may hunt. Species that are most commonly found in Québec are birds such as ruffed grouse, gray partridge, spruce grouse, quail, wild duck, wild turkey, pheasant and geese, as well as mammals such as coyotes, Arctic hares, wolves, raccoons, and foxes. Read more about small game hunting, species and Quebec regulations by visiting the Government of Quebec website.

On the Ontario side, small game hunting includes birds – ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, ptarmigan, ring-necked pheasant – as well as small furry mammals such as Eastern cottontail hare, red foxes, weasels, and more. Read more about small game hunting, species and Ontario regulations by visiting the Government of Ontario website.

What is the best time of year to maximize your chances of harvesting?

Small game hunting generally lasts from September to April (dates vary by species) in Quebec, and from September to March (dates vary by species) in Ontario. Some species can also be hunted all year round, for example rock doves and woodchuck.

This type of hunting can be carried out in different conditions, but it is ideal when there is less wind, it isn’t raining, and the sun is beating down with lots of warmth. The more fall progresses, the easier it becomes to spot birds through the trees as the leaves continue to fall. Small game hunting is considered an art because, as a hunter, you will be in constant movement in order to conquer your game. It is also possible to continue this type of hunting into the early winter when a bit of snow covers the ground as this may help to track the animal’s steps.

The perfect time of day

Hunters are known for being early risers! Small game is often found out and about, right at sunrise. Even though it can be done all day long, the early morning hours are the best time to head out on the hunt!

What is the best small game hunting gear?

Compared to big game hunting where more complex equipment is required – check out our blog about moose hunting – small game hunting requires minimal preparation and is done with a small caliber rifle or shotgun.

You’ll need:

Initiation permits are also easy to get for learners: if you don’t yet have your certificate, it’s still possible to get a permit that will allow you to attend an initiation session with a certified hunter who is 25 years old and older, and who has a certificate.

SAIL - Small Game Hunting - Browning Bib

Additional tips

Of course, several tips can be given and theories may be learned for small game hunting, but it’s imperative to write out a list of some of the most important ones, such as:

  • Hunt solo as much as possible.
  • Master the territory where you hunt.
  • Move around on foot normally, without making too much noise.
  • Check every angle: “10 am – 11 am” (330 degrees) and “1 pm – 2 pm” (30 degrees)
  • Check out every trail or path.
  • Spend the day in the woods to maximize your chances of harvesting.
  • Look for areas of mixed vegetation.
  • Remember that safety must remain a priority, so wear orange-coloured clothing on your back,
  • shoulders, and chest that is always visible from every angle.

What are the possession limits for small game hunting?

Generally, for spruce grouse and ruffed grouse, a daily catch limit of 5 per day applies depending on the area and the hunting season. A total possession limit of 15 applies.

For other small game species, bag limits and possession limits vary by province, zone, species hunted and time of year. It is best to consult the websites of the governments of Ontario and Quebec in order to carefully respect the limits.

How do you harvest ruffed grouse?

Partridges, alias ruffed grouse, are the most common animal to hunt when doing small game hunting. Moreover, you don’t need to go far to hunt ruffed grouse; they are often more accessible than you may think. Wooded areas near the gravel roads are ideal locations for this bird. If you wish to head out into the forest to hunt, look for wild fruit trees and leafy trees. You might have better chances of seeing a ruffed grouse walking normally rather than tiptoeing around: as soon as the bird hears some noise, it will either come out to see or make noise to signal its presence.

Happy hunting!

Article written in collaboration with Born to Hunt.

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