Dogwood, A Ruffed Grouse Favorite

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in Hunting | No Comments
Dogwood after the berries are consumed

Where I find dogwood, I find ruffed grouse. It’s just that simple. Watch for little, hard white berries at chest height. Grouse love ’em. Red Osier Dogwood  (Cornus sericea (stolonifera)) is part of the willow/dogwood shrub swamp transitional zone. According to the MN DNR website:

“Red-osier dogwood is a common shrub throughout Minnesota. It is especially abundant in wet meadows, marshes, and swamps, but it does well if planted in an upland habitat. It grows on wet loam, sand, muck or sedge peat. It flowers all summer, and produces attractive white berries that are a favorite with wildlife. The stems are green in the summer and red in the winter.”

Aspen and dogwood thicket

Into the dogwoods
Dogwoods may provide good gunning in places you don’t expect, as they don’t always grow in traditional young aspen thickets. One of my all-time most productive covers is a river bottom swamp of mature dead or dying aspen. The dogwood grows in shrubs, with a stem about as big as a fat pencil that crowns about chest height. It’s not particularly hard to push through, but it does obscure your vision just enough to protect that close flushing grouse from a clean shot.

Dogwood flowers

What to look for
Dogwood has small white flowers in the spring and lush, thick leaves. In fall they carry white berries on a red stem. When the berries are eaten the red stem is highly visible. They are a magnet for grouse so I am alert for a flush even after the berries are all gone.

Dogwood berries in a grouse crop

Another place to look
Opening a ruffed grouse crop will reveal if dogwood is present in the area. In this picture the berries have a purple hue, but on the shrub they are white or grayish-white. They are about the size of a pencil eraser.

Levi working over the dogwoods

Putting the Dog in Dogwood
Put your dog on dogwood wherever you find it. It’s the kind of cover that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. A well-tuned grouse sense alerts you to be ready for a flush.

By Joel Schnell

Posted March 10, 2017.

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