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What’s Tougher on your Body: Pheasant Hunting or Ruffed Grouse Hunting?

Grouse cover may look like a tangle, but my small stature finds it easier to navigate than the thick grasses of a pheasant field.

Although most of my favorite outdoor publications annually run the same old tired stories about “getting into shape before bird hunting season,” I don’t think the non-hunter realizes the physical demands of a walk across the prairie, or through the forest, with a shotgun in tow.  Similarly, I doubt most forest grouse hunters appreciate the exertion needed for a wild pheasant hunt and vice versa.  It’s along these lines the debate in the Pheasants Forever offices last week commenced.


At 5’8” tall, some consider me relatively short . . .  Okay, I’m really 5’7” and a ¼” . . .  Anyway, I’ve always considered pheasant hunting to be far more physically demanding than grouse hunting.  The resistance of the tall prairie grasses, cattails and brush against my short legs have always led to extreme leg fatigue and cramping, while ducking in and through alder swamps and aspen thickets have been relatively easy for me.


Get off the Stairmaster and give pheasant hunting a try for your next workout

To my surprise, my taller colleagues Andrew Vavra, Anthony Hauck and Rehan Nana complained of finding the grouse woods to be far more difficult than the pheasant fields.  They find the ducking out of the way of branches, climbing over deadfalls, and squeezing through poplar thickets to be much more of a physical workout than a sojourn across a pheasant prairie.  I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in Michigan’s northwoods, while all three of these guys cut their teeth on the open pheasant prairies of Minnesota and Kansas, respectively.


So the debate has got me thinking about the classic nurture versus nature debate, from a bird hunter’s perspective.  Are the physical demands of pheasant hunting and ruffed grouse hunting directly related to your height or to the type of hunting one is introduced to in the beginning?


How tall are you, what kind of bird hunting did you grow up on, and what type of bird hunting is hardest on your body?


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

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10 Responses to “What’s Tougher on your Body: Pheasant Hunting or Ruffed Grouse Hunting?”

  1. Trevor says:

    I only have a 30″ inseam so I find pheasant hunting much harder than grouse hunting. All the high stepping wears me out way more than walking threw the woods.

  2. David Cummings says:

    I’m 6’2″ and I find pushing through forest tangles to be much more challenging than pushing through tall grass. However, I don’t know anybody that can easily get through thick cat tails. I just prefer tall grass to shrubbery tangles.

  3. Louis Manka says:

    I am 6’2 200lbs, and I find pheasant hunting to be easy mode when it comes to hunting. Cattails in snow is hard but a wall of vegetation is a wall of vegetation. Grouse hunting is breaking through wall after wall of woody tangles, thorny branches, and swampy ground. Other then when you are walking down a 2 track there is no “easy” grouse ground. Where as fence rows and lots of CRP is just long walks on pretty even ground with friends and dogs.

  4. Jay Renwick says:

    While I don’t hunt grouse I will say that nothing is tougher than a Chukar hunt.

  5. Pat Ponce says:

    With 3 knee surgeries, it’s hard to keep stepping over, through and around CRP Pheasant Hunting.

  6. Chuck Driver says:

    5’6″ here and walking through thick grass all day for pheasants wears me out. The difficulty of grouse hunting depends largely on something not mentioned, elevation change. Grouse hunting in NC much tougher than grouse hunting in MN.

  7. JimKlug says:

    I think pheasant hunting is way more demanding.
    In northnern WI i have relegated myself to walking fire lanes and logging roads as I actually get to shoot at more birds with better percentage shots ( if their is such a thing). Grouse dont tend to run for miles like a wiley rooster does.

    Where I am blessed to go pheasant hunting in a western state the grass is anywhere ffrom knee high to chest high. if its really thick the roosters don’t always run too far, but if its only up to my knees or not soo thick it almost becomes a track meet!! Both can be breath taking, but i think roosters trump grouse!!

  8. Jim Zola says:

    I have been a grouse and pheasant hunter for 50 years. There is no comparison, grouse hunting is a lot more physically demanding. In Pennsylvania you do not usually get to hunt grouse on flat terrain; try walking with your feet on a 40 degree angle along a hillside or just climb one medium size wooded mountain. Pheasant hunting is a cakewalk, not much bending, usually flat farm fields, no dead trees or limbs, no switches hitting your face. I will agree that hunting chest high grasses can get your heart pumping, but that is not the usual situation.

  9. ACE ZOLA says:

    It is dependent upon how one goes about each hunt. If you want to walk the trails for grouse and let the dog hit the heavy cover it can be an easy hunt. However, if you choose to enter the heavy cover, scrubs, mountain laurel and hillsides then it can be a very demanding venture. You can say the same about pheasant hunting. I have hunted pheasants in low stubble and have hunted them in high CRP and switchgrass, very different habitat and very different in tiring the body. I pick and choose depending on how much energy I want to expend on a given day.

  10. Thanks for the great comments. Love the debate! Whatever type of hunting is the most difficult . . . it’s worth it!


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