I've had the most luck hunting "ruffed grouse" in patches of pine trees near running water "small creeks." Look for the really thorny berry bushes that grow in and around the trunks of the pine trees. The seem to love that stuff.
They don't seem to like larger rivers or standing water as much as the areas around small streams.
Last year was my first time really targeting grouse, here are some notes I took as I was researching how to hunt them. Hopefully you'll find this useful.
When to hunt
- Early Season: Hunt early in the morning
- Mid-Season: wait until mid-morning or mid-afternoon
- Late Season: when winter hits, it takes the grouse longer to start moving
Finding forest grouse
Earlier in the season, you can find both dusky and ruff grouse inhabiting the same areas that have mixed stands of aspen and pine trees. Later in the season, you should target one species as they split up. Ruffed grouse inhabit creek-bottom thickets, Dusky stick to open ridges leading up to timberlines.
Early in the fall, Dusky grouse are found at their lowest elevation. That might be as low as the sagebrush foothills or the middle elevation of timbered draws and meadows. They also benefit from logging and use the edges between evergreen stands and grass. They rely heavily on the protein provided by grasshoppers. One of the best times to hunt them is in the early morning at a forest's edge, when grasshoppers are still sluggish from the night's cold. Try to stick to the breeding terrain typically on south-facing slopes and away from wetter areas until cold or drought drives the birds upward in a reverse migration.
In the winter they don't have to stay near a water source. This means their top priorities are food and shelter. While most wildlife migrate to lower elevations in the winter, dusky grouse do just the opposite—they move up the mountain. Look for ridgelines that have spruce and fir trees on them. Look for them directly underneath or actually perched in the pine trees that they spend most of their time near. Accessing these stands of conifers may require snowmobiles, cross-country skis or snowshoes. Once you’re in place, simply look for tracks, feathers, droppings or dusting areas under the pines.
You can find ruffed grouse in the pines as well, but they also hang out in areas of thick cover such as scrub oak, maple and brushy woodland areas adjacent to streams or springs. Early fall foods include berries such as kinnikinnick, snowberries and chokecherries. Buds of deciduous trees, berries, and seeds are primary winter food items.
Find a seep, spring or dribble of a creek in early autumn and chances are you will find grouse gathered nearby for the last moist forbs and berries of summer. It seems the grouse stay on hillsides or benches above creeks or near the creek bottoms. Ruffed grouse, thought of mainly as lowland birds, might be found as high as 9,000 feet and above depending on food availability.
I thought this was a good article: