Capercaillie, Black Grouse & Woodcock

Sergei Shushunov capercaillie hunt
Sergei Shushunov capercaillie hunt

Russian regulations have two seasons for  capercaillie, black grouse and woodcock hunting: Spring and Fall.  Hunting female birds in the spring in Russia is prohibited. Spring bird hunt is very much different from the fall hunt. Spring is the time to get a bird in a prime plumage, which is what bird collectors want. Fall hunt is a way to get birds when they taste at their best.  Spring combination hunt for capercaillie, black grouse and woodcock is one of the most beautiful, exciting, and rewarding hunts found in Russia. All three species of birds have a very high concentration in Northern regions of Russia: St. Petersburg, Karelia, Novgorod, Vologda, Kirov and others. Before coming to us many hunters make several unsuccessful attempts to hunt capercaillie in Sweden, where spring hunts are prohibited. Learn from their experience. Save money, don’t ruin your expectations and  book your hunt with Sergei Shushunov.

Capercaillie  during the Spring season is hunted after midnight by stalking, usually in late April-early May. The capercaillie, which otherwise has very acute hearing, becomes deaf for very short periods of time while making its night and early-morning mating calls. This allows the hunter to approach within 20-35 yards to place a reliable shot. The hunt must be completed before the daylight so that the wary birds cannot see the approaching hunters. Among the two subspecies of capercaillie: the white beaked capercaillie is found across the entire country, whereas the black beaked capercaillie is found only in Siberia and the Far East, including Kamchatka peninsula. Fall season capercaillie hunt is not very exciting. Like all grouse capercaillies can be found along the forest roads or river beds picking gravel at dawn, allowing hunters to approach them within 30 to 50 yards. Later during the day they can be hunted with pointing dogs in pine forests.

Black grouse is hunted in the spring just before sunrise, from the blind, positioned close to a lek, or “booming” grounds, where dozens of cocks may gather. The spectacle of fighting cocks is unbelievably exciting. It is advisable to take time to watch male birds rarely observed courting dances.

Hunting woodcocks in the spring is an amazing experience, unmatched by any other bird hunt. In the evenings male woodcocks fly along the open spaces in the forest: roads, meadows and river beds, looking for females. Having very erratic flying pattern they are very hard to hit.

Capercaillie, black grouse and woodcocks can be hunted in the fall with bird dogs. Fall capercaillie and black grouse hunt is not much different from any other grouse hunt. In the fall capercaillie and black grouse are much less aware of the presence of humans as in the spring. They can often be found in the mornings along the roads and river beds, picking gravel, necessary for healthy digestion. Woodcock fall hunt in Russia with gun dogs attracts bird hunters from all over the world. During the peak of migration, with good dogs hunters may experience over 20-30 flashes a day.

Read “Grouse of Another Time”, a first-person account of Russian capercaillie hunt organized for Chris Dorsey by Sergei Shushunov and his team.

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Sergei Shushunov