“The most difficult bird there is to hunt is the ruffed grouse,” says Darin Melton in the new Benelli short film Raising Habitat release. “Folks call them the King of the Woods; they call them the Ghost of the Woods. They figure out a way to elude you. One minute you think you got them figured out and the next minute you don’t. You’ll hunt eight, ten miles a day…one point, one find, one flush makes it worth it — makes you keep coming back to it.”

Within living memory, fans of the ruffed grouse once enjoyed plying the fall woods in search of this magnificent and challenging game bird, whose territory spanned much of the northern tier of the U.S. down through the Appalachians. Many changes, though, over the last half-century have contributed to a plummet in ruffed grouse populations throughout their traditional range. A recent study concluded that ruffed grouse populations have declined “at least 50% throughout the Eastern U.S. over the last 20 years.”

Enhancing and preserving wildlife habitat is the first step to ensuring sustainable and expanding wild game populations. That is why Benelli is committed to helping conservation organizations like the Ruffed Grouse Society do the hard work— so our outdoor and hunting heritage can be enjoyed today and for future generations.

Raising Habitat serves to elevate the upland experience and to highlight the work required to create sustainable ruffed grouse habitat. It captures the heart of the ruffed grouse hunting experience through vignettes in the field with dog trainer Darin Melton and his pointer Tam, as well as through conversations with professional foresters tasked with reversing the population decline of this noble upland species.

“The story of the grouse in the north country is really a story of cyclical land uses and changes,” Jesse Rock, Wildlife Forester, Ruffed Grouse Society, explains in the film. “Around the turn of the century, the majority of our forests were completely deforested.”

Eventually, small farm agriculture was abandoned for more stable, better-paying jobs in city factories. This led to the land being taken back by nature, returning it to young forests. Since the mid-20th century, though, those young, emerging forests that provided essential habitat for ruffed grouse have matured, eliminating much of the understory grouse require to minimize predation.

“The best way to maintain a good, healthy grouse population is through good, sustainable timber management,” says Patrick Crast, SAF Certified Forester. This includes selectively opening the forest to promote a denser understory. “And with that comes grouse.”

Raising Habitat is the latest Benelli USA stewardship initiative to highlight the ongoing need for wild game and wild land conservation efforts. View Raising Habitat here.

For more information on the 828U as well as other Benelli USA premium shotguns and centerfire hunting rifles, visitBenelliUSA.com.

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