This afternoon I ticked one of 2018s hunting goals off the list; putting grouse (ruffed, in this case) back on the menu.

The schnitzel was on the chewy side, due to an old and big bird and more likely to a pan to table time under 2 hours, but with plenty of lemon still reminded why it is a favorite.


Last fall I shot zero grouse, and put no time into small game hunting.  Grouse, squirrels and rabbits don’t requires visits to marquee locations, but in terms of skill building, taste, and fun are all but the equal of deer and sheep.  (Except our Red Squirrels, still haven’t found a way to cook them into a genuinely good dish.)  Small game hunting is also an easy fit with kids.  Now, we’re two weekends into September, and have put a grouse and a squirrel in the bag, with many more days chasing both to come.

One of my favorite things about Montana is that for the last third of the year you can shoot grouse with just about any firearm you please, including rifles.  Careful shot placement is obviously the order of the day, or the use of light loads and bullets.  The later was at play today, and I shot the ruffed off her log at 30 yards, making for the .350 rem mags first kill in my hands.

Hunting is no different than any outdoor pursuit, in that a name-brand trip is often the impetus to buy new things.  A bison tag would seem to be better reason than most of a new gun, just like a trip down the Nahanni would good reason for a new boat, or a trip to the Alps reason for new skis or ice tools.  The flaw in this thinking is that outings with higher consequences, or at least places where second chances will be harder than usual to come by, would seem to put a premium on gear whose function has become second nature.  And this is the exact problem I currently have with bison rifles.

At top is my Kimber .308, which I’ve carried for hundreds of miles and with which I’ve shot over a dozen big game animals (and over a dozen grouse).  It’s light, shoulders instantly, and I trust it totally.  In the search for more consistent terminal performance and no concerns with lead in meat I’ve been using Barnes TSX bullets, 168 grain.  The bottom rifle is my grandfathers, on long-term loan from my cousin, a Remington 660 in .350 rem mag.  The 660 is a bit heavier, kicks more, and holds fewer rounds in the magazine, but otherwise the guns feel similar, close to identical.  The older 3x M8 on the 660 is even darn close to the FX 4x I’ve had on the Kimber since the beginning.

The question is, which to take?  The heavier, fatter bullet out of the 660 would seem like the obvious choice, but the Kimber goes a hair faster, and I’m shooting a bullet with better sectional density.  But the main factor is that I just haven’t had much field time with the 660, my fault, and something that lingers in the back of my head as less than ideal.