X Marks the Spot: Expert Tips for Grouse Hunting Success using onX Hunt

Ruffed grouse hunting is easy for a beginner to get started, difficult to master, and thoroughly enjoyable whether or not you’re successful. I tell everyone I meet who is interested in learning how to hunt, to start with grouse hunting because public land access in prime grouse habitat is plentiful and the equipment required is minimal. When I began grouse hunting in northern Minnesota, I relied on paper maps, a compass, and a fair bit of happenstance to find public land to hunt. onX Hunt has made grouse hunting significantly easier and more accessible with their popular onX Hunt App. I’ve been using it extensively for years now. Here are my top tips for using onX Hunt for grouse hunting.

onX Hunt Scouting for Grouse Hunting Spots

I can spend hours pouring over maps, topo maps, and plat books and have several dog-eared Delorme map books for several states. I’ve always liked to get a mental image of an area and scout out spots that I plan to hunt. onX takes this to the next level.

Now instead of a map book, I now spend hours looking at onX Hunt on my desktop computer discovering new areas and planning out future hunts. I find that by planning ahead, I’m spending more time hunting and less time deciding where to go when fall comes. When I am e-scouting, I take advantage of the tools in the onX Hunt Layer Library to give me the information I need to find ideal spots. The Layer Library allows you to overlay specific map data for your state. Here are the core map layers you’ll want to use.

Land Ownership

The first level you’ll want to look at is land ownership. Lucky for us, in areas where ruffed grouse thrive, there is typically a lot of public land. In northern Minnesota where I hunt, there are millions of acres of public land that are open to hunting, but you have to know where it is. That’s where onX Hunt makes it easy. You’ll want to open the layer library and turn on the private and public land layers and then they will be displayed on your map.

onX Hunt Layer Library
The land ownership layers that are available for Minnesota in the onX Hunt App. Note that available map layers will vary from state to state. In MN you can even have Ruffed Grouse Management areas noted on your map view.

Logging Activity

Once you’ve turned on land ownership, you’re next going to want to open the Layer Library again and open the folder for “Trees, Crops & Cover” and then select “Timber Cuts”. You’re going to be looking for areas that have been logged in within the last 5-10 years. When you find these areas, hunt the edges.


When I’m hunting ruffed grouse, I’m always looking for the edges where different habitats meet up, this is where I consistently find birds. Turn on the Wetland layer and look for areas where a marsh adjoins a timber stand. This edge will let more sunlight and often has more food for grouse. You’ll often find Tag Alders in this moist edge soil as well. Whenever I’m in one of these areas and I’m seeing tag alders, I know there are grouse nearby.

Evergreens and Hardwood edges

Another edge to look for is where Coniferous and Deciduous trees meet up. To view tree types in onX, open Trees, Crops & Cover, select Deciduous vs Coniferous and look for the spots where these forest types meet and hunt there. The evergreens provide excellent cover and the hardwoods provide an ample food source.

Young Aspen Forests

The final edge to check out is where young aspen stands meet up with more mature timber. Grouse will be in the young aspens during the day and roost in the bigger trees at night. In the onX Hunt Layer Library, under “Trees, Crops & Cover”, you can turn on “Young Aspen Forests” to see a map overlay of this ideal grouse habitat.

PRO TIP: onX Hunt is constantly updating their software and releasing new features. Many of these new features can be found in the layer library. Be sure to check your app often for new features you’ll find useful.

Setting Grouse Hunting Waypoints

Once you’ve completed your e-scouting, you’ll want to add waypoints for the areas you want to hunt. onX makes the process easy to add waypoints and the process is identical whether you’re on your phone or desktop. First, select “Tools” and then “Add Waypoint”, then you’ll be presented with options to name the waypoint, select an icon, choose a color, add photos, add to a folder, and add any notes you might have.

When I am scouting for grouse hunting spots, I mark them with the “upland” grouse icon in green. Once I’ve hunted an area that proves to be a good spot, I change the icon color to red to tell me at a glance that I’ve encountered grouse in this area and it’s a good spot to return to again.

on X Hunt for Carplay

onX Hunt displayed on my dash through the Carplay app.

onX Hunt recently became compatible with Apple Carplay, (the Android version is coming soon). This is a game changer for me as I’m driving to different hunting spots. I no longer have to look at my phone while driving to navigate to a hunting spot, I can see my map and all my waypoints on my much larger truck screen.

onX Hunt using while hunting

Download Maps in Advance

Where I grouse hunt, mobile coverage is spotty at best. That’s not a problem if you’ve downloaded the map of your hunting area in advance. When you’re at your hunting spot, just switch over to “Offline Maps” and onX Hunt will work just fine, even without cell coverage.

Position and Direction of Travel

To find your position while hunting, click on the icon that looks like the crosshairs of a scope in the lower right-hand corner of the app. You’ll immediately be taken to your current position on the map.

Next, if you want to know your direction of travel, click the same icon again and it will show what appears like a flashlight beam coming from your current position, this is your direction of travel. I use this feature constantly when I’m in a labyrinth-like trail system with a lot of intersecting trails. It allows you to quickly get your bearings.

PRO TIP: Get off the beaten path. I often find that the nicer the trail, the more hunting pressure it receives and I see fewer grouse. Don’t be afraid to go off trail pursuit of grouse. Get into the thick cover where grouse live and feel safe.

onX Hunt for Grouse Hunting – Final Thoughts

onX Hunt has been a game changer for every type of hunting that I do. For grouse hunters, you’ll discover more and better places to go, and you’ll hunt with confidence by always knowing where you stand. The result is, you’ll have more fun and see more grouse. As for hitting them, that’s a subject for a different story.

onX Hunt App $100 annually for Elite 50 State edition, by onX Maps

Related Content: The Ultimate Grouse Hunting Guide

Note: HuntTested did receive product consideration in coordination with this content. HuntTested may receive a small commission if you purchase a product from the links on this page. This does NOT increase your price and helps to pay for the content. All opinions belong to HuntTested.