Grouse opens in MN along with the rest of small game in the middle of September with the cover all up and the first frost usually a couple weeks away; the early dumb yearling "Slaughter of the Innocents" is usually "swing and swat with the misquitoes (AKA MN state bird) in a hunter-crowded woods. I usually wait until early October when waterfowl has opened and combined with fantasy football season to take some of the morons out of my woods. Still, I pretty much only hunt during the week and hide the car so as not to lead the great unwashed to some sweet covers I have devloped over the years; grouse hunting at best is a solitary pursuit.
Most of my shooting can be best done with whatever carries and points well and can evenly pattern an ounce of coppered 7 1/2s. Come to favor 20ga Federal Premium and am currently shooting from a couple of cases whose box artwork is two or three generations behind. Early season may call for 7/8th ounce of 8s, late season may need 1 1/8th ounce of 6s when things open up and only the "track stars" remain. IC is a good choice, but I pattern each barrel and load to see what's actually going on. At present, I've got a brace of 101s, a Classic Doubles 201 (23) (all with straight stocks) and a sweet little Benelli M1.
Much of my pleasure nowadays comes from watching my springer spaniel girls work. My ten year old Rosie is the best hunting dog I have ever had. Avid, eager, cunning, and somewhat biddable (
), she will hunt alive or dead and retrieves to hand with a soft mouth. Her three year old apprentice, Lola was coming along fine this last season after a judicious application of electronic training collars (AKA "the electronic ear wax remover"). Lola just neede to see what I wanted her to do, Rosie was pretty sure she still knew better than the old boy. I just bring this pair into good covers and get out of the way. If there are birds there, my girls will get them out and up.