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Thread: Vegetation for Grouse?

  1. #1
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    Default Vegetation for Grouse?

    How do you find grouse in the woods? I have only ever seen them on roads and when you scare them off the road they are sometimes very hard to follow or find. I agree with most of the posts on this site, it is much more fun to shoot birds in their own natural habitat than taking them from the road side I just seem to have terrible luck doing so. I am not picky about where I hunt, I live in Anchorage but I will drive quite a ways for a good hunt. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated, btw I am new here this is my first post!

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    They are finishing up berries right now on the Kenai. The last bunch I sent to grouse heaven had both high bush cranberry and spruce needle in their crop. If you go off the trail or road into the woods at midday you will eventually spook them (which will spook you!). I look for them in trees as I slowly meander through the woods. Look for nervous head movements. When they fly, they don't fly far. Some folks like the challenge of a wing shot in the woods, but I just pick them from the tree with a .20 gauge.

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    Mixed forest for sprucies generally spruce and birch. They will get out in the swamps early if there are bog blueberries available but generally seem to hit the mixed forest that grows along the ridges to roost. Mostly find them in spruce clumps. Ruffs I get to the mountains and find the most miserable habitat possible. Steep draws with thick alders and devils club mixed with waist high grass. Hares live in the same place so there is some added incentive. Life is definitely better with a pup to do the brush busting though!!

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    Member Hoyt's Avatar
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    Aspen stands.
    "If I could shoot a game bird and still not hurt it, the way I can take a trout on a fly and release it, I doubt if I would kill another one." George Bird Evans

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    I've been pondering the same question as the OP this season as i've had more trouble than normal kicking up birds in MY normal place that apparently others have discovered.

    I'm a quiet admirer of each of the three respondents however I find the responses both amusing and confusing!

    If I combine the three they say "in the woods"

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    Well, seems we're talking about two types of grouse here; spruce and ruffed grouse. Either of these two grouse, and sharp-tailed grouse as well, will eat a variety of green vegetative matter throughout summer and fall, as well as a heavy diet of cranberries, kinnikinnick and blue berries, and insects with grasshoppers being at the top of the list. Grouse have varied diets and it's hard to pin down there whereabouts just by finding a food source, there is so very much more to solving the mystery. Of course, during late fall and on into the winter a spruce grouse will eat spruce needles, beginning to do so long before any snow covers up the other food items.

    Look for good grouse cover, like aspen hillsides with brushy edges, and perhaps a alder or willow lined trail or creek. Thick places where it's hard to hit the ground with a hat that is knocked off your head repeatably are where grouse hide out from raptors. Open forest and old growth forest is of little value to grouse. There is a lot to consider, enough to write a book or two about! You really have to become the student and get out there and do some "boots-on-the-ground" searching.

    Ruffed grouse are not as plentiful in the Mat/Su region and rare as ruffed grouse teeth on the Kenai Peninsula. The absolute best ruffed grouse hunting is in the interior region. Spruce grouse are everywhere. Sharptails are all over the central portion of Alaska, especially in the interior, and on up near the arctic circle.

    Hunting without a dog is harder, but in so doing you will become a better predator. The bird dog can come later.

    Enjoy the journey!

    Jim

  7. #7

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    Highbush cranberry and wild raspberries in late August, September, and early October. After that, it's just spruce needles I suppose. I look for places where they can get some grit for their gizzards. Cutbanks along side logging roads etc. They seem to be hard to find in the dead of winter. Fall is definitely the best time to look for them in my opinion.

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    You neglected to specify which type of grouse you were referring to. I was assuming spruce grouse originally. Then it dawned on me after I read Hoyt's post about aspen stands. If you are talking about ruffed grouse, then definitely aspen stands. Each type of grouse and ptarmigan have there own unique habitat type.

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    Aspen is indeed important to ruffed grouse, but they are also found in birch and cottonwood forest, as well as in and around heavy stands of willow. Native Alaskans living along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and their many tributaries refer to the ruffed grouse as the " willow grouse" for a reason.

    Some of the most ideal ruffed grouse habitat in Alaska can be found along stretches of interior rivers where south facing slopes of Aspen with brushy understory and high bush cranberries drops down to river's edge where gravel bars (sources of grit) and thick stands of willow persist. Ruffed grouse will use the willow as security cover while gathering grit, as well as consume great amounts of willow buds.

    Imagine a crisp, bright autumn day along one of these rivers while following a fine bird dog with a good gun in hand, plentiful dry firewood and flat surfaces to set up camp, and you have the stuff of dreams!

    Jim

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    Member Hoyt's Avatar
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    I mentioned Aspen stands for ruffies, becasue I assumed the OP was not hunting with a dog. I find Aspen stands to be more of a pleasure to walk through with the generally more open understory. Plus they usually have good berry habitat. Spruce grouse are eating spruce needles here in the interior. I watched multiple hens eating needles the other day on my driveway.




    They were occompanied by a nice cock bird. He was full of himself! I took a lot of pics. Some of the better ones were kind of ruined by the camera flash (low light, didn't realize it was on, was on auto mode). His eyes caught the flash....oh well.

    "If I could shoot a game bird and still not hurt it, the way I can take a trout on a fly and release it, I doubt if I would kill another one." George Bird Evans

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    walk around the edges of swamps about 30-50 yards inside the brush or if its a steep hill going down to the swamp, walk on top of the hill or on a "plateu" half way up or so, if there happens to be one.
    Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

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    Great topic! One of my favorites.

    Ruffed grouse habitat can be characterized by aspen trees but that is only part of the story. The Ruff depends on early seral stages of forest growth and development. They need young regenerating forests to provide key components of their habitat. Willows that grow along rivers and streams regenerate after floods or when a bank is cut and a new sand bar is formed down stream. Willow seed will blow onto the new sandbar and grow back profusely.

    Ruffed grouse need lots of hardwood trees (or stems) per acre, to create important parts of their cover including for brooding as escape cover. Older aspen need to be found in adjacent stands and are important for winter buds along with birch, highbush cranberry, all kinds of berries, and clumps of evergreen interspersed but not too prevalent to provide shelter from the wind. Ruffed grouse don't like thousands of acres of the same age class forest. Vegetation/forest diversity is important. Hunt forest diversity with lots of younger hardwoods growing back thickly and you will likely find the ruffed grouse.

    Forest regeneration either by fire, flood or through appropriately treated timber harvests create conditions to regrow young hardwood forests.

    Fire can also be the friend of sharptailed grouse which are most likely found in open woodland muskeg and AG areas. Fire often clears large areas of muskeg forest that regenerates providing new habitat.

    Spruce grouse tend to prefer a mature forest of spruce mixed with hardwoods.

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Looking back over this thread I'd have to say that I missed the boat in responding to the OP. Here is what I always look for this time of year. NOT WOODS! No, I look for trails bordering woods early in the morning and late in the afternoon to dusk, because they are trying to scratch up plenty of small stones for their gizzards before the snow flies. If no birds are on the trails, I look for "scratches" on banks and berms where they have been working over the dirt to get more gravel. I know that they are not far away; generally they are roosting in large spruce.
    The chicken my son got this morning in our driveway had a crop full of needles, so they are transitioning from berries. There will still be plenty of birds even after the snow flies, but they will begin to taste more and more like spruce.

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    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    HOYT, fantastic picture of that male bird. Thanks for sharing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roland on the River View Post
    HOYT, fantastic picture of that male bird. Thanks for sharing.
    Thanks, my pleasure!
    "If I could shoot a game bird and still not hurt it, the way I can take a trout on a fly and release it, I doubt if I would kill another one." George Bird Evans

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