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Thread: Interior grouse habitat?

  1. #1
    Member kylemac's Avatar
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    Default Interior grouse habitat?

    Spent another evening outdoors and then another morning after these allegedly prevalent but somehow still elusive birds – no flushes however. I put in about 4 miles and 3 hours each time hitting what I would describe as good grouse habitat south of Fairbanks to no avail. There were woods and spruce and clover and berries and gravel all along my route – then I varied it to the thickest of the thick with the same result. I walked about 50 feet from a creek for better than a half mile as well. I am a better woodsman for it, but no closer to my goal of learning where grouse live and getting a few to flush.
    I am wondering if my elevation may be the error of my hunts thus far. I have also been working mostly very thick areas – should it be a little more open?
    ADFG does little to help as they basically tell you they could be anywhere from summits and timberlines to swampy muskegs and pasture. To hear them tell it, I should be tripping over these birds everywhere I have been. This has not been the case obviously and their habitat description describes several million acres and thousand of miles to scout:
    “open grass-shrub habitat, agricultural lands, sparse shrub-spruce at timberline, and wet, sedgy, almost treeless areas known as muskegs. Sunny, grassy knobs are important features of breeding grounds. Dwarf birch bushes . . . and in unharvested grain fields in central Alaska. . . . open marshy ground near Fort Wainwright and North Pole . . . also scattered along high, fairly open ridges west of Livengood, the road to Manley Hot Springs, on the Johnson Road south of Eielson Air Force Base, on other summits or “domes” in the vicinity of Fairbanks, and along the Lake Louise Road west of Glennallen.”
    Not looking for anyone to point out their coverts. I am confident I will ultimately develop the knack for identifying good covert terrain in time – I’d just prefer to figure it out within the season or at least some confidence that I am narrowing it down before the next. So if someone could better narrow down a practical aspect of habitat I should be looking for – or an elevation that is typically more productive -- it would be helpful to me and I am sure several others.
    Regards,
    Kyle

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    Kylemac,

    First off, you quoted a description of sharp-tailed grouse habitat, and those birds are indeed hard to find. In the 1930s sharptails were said to be found by the 100s, even thousands all along the railroad right-of-way below UAF and on into the College area. Ain't so anymore, obviously. You are really going to have to work at finding sharptails, or be lucky and bump into them.

    Here's your first hints about where to find ruffed grouse: south-facing aspen hillsides with a smattering of spruce trees here and there for cover. Also willow and/or alder thickets in the same area. Ruffed grouse like edges, and they love to eat highbush cranberries. And guns don't kill ruffed grouse; legs do!

    Spruce grouse are found in larger, thicker spruce forest, but will also be found alongside ruffed grouse early in the season as long as large areas of heavy spruce aren't too far away.

    All grouse require grit for the digestion of food in the gizzard.

    That's it for now! Keep after it. And don't forget how broods (family groups) are pretty much still together and the grouse haven't dispersed throughout the forest just yet.

    Jim

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    Member kylemac's Avatar
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    Thanks for the help, Jim.

    I am pluggin in the mileage -- I recall the "legs kill grouse" lesson very well from your book -- I am not opposed to that -- just wanted some reassurance about the habitats so I know if I am in the ballpark or not. From your description, I don't think I have been too far of the mark -- though I did forget the south-facing piece.

    Thanks, again.

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    kyle- more often than not I find grouse only when they nearly give me a heart attack launching out of a tree/shrub ten feet away, or, several times, inches above my head as i duck beneath an overhanging limb! Having been dogless the last few years, I have to rely on my own ears and eyes, and they just aren't that good.

    I'll reiterate two things, south-ish facing slopes, and meadow edges with sprucey cover nearby.

    Keep on keeping on. Hope to see photos of your first take on here. Sounds like it will be any day.

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    Kyle,

    I just checked your profile. I used to work on the 660,000 acres out behind where you now work, and the place was loaded with ruffed and spruce grouse in places like I described above (and everywhere else during high cycle years), and I found sharptails and ptarmigan up at treeline and above. Sure, there are plenty of guys who drive those roads and blast 15 birds out on the road whenever they can, but there are more left in those woods, I assure you. Try the various trails going down into the valleys. Grouse like the alder runs along those trails because they offer protection from raptors. A bird can zip out onto the trail and grab some grit, or take a dust bath in a spot with fine dirt. On hot days I've watched ruffed grouse lie flat out on a moist, cool spot along a trail in thick spruce cover. Ruffed grouse do love the security of alder and willow thickets. And don't forget those highbush cranberries. After you find these grouse - especially in those thickets - your next problem is how to ensure shot and bird meet as you snatch only fleeting glimpses of said bird as it rockets off through what looks like a inpenetratable forest! Keep us posted on your success, which will come soon I predict.

    Jim

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    Member kylemac's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the info and encouragement.
    I did manage my first ruff grouse yesterday evening – thanks to a pair of empathetic partners who spotted a threesome and encouraged me in their direction. After all my miles, I folded her up on the run less than 15 yards into a wood line just southwest of Eielson. I will be enjoying her this afternoon with some asparagus and biscuits.
    Still in pursuit . . .
    Regards.
    2010 09 03.jpg

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    Congratulations! You're on a roll now.

    Jim

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    Nice Job!
    Ryan

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    In the past week or so I have seen easily over 100 grouse in the mornings while im out moose hunting along the trails if you would like to know some sure fire spots shoot me a PM not many people are out looking for them yet as they are still trying to bag a moose myself included.

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    Attachment 38716

    Here a tip. Get your own personal swap monster to lead you through the woods. Just make sure there is lots of stinky stagnant water around for him to cool off in.

    All joking aside a dog makes a huge difference when the birds are on the ground. Legs work behind a dog is much more fun in my book anyway. Good luck out there.
    I'm going to ctrl-alt-delete you so hard your mama's computer is going to reboot.

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