Outdoors

OK to grouse about grouse

Biologists believe populations down

Although they have virtually no money for formal surveys, Washington biologists speculate that forest grouse populations have been lower than average in the past few years.

The harvest of ruffed, spruce and blue grouse for 2008 was 101,685, state surveys show. The average number of forest grouse harvested each year in the state during the 2003-2007 seasons was 117,686. Stevens County in northeastern Washington and Okanogan County produced the largest number of grouse taken in those years.

But reports in August and early September suggest that grouse broods may have suffered from the cool wet spring as poorly as lowland pheasants.

“I’ve seen no grouse broods to date,” Pat Fowler, wildlife biologist in Walla Walla, said in late August.

This reporter scouted prime Stevens County grouse habitat spanning a 2,000-foot elevation range at the end of August. My English setter had five solid points. Each was a single bird; no broods.

Ruffed grouse are found around riparian areas and hardwood forests, while blue grouse favor evergreen forests and spruce grouse “are tied to lodgepole pine,” said Mick Cope, state game bird manager.

About 40,000 hunters pursued forest grouse during Washington’s 2008 season, down from 42,000 in 2007 and far from the 102,000 who hunted in 1987.

The drop occurred in part because of lack of public access and the apparent low bird populations aggravated perhaps by wet spring weather conditions for the past two years.

But hunter surveys also have shown another reason for the decline of grouse hunters, Cope said.

“People have less time available. They have a lot more commitments and less free time,” he said.

Still, grouse hunters are a devoted lot, in Washington and elsewhere. While some grouse are shot by deer or elk hunters during the modern firearm seasons, the bulk are taken before those seasons open in October, Cope said.

“There’s still a number of people who specifically target grouse,” he said.

In Idaho, there isn’t much concern for forest grouse numbers. The seasons were opened a few days earlier this year and they have been extended a full month, closing Jan. 31.


Click here to comment on this story »


Rich Landers

Rich Landers

More Outdoors Columns »
More Outdoors Blog Posts »

Most recent column

Landers: Nordic skiing questions deserve well-waxed answers

“I’ve been considering getting back into cross-country skiing, and I have questions,” wrote The Spokesman-Review’s Paul Turner as he focused his column this week on The Slice of life that teeters on skinny skis. Doubtless he’ll get the usual pile of insightful answers from his …


Recent blog posts

Banff Mountain Films lineup listed for Spokane

ADVENTURE -- The lineup of films for the three-day run of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Spokane has been decided — just hours before the first films will be ...


Let's name Mt. Spokane's new downhill ski runs

WINTERSPORTS -- Now that the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission has approved the controversial expansion of the downhill skiing area at Mount Spokane State Park, much more work must be ...


Outdoors Calendar

Submit Your Event »




Outdoors Photography

More SR Photo Galleries »
More Reader Photos »


Close

Sections


Profile

Close

Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
(800) 338-8801
Newsroom:
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Customer service:
(800) 338-8801