Many wingshooters have already been afield since the Sept. 1 opener in search of three species of forest grouse open to hunting in Washington and Idaho.
Ruffed, blue and spruce grouse offer a rigorous challenge in the longest upland game bird season in the region. The season ends Dec. 31.
Dave Ware, Department of Fish and Wildlife upland bird program manager in Olympia, said hunters may need all the time they can muster to bag a limit of three a day.
Based on responses to hunter report cards, about 114,000 ruffed, 52,000 blue and 3,000 spruce grouse were bagged in Washington in 1995.
Overall forest grouse populations are fairly stable. So is the number of hunters who pursue them, which in 1995 was about 20 percent of Washington’s 220,000 licensed hunters.
Ruffed grouse are found in Washington and Idaho in lowland timber lying at about 2,500 feet, along old logging roads, in alder thickets and brushy stream-bottom areas.
Blue grouse are found on both sides of the Cascades in high coniferous forests, and like the ruffed, the blue comes in two color phases, depending upon which side of the Cascades they are found.
Spruce grouse makes up only a handful of the yearly take of forest grouse.
Phil Cooper, information officer for the Panhandle region, said field reports indicate good numbers of late-hatched ruffed grouse. The best hunting for fully matured grouse, he added, may be late in the season.