New Hampshire - Grouse, Woodcock Hunting Seasons Underway; Take the Small Game Survey

CONCORD, N.H. -- Fall is in the air, and New Hampshire's small game seasons are underway. The state's season for ruffed grouse began October 1 and continues through December 31. Ruffed grouse are the most sought-after small game species in New Hampshire, accounting for 67% of the hunter-hours reported in the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's annual Small Game Survey. The northern portion of the state continues to be the premiere range for ruffed grouse, but they can be found throughout New Hampshire. This spring was favorable for grouse production in the southern portion of the state, according to Fish and Game's Small Game Project Leader Julie Robinson, while the North Country experienced cool weather and extended periods of rain, which can affect brood sizes.

New Hampshire's second most sought-after small game species is woodcock. Each year, dedicated biologists and a group of volunteers conduct woodcock singing ground surveys. These observations provide an index to the overall abundance of resident singing males, which biologists use to make inferences about the breeding population. The woodcock season has been expanded to 45 days this year. It opened on October 1 and ends on November 14. Substantial numbers of woodcocks move through the state in early and mid-November, so this season expansion should provide hunters with some additional quality hunting opportunities.

The woodcock season framework changes came about as a result of a new National Woodcock Harvest Strategy that was developed at the Flyway level with all four flyways, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Geological Survey working together. Historic and current woodcock breeding and harvest data were analyzed and a set of hunting frameworks was developed for the nation. Woodcock are managed by region. There is a Central Management Region in the Midwest and an Eastern Management Region along the east coast. Traditionally, the Central Region has been allowed a more liberal woodcock hunting season than the Eastern Region. The analysis completed for the new hunting strategy indicated that there was no reason to have different sets of hunting frameworks for the regions. So now we have one set of frameworks for the country.

Woodcock populations in New Hampshire are generally considered to be in good shape, even though there continues to be a small annual long-term decline in breeding numbers. Woodcock hunting pressure has declined substantially in the last decade, so Fish and Game biologists feel confident that there is room for some additional opportunity. The population will continue to be monitored closely and future hunting seasons will be adjusted as needed.

Whether you hunt for grouse, woodcock or other small game species, you can help Fish and Game collect data -- and have a chance to win a quality firearm -- by taking part in the Department's annual Small Game Survey. The small game survey is a hunter survey that provides Fish and Game with distribution, abundance and trend data on the state's small game populations. Just for participating, you'll be entered into a raffle for a firearm generously donated by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. If you are a small game hunter and want to take part, download the survey form at, or call 603-271-2461 to request one.

Grouse hunters throughout the state are also encouraged to take part in Fish and Game's annual wing and tail survey of harvested ruffed grouse. Grouse wings and tails are submitted along with a survey card, providing biologists with age, sex composition, distribution data and a juvenile to adult female ratio on this popular species. Participants will be entered into a raffle for a firearm donated by the Ruffed Grouse Society. For more information, including locations where you can pick up a survey packet, visit or call 603-868-1095.

Wildlife research and management in New Hampshire is funded, along with license sales, by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, supported by your purchase of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. This provides opportunities for hunting, fishing and other wildlife-associated recreation.

For online license sales and more information about small game hunting in New Hampshire, visit 

Ruffed Grouse Society born in Virginia 50 years ago this week

By Bill Cochran

    Fifty years ago, the Ruffed Grouse Society dispatched its first newsletter with a message from its editor, Seybert Beverage, one of the three Virginians who founded the organization.

“Your editor feels that as long as the ruffed grouse survives, then America will survive,” Beverage wrote.

That was a prophetic observation. The ruffed grouse population has taken a nosedive in Virginia. Many would argue that America also is on a downward path.

“That was a good line,” Bruce Richardson told me when I was writing a feature on the organization’s 25th anniversary. Richardson really was the only grouse hunter amount the trio of founders. They all lived in Monterey, a scenic village in the center of mountainous Highland County, where forested ridges and old farms offered habitat for the noble grouse.

Richardson was in the real estate and trout growing business. He was born in Clifton Forge and served as assistant manager and sports director of the posh Homestead in Hot Springs. Later he operated the Thomas Jefferson Inn in Charlottesville. Tiring of the hotel business and feeling the lure of the mountains, he moved to Monterey.

Beverage, a lawyer and soon to be district judge, was an unlikely candidate to form an organization around a bird that favors the steepest ridges and thickest thorn-tree swales. He’d never hunted grouse. The victim of polio as a child, he was confined to a wheelchair. That didn’t keep him from being vice president of his law class at the University of Virginia. He was an avid reader and amateur ornithologist.
The third man was Dixie L. Shumate Jr., a knowledgeable fisheries biologist who’s idea of a good time did not include tripping over fox grape vines in pursuit of an illusive game bird. Richardson was convinced that trout and grouse had a lot in common. Both were things of beauty and grace; both required quality habitat; both were capable of affording a sportsman heart-pounding thrills. Shumate would have little problem transcending from trout to grouse, and playing a significant role in the new organization.

The three friends gathered in Beverage’s law office one day and after conducting some business. Richardson started talking about grouse, and the fact that the habitat in Highland and Bath County didn’t hold as many birds as it once did.

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Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Deer River, MN Day 2

Tina and Her Deer River Mn Grouse

October 2nd, 2011

Saturday night was a long night as the dogs had drank so much water during the day that they kept having to go outside.  They woke me up at 11:30, 12:45, 1:30, and 4:30.  After the 4:30 wake up I put their training collars on them and they stayed quite.  Too quite it turned out as I ended up sleeping until 9 am.  That ruled out the longer drive to try some new areas that I had mapped out as it was already starting to get warm out.  so I decided to retry some of the areas from the day before to see if they still looked good.

The first spot that we went to was the walking trail area.  Tina and I started by walking a different section of the trail system.  After 30 minutes she hadn’t really gotten birdy at all we turned around and headed back to the section that we walked on Saturday.  Within 10 minutes she locked up solid and I was able to connect on a nice crossing shot.  We walked a while longer and didn’t move any other birds.

Next it was Marge’s turn to see if the forest road with the older growth would produce another bird.  We worked the trail a fair amount and while she did get a little birdy in a few spots we didn’t have any success actually moving one.  After getting back to the truck I got out Fergie and took her for a walk.  She can’t see but she still loves getting out in the woods and sniffing the air.

Tina and I then took a chance on the first spot that we had hunted yesterday.  The temperature was over 70 so it was a good last spot to try.  We went down the trail next to the clear cut and it still looked promising but it was just so dry it was hard to know if the scenting was decent at all.  We ended up going through the new growth to get back to the truck and she did make a nice point but it was so thick I couldn’t get into a good shooting position when I did flush the grouse.

Even though we cut the day short we did put one bird in the bag, confirmed that two spots were still a good bet, and ruled out another.

Ruffed Grouse Hunt Deer River, MN Day One

Saturday October 1 2011

Typical Cover For The Deer River MN Area

We left Mpls / St. Paul in the morning and made the three hour drive north.  After stopping at our rented cabin to drop off some gear and supplies we headed to the woods.  I decided to start out by trying some brand new areas to hunt.  I had purchased some maps that were created using Google Earth to show clear cuts and trails.  I loaded the gps info into the Garmin and we were on our way to just north of Deer River, MN.  The first area was two sets of small clear cuts with a small foot trail along one side of them.  As we worked the trail we came to some older growth and moved just a little ways into the new growth and turned back towards the vehicle.  About half way back we got a wild flush and moved towards where it looked like it set down.  Tina was working the scent but we did not make contact again.  It looked like a good enough area and with moving a bird in the 30 minute walk it has made the list to try again.

Spot number two ended up being a forest road that bordered an area that looked to be an older cut over area.  I was skeptical of it’s bird potential but we were there and it looked like easy enough walking for the 15 year old setter Marge.  This turned into and out and back affair but on the way back Marge made a nice point on a young bird and I was able to drop it.  Another 30 minute walk and another bird moved.  This area looked older than I would like but since we got a bird I added it to the try again list. 

Area number three turned out to be a MN Hunter Walking Trail.  There were no other vehicles there and with it hitting 60 degrees we decided to give it a chance.  There ended up being a number of different trails within the system.  We took the trail that looked like it went through the younger looking area.  It was hot and dusty.  The Northern MN area has been pretty dry after a wet and cool spring.  Tina was working a good pattern through the cover and after about 20 minutes and a few non-productive points she had one nailed and I got off a decent shot and connected.  We were able to repeat the pattern on the back side of the loop and collected another one for the game bag.

We made a stab at a fourth new area that also looked good but didn’t move a bird.  It was getting a bit later in the day so we went to our old standby in the Big Fork area.  In the first 40 minutes we moved 10 birds, got off 2 shots and didn’t connect on anything.  In the last 90 minutes we only moved one bird.

All in all it was a good start to the day with three birds in the bag and four new areas to try again.