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Grouse hunting tips:

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This hunting information is provided as advice only.  It is the duty of the hunter to ensure that he or she is complying with all current laws and regulations.

Grouse hunting occurs all over the State of Washington.  All huntable species of grouse (Blue, Spruce and Ruffed) are collectively called ďForest GrouseĒ  General seasons for Grouse occur in September and last through December, but vary from species to species.  Make sure to pay attention to the current regulations.   A hunter must purchase a small game license to hunt grouse or the allowance for grouse hunting is included in the purchase of any big game license purchase.  There is no weapon choice requirement as is for deer and elk. 12 is the possession limit and only 4 per day.  There is currently no hunting of Sage Grouse

  • First rule!  Know what you are shooting at !!!  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting something you did not intend to. HWS staff
  • Grouse (Blue, Ruffed, and Spruce) are found all over the forested areas of Washington State.  They are at pretty much every elevation of the forest.
  • The number one way to hunt grouse is by looking for them on logging roads.  You can travel either by foot, by vehicle, or by bike on any logging road and find grouse gravelling in the road.  Gravelling or dusting is what these birds do to get sand in their gizzard to help grind seeds or to get dust in their plumage to discourage mites.

  • When spooked, Grouse typically fly up into the closest tree and land on a branch which is about 12 to 20 feet in the air.  Or they will run off the road/trail just into the brush.  They typically will just stand there.  It is not difficult to get at them.
  • The more inaccessible the road, the higher your chances are that you will get in to grouse.  Locked gates which lead into relatively newer clearcuts will be a lot more productive than open roads where other hunters will just simply drive.  The birds which hang around drivable roads donít last long.
  • Grouse hunting is great when using a 20 gauge or a .410.   Use number 7 or 8 shot.  It doesnít take much to bring down this chicken sized bird.
  • Grouse hunting with a bow and arrow is a great way to practice your shooting. Always carry a couple of Flu-Flu arrows with you, or get a blunt tip to put on the end of your standard arrow.  The only drawback to using a Flu-Flu is that the larger feathers tend to make a lot of noise in  heavy brush.  If you are hunting deer, the added noise is not conducive to keeping yourself quiet.  In addition, by using the same arrow as your broadheads, the ballistics are similar enough that it makes for great practice.  Be sure to clearly mark your bird arrow for low light conditions.  You donít want to accidentally shoot a deer with a blunt tipped arrow.
  • Sage grouse are currently a protected species in Washington State.  There are no seasons for them.
  • Heavy snow will push grouse into areas where the snow isnít.  The birds primarily feed on grasses and nuts on the bare ground.  Deep snow prevents them from getting to ground forage.
  • Ruffed Grouse make a really interesting drumming sound in the fall.  Pay attention to this sound and you might be able to find a few of these birds.
  • A dog can be used in non-deer seasons to help flush birds.
  • Donít shoot grouse while they are roosted.  Itís not sportsmanlike and it damages the tree.  Get the bird to flush so that you have a good shot at the wings.
  • Field dress the grouse immediately after youíve killed it.  Pierce the skin just below the breast bone with your fingers and reach up inside the cavity to extract all of the internal organs.  This will immediately help cool the bird and will keep the meat from spoiling.
  • Early season grouse hunting is a great way to scout out your deer hunting areas as they occupy the exact same wooded areas.
  • While it is easiest to hunt grouse from skid roads, donít forget  to go off trail as well.  Some Eastern Washington areas which are more open and off trail can hold coveys of grouse.  These coveys can hold dozens of birds.  If you happen upon one of these groups, the sound of dozens of flushing birds at once is quite loud and startling.  The only downside to this is that you could potentially end your hunt by quickly limiting out.
  • Some hunters use a sling attached to their shotgun, as toting a shotgun in hand for long distances can become tiresome.
  • In some areas, the WDFW has placed barrels for depositing a clipped wing from your grouse.  Be sure to help the biologists out by submitting a wing from your birds.  The biologists use this information to help set limits, determine distribution, and other helpful things to determine the health of the grouse population.
  • ďGrouse are where you find themĒ is the rule.  They are widely distributed and is difficult to advise specifically where to go.  Our suggestion is to look at the big game section of this website to find places to go.
  • The population of the three huntable species of Grouse in Washington State vary from year to year.  Spring hatch conditions, age of surrounding forests, winter freezes, fire, and the like all affect the availability of huntable Grouse.
  • Grouse are quite tasty.   Pan frying them immediately back at camp can provide for a gourmet meal.  Bring an onion and mince it in with the breasts.  If you can manage a bit of wild rice along with the grouse, you will have a meal fit for a king.
  • Always practice good muzzle control.  You are hunting in forested areas with limited visibility.  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting yourself or a hunting buddy.  Hunter orange is required in most situations.
  • Leave alcohol back at camp.
  • Grouse hunting is a perfect way to introduce a kid or a neophyte to the joys of hunting.  Very little stealth or knowledge is required. 

  • For a quick, easy way to field dress grouse, Immediately after retrieving your bird, simply place one foot on each wing at the sides of your bird and pull straight up on each foot. Stop when the skin reaches the neck of the bird to keep the feathers intact to the carcass. This must be done before rigor mortis begins to set in or you will end up pulling limbs off. Follow normal procedures for gutting your skin and feather free bird. Sorry, this doesn't work on most other game birds as they are either too tough (Pheasants, Ducks, Geese) or too fragile (Quail, Chukar, Huns).  -Scott V. Colville, WA
  • We've found most of our birds in the thicker stuff.  Send your dog or buddy into the thick stuff to flush the birds.  Mark where they land (usually in a tree) and head after them. (courtesy Bill P)
  • Bird Cleaning Tips

   At this time, it is illegal to hunt Sage Grouse in Washington State!

From the WDFW March 2009 news alert:  For the third time in two years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has released sage grouse on public land in Lincoln County, in an effort to establish a third population of the state threatened species in Washington.

A total of 28 sage grouse-15 males and 13 females-were released March 28 and 29 on WDFW's Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property south of Creston in Lincoln County. The birds were collected from healthy populations near Lakeview, Ore.  

WDFW released 17 sage grouse last spring and 24 others last fall at the same location. WDFW Wildlife Biologist Howard Ferguson of Spokane reported some of those birds remained in the area and some were killed by predators, although post-release monitoring was hampered by defective radio transmitters. Three of the birds-one male and two females-had grouped near this year's release site, which could help the birds form a lek site or breeding ground, Ferguson said.

The sage grouse reintroduction project is a joint effort involving WDFW, BLM, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, private volunteers and the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council. A research project by Washington State University will begin this spring helping to study and monitor the birds.  There are two other populations of sage grouse in Washington. About 450 sage grouse are in shrub-steppe and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) habitat in Douglas County, mostly on private land. Another 190 birds inhabit shrub-steppe land on the federally managed Yakima Training Center in Kittitas and Yakima counties.

The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus ) was listed as a threatened species by Washington state in 1998. In 2001, the Washington population of the sage grouse also became a candidate for federal listing as a threatened species, under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

WDFW Wildlife Biologist Derek Stinson said the reduction in the number and distribution of sage grouse in Washington is largely due to habitat loss and degradation.  In Washington, sage grouse historically ranged from the Columbia River to Oroville, and from the eastern Cascades foothills to the Spokane River. By the early 1900s, sage grouse had disappeared from much of that area. The population on the Fitzner and Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve at Hanford in Benton County was evidently lost after catastrophic wild fires in 1981 and 1984. The breeding population in Lincoln County was gone by 1985 because of habitat changes.  Sage-grouse have survived in parts of Douglas County that were not converted to agriculture, and on the Yakima Training Center, a military reservation where development did not occur, Stinson said.

The birds will be considered sufficiently recovered for removal from the state threatened species list once the average breeding-season population reaches 3,200 birds for a period of 10 years, and active breeding areas are established in six or more designated management units, Stinson said. Currently the state sage grouse population is estimated at 640 birds.

For more information on sage grouse in Washington, see



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