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Ruffed Grouse Hunting Information

Results of a Successful Grouse Hunt

Each fall in New York 25,000 - 30,000 hunters take to the field in pursuit of ruffed grouse making them the second most popular game bird behind wild turkeys. Despite declines in their numbers over the past 40 years, ruffed grouse are still common, particularly in younger forests. They provide excellent hunting opportunities.

For detailed information about season dates in your area, please refer to the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or view the grouse hunting season map.

DEC coordinates two survey efforts with cooperating hunters to help track grouse distribution and abundance:

  • Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log - this survey asks hunters to record their grouse hunting effort and the number of birds flushed. This allows us to estimate flush rates (grouse flushed/hour), which are used to monitor changes in grouse populations.
  • Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey - this survey asks turkey hunters to record the number of grouse they hear drumming during the spring turkey season. The drumming survey provides a harvest-independent index of grouse distribution and abundance during the critical breeding season in the spring.

If you would like to participate in either survey, please download a survey form from the grouse log or drumming survey web pages, contact us by phone at (518) 402-8883, or send an email.

Ruffed Grouse Parts Collection

We are requesting assistance from hunters in a study of ruffed grouse recruitment (the number of young produced per adult female). We are seeking rump, wing, and tail feathers from birds taken during the season so we can identify the age and sex composition of the harvest. Information on recruitment is an important part of assessing the well-being of the grouse population.

As part of a multi-state effort to study West Nile Virus in grouse populations, we are also requesting hunters to submit blood samples from harvested birds.

To learn more about these efforts or to sign-up to receive materials for submitting feather and blood samples, please contact us via e-mail or call (518) 402-8929.

Spruce Grouse vs. Ruffed Grouse

Be mindful of the presence of the state-endangered Spruce Grouse while hunting Ruffed Grouse in Wildlife Management Units 5C, 5F, 6F, and 6J. Identify your target before you shoot! DEC biologists have supplemented existing populations of Spruce Grouse in New York to increase genetic diversity and help aid in the recovery of the State's population.

Spruce Grouse are frequently seen along roadsides during the fall eating gravel. Spruce Grouse are similar in size to Ruffed Grouse, but have slightly different appearances:

  • Both male and female Spruce Grouse have a chestnut-colored tail band on a blackish tail that contrasts with the Ruffed Grouse's dark tail band on a brown or gray tail.
  • Spruce Grouse tend to sit still or fly to a nearby branch when disturbed unless disturbed by dogs, in which case they may fly away.
  • Male Spruce Grouse appear darker than females and have a red eye comb that can be seen only during the breeding season (May).
  • Female Spruce Grouse are very similar in appearance to Ruffed Grouse in size and coloration. Differences in the tail band are evident between the two species (see below).
Spruce Grouse vs. Ruffed Grouse

Attention Woodcock Hunters: You may not shoot woodcock unless you have registered in the Harvest Information Program (HIP). To register, call 1-866-426-3778 or go to the Harvest Information Program website.

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