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Forest Grouse

Conifer forests with shrub understory and areas near creeks and wild berries.

Tender, white meat. Similar flavor to chicken.
Excellent table fare.

Excellent populations statewide.

Valid Idaho hunting license.

Forest grouse include ruffed grouse, dusky grouse, and spruce grouse, all native to the state. Highest densities of ruffed grouse occur in northern Idaho, but significant populations can also be found in the mountains of central, eastern, and southeastern Idaho. Dusky grouse are distributed throughout the state and are the most common of the 3 species in southern Idaho. Spruce grouse distribution is patchier, but they are generally found in dense conifer forests, mostly from the Salmon and Payette river drainages north.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse occur in a variety of forest habitats throughout Idaho, but are generally found in areas with some deciduous trees, especially aspen. Ruffed grouse are frequently associated with riparian areas, or moist, brushy areas such as north-facing slopes and draws. Disturbances such as fire and timber harvest often create early seral-stage habitats that favor ruffed grouse. Optimal year-round cover includes a mosaic of forest age-classes with stands of young and older forests closely. Ruffed grouse feed on a variety of plants and invertebrates. Their diets shift seasonally as various food resources become. In winter they feed on buds and twigs of various shrubs and trees. From spring through autumn they feed on leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit at the ground- and shrub-layer. During breeding season, male ruffed grouse use early seral-stage habitats with high stem Forest Grouse densities, good ground-level visibility, and dense over story cover for drumming sites. Females nest in hardwood or aspen stands with open. Nests are located on the ground, typically at the base of a tree, stump, or shrub, or in deadfall. In Idaho, ruffed grouse broods used sites with dense herbaceous understory Viability of ruffed grouse populations depends largely on maintenance of suitable habitat, particularly early-successional deciduous habitats adjacent to older forest stands. Potential threats to ruffed grouse habitat in Idaho include fire suppression policies that impede aspen regeneration and livestock grazing practices that result in degradation of dense understory vegetation preferred during breeding season. Timber harvest may benefit ruffed grouse if it results in regeneration of young forest stands or a mosaic of forest age-classes, but harvest of mature aspen or forestry practices that degrade riparian areas or result in erosion or loss of water retention could be detrimental.


Dusky (blue) Grouse

Dusky grouse, also called blue grouse, are present throughout forested portions of Idaho, particularly where Douglas-fir They are locally migratory, moving to higher elevations in winter, where they feed primarily on conifer needles. Their distribution may be determined by proximity of suitable breeding habitat to montane forest winter habitat. Dusky grouse diets change seasonally and include leaves, flowers, berries, conifer needles, and invertebrates. During breeding season, dusky grouse may be found in shrub-steppe or grassland communities along the edge of montane forest communities. Shrub-steppe and grassland habitats typically used by dusky grouse are dominated by big sagebrush or antelope bitterbrush and mixtures of bunchgrasses. Shrubsteppe and forest breeding habitats are often near aspen which is used selectively by breeding males. Females select nest sites on the ground outside of male territories. Nests are usually well concealed, possibly under logs, near low branches, or in bunchgrasses. Chicks feed mainly on small invertebrates found in open areas of the breeding range. In mid- to late summer, broods move to more mesic sites as vegetation dries. A rugged mountain habitat has helped protect the species; nevertheless, habitat loss and degradation are threats to localized populations. Although impacts of forestry practices on dusky grouse are poorly understood, logging at higher elevations may negatively impact winter ranges.


Spruce Grouse

Spruce grouse are closely associated with conifer-dominated forests. Distribution of this species in Idaho represents the southernmost extent of their range in North America. Some spruce grouse migrate, while others remain resident. They are largely herbivorous, relying heavily on needles of pine and spruce, but also feed on flowers, forbs, fruit, and small arthropods. In breeding season, female spruce grouse select habitats where more food is available in low-shrub and herb layers. In contrast, males choose territorial sites with greater canopy cover and stem density. Spruce grouse nest on the ground, selecting sites with overhead cover, usually at the base of a conifer. Hens with broods prefer sites with more open canopies, presumably in areas that offer more abundant forbs and arthropods. Spruce grouse populations are tightly linked to successional dynamics driven by forest disturbance. Fire can provide renewed patches of habitat in mosaics. Timber harvest may be beneficial or detrimental depending on resulting structure and composition of stands. Because so little is known about the species across its range, more information is needed to provide guidelines on relationships between forest management practices and spruce grouse populations.