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Ruffed Grouse Seem to Be Heading North in N.H.

September 22, 2018

The hunting season for ruffed grouse -- New Hampshire’s most sought-after upland game bird -- starts October 1 and runs through December 31. Woodcock season also opens October 1 and concludes November 14.

Karen Bordeau, the N.H. Fish and Game Department’s Small Game Project Leader, notes that better than 65 percent of small-game hunting in New Hampshire is directed towards ruffed grouse, and that over half of that effort takes place in the North Country. The lack of active land management and loss of habitat in southern New England has driven grouse there to historic lows.

The Small Game Hunter Survey data from 2017 indicate that the North Region grouse observation rates were 136 grouse per 100 hunting hours; this is an increase from the reported 83 grouse seen per 100 hunting hours in 2016. It is noteworthy that observation rates were down in all regions except the North Region.

The 2018 grouse season is expected to be similar to last year, and fall mast crops will determine where the grouse will be in the field. Finding pockets of available food that grouse are focusing on will be helpful to hunter success.

Woodcock season is also expected to be similar to last year’s. Woodcock hunters are reminded that they need a free National Migratory Bird Harvest Information (HIP) certification number in order to legally hunt for woodcock.

All small game hunters are encouraged to take part in Fish and Game’s annual small game survey. Packets can be acquired by calling Fish and Game at 603-271-2461 or picked up at participating locations listed at huntnh.com/surveys .

These surveys provide valuable insight into the status of grouse and other small game species in New Hampshire. As an incentive to participate in New Hampshire surveys, Ruger Arms and The Ruffed Grouse Society have again generously agreed to provide a firearm to a randomly selected participant in each of these surveys.

Granite State hunters can look forward to a good pheasant season October 1 with over 11,500 ringnecks ready to be stocked. These birds will be liberated on Wildlife Management areas as well as with private landowners who have been kind enough to allow hunters to hunt their property.

Stocking will be done in-season as well. This year no hunting will be done on the days the birds are released.

In Massachusetts some 40,000 pheasants will be released again on Wildlife Management Areas with a few private lands being stocked as well. The bulk of these birds will be stocked three times a week on the WMA’s that are the busiest. Bolton Flats, High Ridge and Martin Burns are tops in the state.

The folks at Mass Wildlife will be stocking the lakes, ponds and rivers starting the first of October. They have 60,000 trout to stock for the fall and these fish are feisty and many have put on their fall colors.

This will be a token stocking in the more popular places and even the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers will likely get a few fish.

Deer hunters here in Massachusetts who are looking for an extra doe tag can start to apply for the bonus tag as follows: Zone 11 on Tuesday starting at 8 a.m., Zone 10 on Wednesday and zone 9, 13 and 14 on Thursday.

Drones might be used in the near future to help monitor illegal dumping at WMA’s. It has become a huge problem that must stop. People acting like pigs dump their crap at the WMA’s so much so that that one such place, the Muddy River WMA, had to use two dump trucks to clean it out.

The striped bass run has begun. The bass are getting fat on pogies. Some bass that came here at 15 pounds are now 25 pounds -- the food supply was that good. For the next four weeks the bass will continue to feed heavy but will be in be schools. Now is the time to head to your favorite spot and catch the big one.

Bluefish have managed to find their way up into Boston Harbor but here too their numbers are starting to dwindle with the ocean temps dropping from 74 to 66 in just a week. This cool water running over their back sets off a light bulb for them to make a run for it.

The South Cape is alive right now with bluefish to 18 pounds. These are slammers and will be here 2-3 more weeks while the water stays at 70 and then they run for New Jersey.

Bill Biswanger’s email is bboutdoor1@aol.com

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