CONCORD — The hunting season for ruffed grouse—New Hampshire’s most sought-after upland game bird—started October 1 and runs through December 31. Woodcock season also opens October 1 and concludes November 14.The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Small Game Project Leader Karen Bordeau notes that better than 64% of small game hunting effort in New Hampshire targets ruffed grouse, and that over half of that effort takes place in the North Country.
Hunter effort and observations are derived from our Small Game Hunter Survey. “Observation rates in 2020 indicate that grouse continue to be most abundant in the northern part of the state,” said Bordeau. “In 2020, we received 143 surveys, and small game hunters with the aid of a dog saw 1.34 grouse per hour of hunting.” Spring roadside drumming counts are used to assess regional trends in grouse breeding populations. Highest grouse densities are in the North Region. In the spring of 2021, the number of drumming events heard per stop increased slightly in the North and Southeast Regions, and decreased in the White Mountains, Central, and the Southwest regions of the state. “These numbers routinely rise and fall and cold temperatures during the morning of the surveys may have delayed grouse drumming during the survey period,” said Bordeau. “Long-term trends can be viewed in the 2020/2021 Small Game Summary Report.”
The 2021 grouse season is expected to be similar to last year with a dry spring in 2021 leading to strong reproduction. Brood size appears to be larger than average this year as reported by sportsman and biologists alike. Fall mast crops will determine where grouse will be in the field, and finding pockets of available food that grouse are focusing on will be helpful to hunter success.
Woodcock season is expected to be similar to last year. Woodcock singing ground survey routes provide an index to the overall abundance of resident singing males and population trends. In 2021, woodcock density patterns varied throughout the state. The number of woodcock heard per stop increased in the White Mountain region, decrease in the North, Central, and Southwest regions, and remained the same in the Southeast regions this spring. Long-term trends are depicted in the 2020/2021 Small Game Hunter Summary Report.
The highest number of woodcock heard per route were in the North, Southwest, and White Mountain regions, where 5.6, 3.3, and 3.2 birds per route were heard, respectively. Statewide, Department counts averaged 3.3 birds per route.
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, and successful grouse hunters are encouraged to take part in New Hampshire’s Wing and Tail Survey. Those interested in participating can get small game survey packets by calling Fish and Game at 603-271-2461, and grouse wing and tail packets can be picked up from participating locations listed at http://www.huntnh.com/surveys/ruffed-grouse.html. 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.
Long-term and regional trends for grouse and woodcock can be view in the 2019/2020 Small Game Summary Report which depicts detailed graphs by region and statewide. The report can be viewed at www.huntnh.com/hunting/publications.html.