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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I found a bunch of Dusky grouse last spring while shed hunting in an area that was about 2000' lower than where I usually see them in the summer and fall. I have been back this fall to find no sign of them. I figure when the snow gets deep they move, however, based on what I have read that may not be the case. Do dusky grouse have winter areas and if they do, when do they move to them? Do you think they are in this area year round and I just need to keep searching?
 

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Depends on the cover. Aspen or low brush, yes they have to move when the snow piles up. Thick mature pine's where snow doesn't build up as much below, they will hang out all winter there... feeding on squirrel stores or whatever they can find.

-DallanC
 

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I did a little research on this because the question caught my interest. Every article I found in a short amount of times says that dusky grouse move up in elevation in the winter and feed almost solely on pine nuts and pine needles spending most the winter in the trees.

I hunt grouse occasionally but now I think I won’t even try after the big game hunts end. I learned something new today!!


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Many years ago when I was working out of Price the phone line to Tucker and Soldier Summit went down. We took the snowcat up on top of the hill directly south of Soldier Summet to look for the problem.

Up on top along the edge of the pines we ran into around 50 or so dusky grouse. I jumped out of the snowcat only to find that there was close to 10 feet of snow under me.

This was in January

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They have a reverse migration pattern, you’ll find them higher as winter progresses and they feed on conifer needles
 

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I run into grouse all winter in. Multiple feet of snow aren't an issue. They bury into the snow several inches deep and come flying out like a pheasant holding tight under your feet. Scares the crap out of me when I'm slope cutting. The sound alone makes you think you've triggered a deep slab, then you get popped in the face by their wings.
 

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I run into grouse all winter in. Multiple feet of snow aren't an issue. They bury into the snow several inches deep and come flying out like a pheasant holding tight under your feet. Scares the crap out of me when I'm slope cutting. The sound alone makes you think you've triggered a deep slab, then you get popped in the face by their wings.
For sure! Had them blow up in my face several times while skiing. Once in awhile you get lucky and see their tracks / wing marks in the snow.
 

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I did a little research on this because the question caught my interest. Every article I found in a short amount of times says that dusky grouse move up in elevation in the winter and feed almost solely on pine nuts and pine needles spending most the winter in the trees.

I hunt grouse occasionally but now I think I won’t even try after the big game hunts end. I learned something new today!!


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I read up on this several years ago and got the same information.
I always wondered why everyone calls them PINE hens.
:unsure:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the info, it matches the stuff I have read. Is it possible they dropped in elevation for breeding season? I ran onto them around end of march to mid April in an area with mostly oak brush and a few pines with no snow left. I will head up again this week and try to find them again, but it sounds like I will be very fortunate to find them.
 

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Thanks for the info, it matches the stuff I have read. Is it possible they dropped in elevation for breeding season? I ran onto them around end of march to mid April in an area with mostly oak brush and a few pines with no snow left. I will head up again this week and try to find them again, but it sounds like I will be very fortunate to find them.
Not much has changed since elk muzzy season and I was still running into ruffed grouse at 9k in the pines and Aspen.
 

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If I didn't have an infant this would be a great year to tear up a late October to late November grouse hunt. I didn't see any in October but the high country is wide open down here when I'd normally be knee deep in crusty snow. My assumption is they are up eating needles by now as nothing else really exist for forage at this point.
 

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Is it possible they dropped in elevation for breeding season? I ran onto them around end of march to mid April in an area with mostly oak brush and a few pines with no snow left.
I've had the same observation--I've seen them strutting and courting very low in sage brush and scrub oak in the Spring when I was out hunting turkeys.
 

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Thanks for the info, it matches the stuff I have read. Is it possible they dropped in elevation for breeding season? I ran onto them around end of march to mid April in an area with mostly oak brush and a few pines with no snow left. I will head up again this week and try to find them again, but it sounds like I will be very fortunate to find them.
I've read many times that they like to nest in the high elevation sagebrush which is definitely lower elevation that the spruce thickets they spend the winter in .
 

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I've read many times that they like to nest in the high elevation sagebrush which is definitely lower elevation that the spruce thickets they spend the winter in .
Uhhh that statement seems odd... where I hunt, well above the tree line there's lots and lots of sage. Its a good place to run a dog in sept for grouse.

-DallanC
 

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Uhhh that statement seems odd... where I hunt, well above the tree line there's lots and lots of sage. Its a good place to run a dog in sept for grouse.


When you picture winter wildlife migrations, you probably see wildlife moving away from heavy snow and cold temperatures. Birds and dragonflies head south for the winter. Elk and mule deer move from high to low elevations.
But dusky grouse do the reverse. They actually migrate to high altitudes and heavy snows.
These grouse are found in the Rocky Mountains and western Canada. In the summer, they feed on forbs and insects in low elevation foothills. As winter approaches, they start heading high up into the mountains.
There, they’ll live in the boughs of pine trees. And while their summer diet is diverse, in winter they’ll exclusively dine on pine and fir needles (and only the outer two-thirds of the needles).
 

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My comment was in reference to "high elevation sagebrush" being "definitely lower elevation than the spruce thickets". I've not found that to be true. Sage in most places exists well above the tree lines.

-DallanC
 
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