Monday, January 9, 2023

Attention Ruffed Grouse Hunters – Watch out for Spruce Grouse

Ruffed grouse and spruce grouse identification

Ruffed grouse hunters are reminded to positively identify their quarry before shooting. The Northern Zone, specifically Wildlife Management Units 5C, 5F, 6F, and 6J, is also home to the spruce grouse. The spruce grouse is a state-endangered species and is not legal to hunt. Loss of a spruce grouse, particularly a female spruce grouse, could be a significant setback for a small local population.

Spruce grouse occur in lowland conifer forests in the Adirondacks. During the fall, spruce grouse frequently make their way to roads to eat gravel and occasionally travel into upland hardwood forests where ruffed grouse occur. Small game hunters in the Adirondack region must be able to distinguish between these species so that spruce grouse are not shot by mistake. For tips on how to discern the two species, view the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or the Ruffed Grouse Hunting Information page on DEC’s website.

DEC is looking for ruffed grouse hunters to submit feathers from harvested birds in order to assess recruitment (number of young produced per adult female grouse) for different parts of the state. Interested hunters should visit the Ruffed Grouse Hunting Information page on DEC’s website.

Photo at top provided by the NYS DEC.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

17 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    Back in the 1980s, while attending SUNY Plattsburgh, I used to hunt deer around Taylor Pond. We kept kicking up gray-ish colored grouse and thought they were a “gray” partridge. We later learned that they likely were spruce grouse. Can’t recall seeing anything like that while hunting in the Adirondacks since.

  2. JohnL says:

    Mostly I see a brown/grey blur of wings when I flush a grouse in the woods. Very seldom do I see enough to make a comparison with the relatively similar spruce grouse, especially not in the split second that they’re visible at all. Maybe if they were hunted in open fields, but not in the habitat that I typically find them. Having said that, I don’t believe I’ve ever shot a spruce grouse and certainly hope they aren’t hunted to extinction by accident.

    • Boreas says:


      One thing that helps is, that if possible, Spruce Grouse are less likely to flush when approached. More often than not, they will just freeze or mill about and walk away – at least from a human. They tend to be quite tame around people. They would probably flush from a dog. Plus, many hunters wouldn’t hunt in their preferred habitat.

      • JohnL says:

        Right Boreas. Moreover, even ruffed grouse are sometimes reluctant to flush as you walk up on them. A trick my father taught me was to make a lot of noise and then just stop suddenly and wait silently. After a few seconds or minutes of silence, grouse in the immediate vicinity get nervous and will flush suddenly. It’s worked on many occasions for me. R. grouse has always been my favorite upland bird. A walk in the New York woods in the fall looking for Bonasa umbellus is the best that hunting gets.

        • Boreas says:


          That was the ONLY way that worked for me! Any other time they flushed I was straddling a log or removing a branch from my face.

      • CommunityGuy says:

        About five years ago while walking on a beautiful park boardwalk in Hamilton County, I spent a good 30+ minutes with three Spruce Grouse within ten feet of me. We conversed quietly. They were charming.

        It was a memorable afternoon.

    • Habitatman says:

      My thoughts exactly JohnL to quote You: “Very seldom do I see enough to make a comparison with the relatively similar spruce grouse, especially not in the split second that they’re visible at all.” That being said, I no longer hunt but hike frequently on our C. easement trails. Occasionally a grouse will not scare but hike along with me from a short distance away. Fleeting as it is, I sense we’re both enjoying the brief encounter together.

  3. Joe Cedar says:

    Hiking in the White Mountains last fall I twice encountered spruce grouse on the trail, once at about 3200 feet and another time at about 4200 feet. The second time a cock was protecting two hens and spread his tail like a turkey when I tried to pass. I don’t understand why DEC says they only are in the lowland Adirondack forests.

    • Boreas says:


      Where Spruce Grouse still exist, they do have a preferred habitat and food type. That being said, where they are found in the Whites is not necessarily where they are found in the ADKs. I have only seen them in lowlands in the ADKs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t move higher in search of mates or food. Many species move seasonally as food sources and snow cover change. But in the ADKs, their preferred breeding habitat seems to be lowland spruce forests.

  4. Beverly Sullivan says:

    All grouses are endangered. Please stop hunting them

    • Dan Ladd says:

      Ruffed grouse are not endangered, if they were there would not be a hunting season. There are fewer of them in the Adirondacks because their habitat is declining. They thrive in new-growth forest, not mature forest like much of the Forest Preserve. In areas where logging is prevalent, and habitat managed for them, they are more numerous.

  5. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “There are fewer of them in the Adirondacks because their habitat is declining.”

    > Habitat loss is, and has been, a major contributor to loss of species, including bees and butterflies and who knows what other species are disappearing as we don’t see them in the first place, never mind being aware that they’re even disappearing as we bulldoze over them!

    There was a report in the NY Times November 29 about bats spreading diseases to horses on farms due to habitat loss. The bats are “driven into human-dominated habitats like farms where food is readily available but may be of poorer quality….”

    The story goes on to say: “We’re transforming the planet in this way where we’re driving animals to be really at the brink – at the edge of their capacity to cope, and this is creating stresses that are also more likely to drive pathogens into human populations.” (Think Covid!)

    “The idea that deforestation can increase the risk of disease spillover is not a new one, and scientist have repeatedly documented connections between forest fragmentation and outbreaks of diseases as varied as Ebola, malaria, and Lyme…..”
    The New York State Forest Commission Reports in the late 1800’s were revealing the same.

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “All grouses are endangered.”

    > All life on this planet is endangered! Why do you think the push to get to Mars! The powers that be know we’re doomed, they know there’s no hope for the human race, or no hope for all life for that matter, which ‘is’ due to the human race. And so they got together and put forth the query, “What to do?” Cool heads prevailed and came up with, “Mars! We shall get ourselves to the red planet and start anew so as to continue this great experiment which is failing.”

    They know they are crunched for time and so the ‘Mars Exploration Program’ was begun to explore habitability on our sister planet. There are doubts floating around the rooms where these meets are held to investigate, by argument or reason, whether there is time enough to make it to Mars before the catastrophic failure arrives here on earth. Me! I’m having my doubts! Especially so now what with this most recent election cycle where the one camp, who recently gained control (slim though their margins may be), and who are known for their hostilities towards all things factual, environmental, science, the greater good… sure to speed things up. We’re to the point where it don’t take much to tip the scale towards where reversal is impossible.

    • Interesting that the people who seem to quack the most about the environment, are some of the biggest offenders of it’s destruction! Living in giant mansions (or two, or three), flying in private jets, sailing on personal yachts the size of the Queen Mary! They have a word for people like this. HYPOCRITES !!!! Unless you are living like the native Americans did hundreds of years ago, you ALL are the problem! (myself included)

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Unless you are living like the native Americans did hundreds of years ago, you ALL are the problem! (myself included)

    >None of us live like the Native Americans did, and yes we are all part of the problem. The difference is, some of us have a conscience and so act accordingly, we do things which have less of an impact. The biggest offenders are not the ones who ‘quack the most’ I assure you. The ones who quack the most are those who are concerned, and if they weren’t there’d be no quacking t’all!

  8. Boreas says:

    My twisted sense of humor wonders how many “unexplained” human deaths in the forest are due to a ruffed grouse flushing at one’s feet. Or at least unreported sphincter failures.

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