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This is my third year hunting grouse pretty seriously. Due to time constraints I'm limited to day trips and try to keep one way travel time to about two hours, which puts me in 3D and 4C. This year I flushed about half the grouse I did in the two previous years. I hunt alone for the most part and without a dog, so I don't expect to see a lot of birds.
Now that the season is over I'm curious if those who hunt 3D and 4C experienced the lower rates as I did this year or was I just hunting unproductive covers.
 

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I've been hunting grouse for three years now. I live and hunt the majority of the time in 3D. My flush rate was higher per hour three years ago than the past two, however each year I flush more birds than the year before. Just put in more time to find them.

Its tough around here that's for sure. Even when you're in decent cover there are just not that many birds. I consider the day a good one if I even see a bird.

I had planned on starting a thread about what others felt was possibly the problem in this area but this thread will work as good as any. My feeling is that even the areas that have been cut are small and spaced greatly from one and other. The other problem I feel is there is a lack of diversity in the cuts, I don't see a good mix of wintering cover or food within the cuts. I'm the farthest thing in the world from an expert and would like the opinion of some more seasoned guys that have been to this area.
 

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I hunt the area and I alway feel the lower flush rate has something to do with the poor quality soil. The quality of the cover that grows is poor even in young regrowth. Most of the area is either rocky or swamps, I wonder if the top soil was always so poor or if it eroded due old poor forest management. I would be interested in hearing a more educated opinion on the matter.
 

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Soil quality is part of the problem in that part of the state. There is very little topsoil on many of the ridges, it was ripped away many thousands of years ago when glaciers pushed south to the Chesapeake Bay. That is why you'll find some of the best farming below the ridges, they were the recipients of the glaciated ridges.

With the poor soils, trees grow very slowly, maybe half the rate that can be found on good soils. Along with that there is less variety of habitat growing on the ridges. As forestry practice evolve, the foresters have new strategies for improving the forest. If you look around you'll find failed cuts that grew up predominately in birch, good for a couple years but useless for most wildlife after that. Timber practices now revolve around doing several cuts, years apart in one area as this helps to promote oaks and other trees that are able to compete when there is less than full sunlight on the forest floor. Cutting will also take place after there has been a good acorn drop. Fire is also being used extensively in areas to help remove leaf litter in the spring to help young sprouts grow, or later in summer when they can get a hotter fire the help kill of invasive species. Fire is excellent at killing off maple and birch, allowing more oaks to grow.

The other problem mentioned was the distance between good grouse habitat. However, we are entering the next major timber stage in the state, at least on public lands. Trees are maturing and ready to cut. As this happens you'll see cutting planned where different stages of growth will be juxstaposed allowing freer movement in and out of cover for feeding and protection. On glaciated ridges this will happen more slowly to make sure they dont lose food sources to far from cover.

That being said, before moving six years ago, I hunted extensively in 4C with good flush rates. I had the opportunity of hunting 4C in November, public land, and found some of the best grouse habitat that you'll find anywhere in the state; the grouse were there in excellent numbers.
 

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LostAgain said:
Soil quality is part of the problem in that part of the state. There is very little topsoil on many of the ridges, it was ripped away many thousands of years ago when glaciers pushed south to the Chesapeake Bay. That is why you'll find some of the best farming below the ridges, they were the recipients of the glaciated ridges.

With the poor soils, trees grow very slowly, maybe half the rate that can be found on good soils. Along with that there is less variety of habitat growing on the ridges. As forestry practice evolve, the foresters have new strategies for improving the forest. If you look around you'll find failed cuts that grew up predominately in birch, good for a couple years but useless for most wildlife after that. Timber practices now revolve around doing several cuts, years apart in one area as this helps to promote oaks and other trees that are able to compete when there is less than full sunlight on the forest floor. Cutting will also take place after there has been a good acorn drop. Fire is also being used extensively in areas to help remove leaf litter in the spring to help young sprouts grow, or later in summer when they can get a hotter fire the help kill of invasive species. Fire is excellent at killing off maple and birch, allowing more oaks to grow.

The other problem mentioned was the distance between good grouse habitat. However, we are entering the next major timber stage in the state, at least on public lands. Trees are maturing and ready to cut. As this happens you'll see cutting planned where different stages of growth will be juxstaposed allowing freer movement in and out of cover for feeding and protection. On glaciated ridges this will happen more slowly to make sure they dont lose food sources to far from cover.

That being said, before moving six years ago, I hunted extensively in 4C with good flush rates. I had the opportunity of hunting 4C in November, public land, and found some of the best grouse habitat that you'll find anywhere in the state; the grouse were there in excellent numbers.
Wow, great explanation. You sure know your stuff. Thanks for sharing that knowledge here.
 

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I hunt 3D and in a two day span I flushed over 10 on a piece of gamelands. It was quite a large area, but I think they are around, just not as willing to sit because of pressure. I noticed alot of guys walk the paths and easy access spots. Get in the hard to reach stuff and you will find them, what few are left.
 

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The images below are all from 4C from one end to the other, all on public lands, explanation with each one. 4C does have some good grouse hunting, if you are willing to put in the time and effort.


While this looks good with the two big cuts, they both regenerated in predominately birch with clean floors, not a grouse was found, although I did find a producing Chestnut tree. The smaller cut to the left was fenced, has some laurel in it and produced birds. Draw your own conclusions



This is still a young cut of over 100 acres. Take notice how there is mature timber left between the cuts. Wildlife can use the cuts for protection, but dont need to wander far to feed on oaks and other foods growing in the mature timber. The logging roads thru the covers were seeded with clover.



This shows two nice sized cuts of different ages. Take notice of the irregular shapes. Wildlife likes edges, this gives you more edge cover with the same amount of timber taken



This is an area with cuts from 3 to 25 years old. Cut A is a select cut of oak. The first cut took out 50% of the trees letting oaks take hold and grow. Growth there is excellent. Within a year they'll come back in and harvest more trees. At that time, the forester will determine if the the rest of the mature trees will be taken out with the next cutting, or if they still dont have the regeneration they want, if they'll do another cut in 10 years. Cut B was a failed cut, again all birch growing now. Unfortunately it wasnt fenced soon enough and all the good trees were eaten by the large deer herd at that time. Cut C is a series of block cuts about 25 years old. With poor soil these area are still producing birds as the cover hasnt fully advanced to pole timber. Again take notice, there is lots of edges and mature timber for feeding. In between, you have several other cuts of various ages. This is spread out over several miles and allows the grouse to move freely as needed for food and protection



This last image has covers maybe 4 miles from end to end. The cut on the left side is easy to see, was actually done in two years as two different cuts. The right side is interesting, as it sits between two ridges and some of the soil glaciated from the northern ridge was dropped in the valley. It has some good fertile area, spring seeps, wetland areas, along with bolder fields. A lot of it was cut 25 years ago, and while 50% is now in pole timber stage, the rest is in various stages of ES habitat. This has a great variety of trees along with an excellent trout stream down the middle. Some of the timber that was maturing has been recut already to keep the area in ES habitat. Between the two mentioned sections is maturing habitat that is now carefully being cut so they can get more ES habitat without losing the thermal cover in that area
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks to everyone who responded so far, a lot of good information. Sounds like I could have done better.

NickGSP - my season was similar to yours.

Shadowchaser - the majority of my time was spent in 3D. Your flush rate was better than I had in 2011 and 2012. Good job.

LostAgain - thanks for your very informative posts. Last weekend I went out to scout an area in 4C I had not yet hunted which looked promising. I can't go this weekend but I'll be looking to explore more areas in 4C in the following few weeks.
 

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Thanks Lost for taking the time to put your post together.
Not having someone to go to for questions about grouse and the habitat they live in, this is an invaluable education.


Thanks
 

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I just saw one puffed up strutting around two days ago. Funny little thing.
 
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