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Discussion Starter #1
I was going to post this in the Grouse Hunt thread, but didn't want to hi-jack it.

I have few questions about finding grouse in the snow.
The Country Nate quote came from the Grouse Hunt thread.

Country Nate said:
In my opinion, the birds have been tough to find since we had that big snow aroumd Christmas. Good luck.
Is that because they sit tight in their snow roost and the dogs having a tough time picking up their scent?

One more question; Is it worth working an area twice, by turning around and going back thru the cover in the opposite direction??

Angus & I are planning (depending on weather)a trip to Tioga Co. this Saturday and I'll take all the help I can get.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
Lost
 

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Tough for many reasons, is my take. 1) just tough walking and tough running for dogs when they are up to their chest in soft snow or running in snow with layers of ice (tough on pads) 2) birds could be snow roosted, this doesn't mean you and your dogs can't find them though, normally there would be some sort of "entry hole" into the roost unless they flew in and then it snowed on top of that 3) birds high up in conifers/evergreens not getting down on deep snow ground much, i.e. they can flutter down to saplings and eat buds, then right back up to the conifer. I think that would be the main reasons...

Of course if the snow is hard enough or there are some bare spots they will get down on ground. You'll see tracks and this can help somewhat.

With regards to Tioga, hopefully you can get someplace meaningful to actually hunt. It can be tricky with deep snow, packed ice, etc. on the roads. Forest roads generally have no winter maintenance. I have a buddy with a cabin on the state forest land and he has a tough time getting in in winter unless he calls the township supervisor and have them specifically plow the 2-3 miles back to his camp. And he had/has trucks and SUV's with 4 wheel drive. His camp is on the flatland (bottom of mountain) so it's even trickier if you are doing any climbing/hills through the mountains. Don't want to get stuck out there alone, no cell access, etc. in 20 degree temps. Might not be much fun.

I envy you for getting out this weekend though, wish I could!
 

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My.$02

When snow is falling or freshly fallen, say 8" or more, if birds are roosted in it they do sit tight much like woodcock. You'd think it'd be easy for dogs, but when just their head and back are exposed I think they give off little scent. If the dogs hit them though they tend to sit tight. Once crusted over they seem to congregate in long-needled pines, or underneath them. Bird's are tough to find when they're 30' up a tree. I think up north has several layers of snow from various storms, and should make every aspect of the hunt more difficult.

Snow generally does not deter me, but if the snow is crusted over enough that you notice it is to any degree we sit it out. We went out last Saturday and I sat in the truck for a half hour for the sun to melt an 1/8" layer of crust. (it got up to the low 40's)

Pickup a jar of Musher's Secret, or substitute petroleum jelly as it's better than nothing. It won't be above freezing and your dog WILL get ice balls in it's toes.
 

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Tougher because:
1. Harder for man and dog to negotiate, end up covering much less ground than in fall.
2. Many birds are snow roosted or in the pines. I feel that the dogs have a tough time scenting a snow roosted bird...
3. Grouse numbers are alot less than when hunting in the fall due to natural predation.
4. Grouse are in survival mode. They spend much less time out feeding than in the fall. They can feed on buds quickly and return to snow roost or pines.

The only decent days I have had in the winter season were on good "thaw" days. Last Sat was good...but still didn't move near the numbers of birds that I would in the fall.

G
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the info and tips.

I experienced or willow did the ice balls when angus and I were up north a few weeks ago. The snow was nice and fluffy, no crust. We did find quite a few snow roosts filled with grouse poop. (Angus's pup Willie even found one with a grouse in it.
)

I have her feathers trimmed up and will try and find some Musher's Secret.

Thanks again guys
 

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Some good questions Lost.

When I used to hunt grouse it was always during the early season. This is the first late season I've hunted and it is a new experience. Early season grouse are night and day from late season grouse from what I've seen this season.
 

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Just watch the icy crusty snow, it will tear up the dogs feet and Ice can really hurt them (blow an acl). I only hunt fresh fluffy snow now, I learned my lesson.
 

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Along these lines of grouse in the snow, in this type of weather/time of year, are cuts that typically hold grouse still a good place to be? Would one be better off hunting younger pines?
 

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I dont know why for sure but cant argue with any of the reason posted above. When snow is 12"+ I've always had a heck of a time finding birds. Its like they vanished, although I know they are still there.

The snow must be completely different scenting conditions for the dogs too. My dog was great between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then we had that big snow, and he was having a really tough time pinpointing the birds. I walked up on one unproductive after another, after another.


Most of the birds we are finding now are in the high stem density stuff.
 

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I THINK THE SAYING GROUSE ARE WHERE THEY ARE ALWAYS HOLDS TRUE. A COUPLE WEEKS BACK I HUNTED IN DEEP SNOW STRICTLY PINES THAT ALWAYS HOLD BIRDS . I DIDN'T MOVE A BIRD THAT DAY AND RAN OUT OF STEAM BEFORE FINDING ANY. THE NEXT WEEK STILL 4 PLUS INCHES WE FOUND THE MOTHER LOAD OF GROUSE ALL IN THE SAME AREA. THEY WERE ALL IN A RECENT SELECT CUT ALMOST CLEARCUT WITH LARGE TREES ALL LAYING ON THE GROUND AND FULL OF SMALL LAUREL THEY WERE HIDING ALL IN THE DOWN TREES NEXT TO AND UNDER THE BIG LOGS THEY WOULD NOT FLUSH UNTIL ALMOST STEPPED ON. THIS PAST WEEK WITH A DUSTING OF FRESH SNOW WE HUNTED A ROW OF PINES FIRST AND PUT UP SEVERAL THEN WE HUNTED AN THICK AUTUMN OLIVE/YOUNG PINE HILLSIDE AND THERE WAS FRESH TRACKS EVERYWHERE. THESE BIRDS WOULD RUN AHEAD OF YOU TO THE COVER AND KEEP RUNNING LIKE A PHEASANT.ALL WE EVER DO IS MAKE A GOOD PLAN FROM PAST YEARS THEN MAKE ADJUSTMENTS IF WE ARE NOT INTO THEM. I HAVE FOUND THAT THEY ARE REALLY BUNCHED UP THIS LAST SEASON . GOOD LUCK
 

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Another reason winter hunting is harder... Grouse bunch up in the winter... so if you don't find the bunch you may not find any...

G
 

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LostintheUplands said:
Is that because they sit tight in their snow roost and the dogs having a tough time picking up their scent?
Before the snow flies, grouse seem to primarily eat food found on the ground. Once the snow comes, they feed primarily on the buds of trees and don't spend as much time walking around leaving scent for the dog to find. In deep fluffy snow, if the birds are on the ground at all, they are most likely snow roosted. Both dogs and people have a tough time finding them. It's a real a rush when you do find them since they typically flush between your feet covering you with snow.

As far as numbers go, I hunted 6 days in the middle season (between deer season and Christmas) and averaged 4.22 flushes per hour. The first 6 days that I hunted after Christmas (with 12 - 18" of snow) I averaged 1.02 birds per hour. My numbers from the last few times out, with 1-3" of snow match the early season average of 3.0 flushes per hour.

All that said, my absolute favorite time to hunt is in 4" of fresh snow. Even though the birds aren't out moving, Jackson seems to be able to find them and they hold extremely well.

LostintheUplands said:
One more question; Is it worth working an area twice, by turning around and going back thru the cover in the opposite direction??
Though I have found snow roosted birds in an area that we had already went through, in my opinion your time would be better spent hunting a different area.

LostintheUplands said:
Angus & I are planning (depending on weather)a trip to Tioga Co. this Saturday and I'll take all the help I can get.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
Lost
You won't shoot any birds sitting at home in front of the fire. Good luck this weekend, we'll want to hear a full report and hopefully see pics on Monday.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply.

It looks like the weather is going to cooperate (sort of), so we’ll be heading out at 0darkthirty Saturday morning.

I’ll keep you posted.

Lost
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The last day of grouse season ended with no grouse bagged and I’ll use all of the above posted reasons for the empty game bag.


I picked up Angus & Willie at 6am and at 18° and after a 3+hr drive north we stepped out the truck to a balmy 12°.

Snow was not too bad of an issue with only a fresh 3-4” of snow from Friday’s storm. It was great for tracking, but it was enough to form snow/ice balls on Willow & Willie’s paws.

We cut some tracks that ended with wing tip impressions in the snow. The grouse were running out in front of the dogs.

Without Musher’s secret we decided to take LycoSetter’s advice and head into town in search of Vaseline. Angus & I had good laugh about what the girl behind the counter would think about two dudes walking in and asking for Vaseline.

Thanks Lyco, the Vaseline did the trick, the ice balls easily pulled off their paws.

I didn’t take a lot of pics, mainly because I couldn’t feel my fingers, but I got a few.

The obligatory pic of trying to get two setters to pose



windsheild scenery shot


Grouse landing site






My grouse season will continue until the spring hatch, just without my 20ga. I have a lot of areas I want to recon in preparation for the fall.

It’s been a great season and HPA has introduced me to some new likeminded friends.

Thanks guys for all of your advice.
 

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LostintheUplands said:
Without Musher’s secret we decided to take LycoSetter’s advice and head into town in search of Vaseline. Angus & I had good laugh about what the girl behind the counter would think about two dudes walking in and asking for Vaseline.

Thanks Lyco, the Vaseline did the trick, the ice balls easily pulled off their paws.
That had me howling... You were probably okay unless Angus said something to the effect of "Oh, I think my Willie is gonna like this."

Iceballs can tend to shut a dog down very fast. Musher's Secret is more of a soft wax, and probably stands less of a chance of staining car seats, your pants, or wherever else they put their pads.


LostintheUplands said:
windsheild scenery shot

I know that stretch, don't head up that way much but that's a good direction to head.
 

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I had a springer that used to get ice clumps on his paws and under his belly and on the long sections of fur on the back of his legs. For the paws I trimmed the fur very short with small scissors. For the belly and around the legs I used larger scissors. One trimming seemed to pretty much last throughout the season. This also reduced burr problems. Bring the scissors with you and when ice clumps develop just cut the fur short where they form.
 
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