With the constant stream of 90 degree days it is tough to believe that hunting season is just around the corner. Utah’s general big game archery season starts this weekend while the same season is still a couple weeks away in Idaho. Game bird seasons for grouse and dove also open soon. Dove season starts on Sept. 1 in Idaho and Utah. Grouse season starts on Sept. 1 in Utah, but is a couple days earlier in Idaho (August 30).
Hunters should have many opportunities to be successful this fall. Last winter was mild and the spring was sufficiently wet to promote vegetative growth that provided cover during the summer and food in the fall. In June I don’t know if we had a cloudy day. These conditions in combination should add up to high overwinter survival of adult animals and successful production of young.
Over the last couple weeks I have seen several does with twins as well as several female grouse and turkeys with decent size clutches. If the warm weather sticks around we may even have a few good weeks of dove hunting before these birds head south.
The lack of rain during June, July and August suggests that until the weather pattern changes, the best places to hunt big game will be around water. Many hunters already know this as many of the water holes I have visited recently have had trail cameras on them. So if you’re going to be successful hunting near water, you’ll need to find water that is at least a mile from the road or overlooked by other hunters. Grouse will also be around water but usually there is enough dew on the undergrowth to keep groups of these birds widely scattered.
Grouse season is a great time of year for you and your dog to get in shape. The mountainous terrain in which these birds live gives a hunter many chances to gain and lose elevation. If you have a local rifle tag for deer or elk, these hikes give you the opportunity to scout new territory. My favorite side benefit of grouse hunting is there are few game animals my family likes to eat more than these birds.
I do wish the couple days between when the seasons opened were the only differences in Utah’s and Idaho’s forest grouse season, but it isn’t. My reading of the Idaho regulations suggest forest grouse can be harvested with sticks, stones, sling shots, bows, shotguns and other firearms. In Utah the weapons of choice are bows and shotguns, but it appears that handguns large enough to shoot a half ounce load of pellets are also permitted. In Idaho you can’t use crossbow but in Utah you can. Not that these differences are a big issue, but it seems both states should allow all reasonable methods as long as a person has a license.
Hunting grouse in the heat of September usually means being afield in the morning while it is still cool. Hunting uphill in the morning is a good strategy as cold air drainage means the wind will be blowing downhill into the dog’s nose. If you don’t have a dog it is still helpful to work your way up hills as flushed birds often will often fly downhill and over your head presenting a great shot.
While I rarely hunt with more than one other person, if you hunt these birds without a dog it is best to bring several of your buddies. Doing so increase the likelihood one of the hunters will get close enough to panic a grouse into flight. If you flush a dusky grouse they often will settle in the nearest tree branch. If it is an evergreen, they can take a while to locate. In contrast, ruffed grouse will often fly ahead forty or fifty yards and land on the ground. So for these birds it is always good to hunt in the general direction of where these birds flew as you might be able to flush them again. Regardless of the species of grouse, be ready for delayed flushes that can occur if you wander into a group that includes this year’s fledglings.
The next few months are my favorite time of the year as hunting gives me the excuse to head to the forest, fields or marshlands with friends and family. I hope this time of year brings you and your family many opportunities to get outdoors.