Andy Timmins: (603) 271-1742
Jacob DeBow: (603) 788-3164
September 19, 2023
Concord, NH – The hunting season for ruffed grouse—New Hampshire’s most sought-after upland game bird—starts October 1 and runs through December 31. Woodcock season opens October 1 and concludes November 14. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Game Program Supervisor, Andy Timmins, notes that the majority (87%) of small game hunter effort in New Hampshire targets these upland game birds, including 70% and 17% for ruffed grouse and woodcock, respectively. Over half of that effort takes place in the North Country.
Hunter effort and field observations are collected through the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Small Game Hunter Survey. “Observation rates in 2022 indicate that grouse continue to be most abundant in the northern part of the state,” said Timmins. Spring roadside drumming counts serve as an index to regional grouse breeding populations. Highest grouse densities are located in the North Region. In spring of 2023, the number of drumming events heard per stop decreased in the North and White Mountains Regions, and remained stable in the Central, Southwest, and Southeast Regions. “These numbers routinely rise and fall and are impacted by many variables, with the most notable being annual hatching success and the survival of young,” said Timmins. “Spring and summer weather conditions the previous year significantly influences grouse abundance and the overall adult population in any given year.” Long-term trends can be viewed in the 2022/2023 New Hampshire Small Game Summary Report.
The 2023 grouse season is expected to be unlike last year, which featured a dry spring leading to above average reproduction in 2022. Brood size appears to be below average this year due to an excessively wet spring and summer. Fall mast crops will determine where the grouse can be found in the field, and locating pockets of available food such as apples, cranberries, and mushrooms, which the grouse will be focused on, will be helpful to hunter success.
Woodcock season is expected to be similar to last year. Woodcock singing ground survey routes provide an index to the overall abundance of resident singing males and population trends. In 2023, singing ground survey results varied by region, but the number of woodcock heard per stop increased in northern areas of the state, which represents prime woodcock habitat. “Woodcock nest and then hatch their eggs earlier than grouse do so they were able to take advantage of the very warm and dry conditions during May,” said Timmins. “As a result, woodcock broods have been plentiful this summer.” Long-term trends are identified in the 2022/2023 New Hampshire Small Game Hunter Summary Report.
Woodcock hunters are reminded that they need a free National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification number in order to legally hunt for woodcock.
All small game hunters are encouraged to take part in NH Fish and Game’s annual small game survey, and successful grouse hunters are encouraged to take part in New Hampshire’s Wing and Tail Survey. Those interested in participating can get small game survey packets by calling Fish and Game at (603) 271-2461, and grouse wing and tail packets can be picked up from participating locations listed at www.wildlife.nh.gov/hunting-nh/small-game-and-upland-bird-hunting/ruffed-grouse-wing-and-tail-survey. These surveys provide valuable insight into the status of grouse and other small game species in New Hampshire. As an incentive to participate these surveys, Ruger Arms and The Ruffed Grouse Society have again generously agreed to provide a firearm to a randomly selected participant in each of these surveys.
Long-term and regional trends for grouse and woodcock can be viewed in the 2021/2022 Small Game Summary Report which depicts detailed graphs by region and statewide. View the report by visiting www.wildlife.nh.gov/hunting-nh/small-game-and-upland-bird-hunting/small-game-survey.