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2weightfavorite
11-03-2010, 10:40 PM
just out of curiosity I was wondering if any of you have ever seen a grouse in the Foothills WMA area in blount county? I've been hunting it for a couple years now, and have yet to flush a bird.. Am I wasting my time? Should I go over towards Chilhowie or Citico? I am quite determined to find somewhere to grouse hunt in east tenn. I dont expect the grouse hunhting we had in PA, but a few flushes here or there would be sweet!

old east tn boy
11-03-2010, 10:53 PM
Buddy am I ever right there with you! Annie, my five month old black Lab puppy, and I spent the better part of the day last Wednesday tramping around Royal Blue in the North Cumberland WMA in search of the elusive grouse and came up empty. We did flush a drake Wood duck. I have talked to several folks who declare that said bird has become scarce hereabouts but I and Ms. Annie are out to prove them wrong. If we can find the birds that is. Truly, I need to find some place in east TN where I can have a reasonably good expectation of finding them so that my enthusiasm as well as my dog's can remain high. I am not a person who wishes to have a daily limit on every outing, heck for that matter, I would be happy to have one in the bag at the end of the day. If you can help this poor old man and puppy out we sure would be indebted to you.

buzzmcmanus
11-04-2010, 06:57 AM
just out of curiosity I was wondering if any of you have ever seen a grouse in the Foothills WMA area in blount county?

I predator hunt there every winter and will see one every couple of years. Seems like the only place I ever see them is just inside the powerline cuts.

I was on the muzzleloader hunt in Citico this weekend and flushed one along Crowder Branch trail. Last year I was seeing some pretty regularly along the old Gold Cabin Branch Road. These places are in the bear reserve, so they have special regulations and times when you can have dogs in there, so check the hunting book.

Good luck

duckypaddler
11-04-2010, 07:59 AM
just out of curiosity I was wondering if any of you have ever seen a grouse in the Foothills WMA area in blount county? I've been hunting it for a couple years now, and have yet to flush a bird.. Am I wasting my time? Should I go over towards Chilhowie or Citico? I am quite determined to find somewhere to grouse hunt in east tenn. I dont expect the grouse hunhting we had in PA, but a few flushes here or there would be sweet!

Not really much help other to say I used to flush them all the time when hiking in the park say like 10-15 years ago. Now I might see 1 or 2 a year. Don't know if there numbers are down (part of natural cycle) or if there are other factors at play such as coyotes that are in much greater numbers now. Anyway that's my pennies worth.

2weightfavorite
11-04-2010, 08:16 AM
old east tenn boy, if you ever want someone to go with just give me a holler. I check this board daily, or you can e mail me, troutbum25@yahoo.com. My labs are too old to hunt now, but they were my partners in the woods for years. I tried royal blue last year and never saw any birds either.. I see birds all the time up around new found gap in the park, right along side of the road! Well, I am off to try my luck this morning, Ill post if I flush anything.

Bran
11-04-2010, 08:26 AM
Yep, let us know how you do. Good luck finding some, I've been the last 2 or 3 years since finding a Grouse. I think I'll stick with Quail this year, at least I don't have to drive so far from home to take a skunking!

TNBigBore
11-04-2010, 10:32 AM
A good bet would be to drive up the Cherohala Skyway to the highest point you can get in TN and walk the old logging roads and ridgetops. I had a friend in grad school at UT who did his Maters work on grouse and used to set traps for them in that area all the time. The traps consisted of a little section of 18" high chicken-wire fencing crossing a ridgetop. Either end of the fence lead to a rounded chamber with sticks over the top and the ends of the wire fence pointing inward. The grouse would encounter the fence while walking the ridgetop and simply walk down the fence and into the enclosure. They could not get out because the ends fo the wire were pointing inward, and they would not attempt to fly out through the sticks. It seems that grouse at not too bright after all. Anyway, there were good numbers of grouse in that area of the Cherokee National Forest in the 1990s and early 2000s at least.

ZachMatthews
11-04-2010, 11:40 AM
Something is happening to our southern grouse populations.

I flush a few a year while fishing in the mountains, but I have never yet seen one in Georgia. I mean to hunt them at some point this winter but the area where I typically see them gets its road access closed this time of year and it's too long to walk.

This survey by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is well worth the read:

http://www.ncwildlife.org/Wildlife_Species_Con/SmallGame/Documents/2008-09AvidGrouseSurveySummary.pdf

To sum up, going back to 1980, the average age of a grouse hunter has steadily climbed, while the average length of a hunting day has remained steady at right around four hours. In the early 1980s, 4-5 flushed birds in an outing was normal. In 1990 the average hunter was flushing 6-7 birds per outing, which was the peak year. Today, the average hunter flushes only 2-3 birds, and it's been steadily declining for 20 years. There was a precipitous drop-off in 2007 when numbers went from 4 birds/outing to 2 birds/outing.

Here's the money quote: "The highest harvest rate/hunt occurred in the early 1990’s: on an average hunt, one grouse was bagged. Beginning in the late 1990’s, it took on average 2 hunts to bag one grouse. This past year [i.e. 2008], it took 3 hunts to bring home one grouse."

As I said, something is going on. I think this may come back to the federal ban on logging, which Byron has mentioned before. I know the areas I fish heavily on national forest land are definitely maturing. In just ten years I've seen certain trails close up and places that were fields become low scrubby forest.

Grouse are a transitional species; like quail they thrive where man has been active. The good news about our maturing wilderness is that deer, turkey, and bear all benefit. Turkey hunting is thriving these days. But our upland options are looking worse and worse. I'm going on a planted pheasant hunt in Arkansas a couple times this winter just to have the chance to actually fire the shotgun in anger.

Zach

Jim Casada
11-04-2010, 01:54 PM
Zach--I have written a fair bit on grouse, hunted them a lot when I was younger, and retain a keen itnerest in them. Your usggestion that the cessation of logging, along with old farmsteads and other open areas growing up, lie at the heart of the issue. Grouse need those areas mixed with mature forest in order to thrive.
That being said, I still see them pretty regularly, especially when off trail, in the Park. It is a rare day indeed when either my brother or me walks to the place where our father grew up (it is well off trail) and don't flush grouse.
TNBigBore's advice is very sound, and that's because of the aforementioned habitat requirements. There are definitely grouse still to be found in the Cherokee and Nantahala NFs, but they are as plentiful as once was the case.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

2weightfavorite
11-04-2010, 03:02 PM
Well, I hunted for about 4 hours today over at the Foothills WMA. Walked up the mountain and over to the powerlines. The terrain looks great along those powerlines, head high pines, waist high scrub oak, mixed with thick grass and briars.. However, maybe what I think is ideal, isnt; because I did not flush a single bird. I walked through the thick briar patches, along the edges of the pines, and everywhere in between. I hunted on the steep slopes, and down in the wet bottoms, I really tried to cover it all. Perhaps I should abandon the powerlines and stick more to the woods??? I do however believe the hunting will be improving over there because they have relly started logging on that WMA hard. Lots of new roads cut, and lots of new clear cuts. So maybe in a years when those clearings grow up a bit it will produce more birds.

GrouseMan77
11-04-2010, 07:36 PM
First off, please be careful out there! Muzzleloader deer season opens on Saturday and Iím sure there are lots of itchy and inexperienced trigger fingers out there.

Grouse hunting in East Tennessee is TOUGH. There are birds around but there arenít that many. Achieving a daily limit (3) is dang near impossible. And if your goal is to put even a single bird in the bag each time out you need to find a hunting preserve to visit. There have been many days, like I had yesterday, that a hunt is nothing more than exercise for you and the dog. If you are going to seriously pursue the ruffed grouse in Southern Appalachia you might want to get used to that.

Plain and simple, to find birds takes a great amount time and effort. Unlike fishing, when you shoot a grouse it dies and you are not going to shoot it again the next day. Itís gone. I consider the E. TN grouse to be something very special and each time I am fortunate enough to take one I am very thankful.

In addition to the birds being a bit scarce, our terrain makes the shooting difficult. The cover that holds birds is usually steep and thick. If an area does support birds you can just about bet that they have been pressured by hunters before and the birds might hold or might not. Most of the flushes I recorded last year were wild. For example, I watched Hazel work an area 15 yards in front of me. She was very ďbirdieĒ. The bird blew out 25 yards past her. She did absolutely nothing wrong. I only recorded a flush that particular day. I was offered no shot. Was I discouraged? Nope, I knew that there was a bird there and would visit him again.

Our next visit:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4102/4800920554_48e84c0f6a.jpg

I recently got an email, from someone who didnít even bother to offer there name, requesting that I provide them with directions to a hunting spot that they could just drive up to and shoot a bird. Just kind of casual like they were asking about fishing Little River or something. If you donít hunt this might not sound all that crazy.

They didnít ask to tag along on a hunt or for information on a general area. They just wanted me to tell them where to go. Good luck to them, but Iíve spent way too much time and effort to hand over that kind of information. Like I said before, once shot itís gone. Iíd much rather give them my ATM card and PIN#.

Now, all of the WMAís and national forests areas that everyone has mentioned will more than likely hold birds. I have been to a few of the areas and have not heard of a couple more. 2wieightfav didnít flush any birds on his hunt today. Thatís not to say that they werenít there. Grouse move. They could have been over the ridge from him. Itís called hunting for a reason.

I hunted one area last year that a guy claimed held lots of birds. 1st hunt Ė nothing; 2nd hunt Ė tons of tracks in the snow but no birds found; 3rd hunt Ė no birds. I would have thought that he was crazy had I not seen what appeared to be multiple bird tracks on the gravel road right where he said theyíd be.

Donít give up on them but donít expect to flush them every time out. If a spot looks good (ďthick briar patches, along the edges of the pines, and everywhere in between. I hunted on the steep slopes, and down in the wet bottomsĒ Ė 2weightfavorite) give it a few hunts before writing it off.

2weightfav, if you are still interested in where the photos were taken from my recent post (in the photography section) just shoot me an email.

old east tn boy
11-05-2010, 09:24 AM
Grouseman, perhaps you are referring to me about the request for information, i.e. park here, walk this way I think is how I put it. Sure, I was being a bit casual about it for a reason. And yes, I did not ask to tag along on a hunt with you. During our exchange of emails there was no offer to. To my way of thinking it is polite to let someone offer rather than to ask. I think this demands an explanation.

My name is Dennis Rosenbalm. I live in Knoxville. I am almost 60 years old and a TVA retiree. I hunted quite a bit when I was a boy here in east TN. The places I hunted then are either now state parks or gated with no hunting signs posted everywhere. I was recently gifted with a Lab puppy and thought it would be a good reason to try grouse hunting again just to enjoy her out in the woods, which she loves. I started asking around to anyone who I thought might know where to go to find them. More often than not I came up empty.

TWRA returned a call a couple of weeks ago and said try Royal Blue. It's a pretty big place without a well defined boundary. My concern is getting onto private land unintentionally. I can assure you I am not out after anyone's secret hunting grounds.

Bran
11-05-2010, 09:50 AM
Dennis,
If I had a secret hunting ground, I would most likely keep it that way as scarce as Grouse are, but I don't. I've been going up and hunting the Jefferson and Washington Nat'l forests in VA (where I live) for several years now and have seen very few and killed a lot less. Mostly I hunt Bobwhite Quail and they're pretty scarce too but I enjoy it a little more than the Grouse hunting. My GSP has become quite the fishing girl the last few years which is a good thing since hunting is so tough:
http://i190.photobucket.com/albums/z9/bmidkiff_photos/sept001-1.jpg

Good luck finding a spot for your pup but the best thing to do right now is buy some pigeons and train, train, train, because if and when you do run across that rare wild bird you want her to be up on her game and have some idea of how to handle the situation. I still train and my dog is going 5 years old now, just keeps her keen. I built a little "rabbit hutch" type cage and buy a few Quail or Pigeons here and there and just try to suprise her on a normal walk down on our farm just to keep her hungry for the hunt. We spent a lot of time on yard work those first 16-18 months.
I manage my farm for Quail, I planted plots of switchgrass, lespedeza, and black-eyed susies in half acre increments. I also had the state come in and plant 45 acres of old tobacco fields back in Loblolly pines. After all of this I had a friend in NC to raise 300 Quail for me and I released them at 6 weeks old in coveys of 20 each. That's been 4 years ago and they've raised some, a lot have fallen to predation but I still have 20-30 calling around the farm in the spring and they seem to have gotten some foothold by now. It's a labor of love for sure, a lot of time and money have went into it. Best regards and again, good luck!!---Bran

old east tn boy
11-05-2010, 12:50 PM
Thanks for the encouraging words Bran. Ms. Annie loves the water and goes trout fishing with me often, except in the GSMNP which finds it necessary to virtually ban dogs from just about everywhere in the park.

I understand folks being protective of favorite places for whatever reasons be it bird, fish, deer, turkey, etc. That is why whenever I inquire I try to be respectful of this and speak only in generalities. A lot of older folks I've talked with no longer hunt since obviously it is a tougher thing to do as one matures. Thing is I've not met many younger folks who hunt, let alone bird hunt. The ones that do seem more interested in deer these days.

Ms. Annie and I will eventually find some birds. We will try different locales and enjoy our times together afield whether we have a lot or a little luck, makes no difference. I envy you your farm and quail. I raised quail when I was 14 down in Louisville, TN. Loved to hear them call. Can't remember how long it's been since I've heard ole mister Bob White. It's been awhile.

Bran
11-05-2010, 01:14 PM
It's a rare sound these days to hear a Bobwhite call indeed. Have you ever tried Woodcock? They should be coming through our Latitude about now any time and they're fun little fellas to chase. I know your dog would be interested pretty quick, my lab always liked to kick them up.

JoelO
11-05-2010, 05:41 PM
I wonder why they even have a 3 bird limit if they're so scarce. They reduce duck bag limits when their numbers fall off. They are beautiful birds...wish I was close enough to huntable area to give it a go.

GrouseMan77
11-05-2010, 06:15 PM
I wonder why they even have a 3 bird limit if they're so scarce. They reduce duck bag limits when their numbers fall off. They are beautiful birds...wish I was close enough to huntable area to give it a go.

I think because it really doesn't matter to TWRA. The funding for small game is nothing. They make more money off elk, turkey and deer.

GrouseMan77
11-05-2010, 08:06 PM
Dennis, I've got a couple of areas that I have wanted to check out for a while now. I have never hunted or even been to them but have heard a little talk. No idea if there are birds there but you are more than welcome to come with me when I go. It will probably be when deer season is closed.

There is a price to be paid. You need to post some pictures of Ms. Annie asap.

I've heard more than one bird hunter say that it takes birds to make a bird dog. Bran mentioned quail. There is a guy in Maryville who raises quail and sells them for around $4 per. If you have a place that you could release birds and work your dog that would be very beneficial to her progress. I'll include the quail guy's name and number in an email with my number. If anyone else is interested in the quail just shoot me an email. I don't think that he would mind me posting his contact info on here but I'd want to ask him first.

I'll shoot you an email with the numbers.

russ
11-09-2010, 03:56 PM
Dennis, I've got a couple of areas that I have wanted to check out for a while now. I have never hunted or even been to them but have heard a little talk. No idea if there are birds there but you are more than welcome to come with me when I go. It will probably be when deer season is closed.

There is a price to be paid. You need to post some pictures of Ms. Annie asap.

I've heard more than one bird hunter say that it takes birds to make a bird dog. Bran mentioned quail. There is a guy in Maryville who raises quail and sells them for around $4 per. If you have a place that you could release birds and work your dog that would be very beneficial to her progress. I'll include the quail guy's name and number in an email with my number. If anyone else is interested in the quail just shoot me an email. I don't think that he would mind me posting his contact info on here but I'd want to ask him first.

I'll shoot you an email with the numbers.

I know that man. His birds are flight pen raised and fly hard! I've released some of his birds and had them all fly hundreds of yards away. Then you see the surveyors flagging I tied to their legs hanging out of the trees.

If Dennis doesn't accept your offer on the hunt then I would love to go. Waling through the woods by myslef is getting lonely. I'll try to post a picture of my dog soon. Email me if you want to go after deer season russells@mbiarch.com
Offer is for anyone wanting to go!!

russ
11-09-2010, 03:59 PM
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=984376&l=c66e326b92&id=1043840061
From a preserve quail hunt last year.

Bran
11-10-2010, 09:13 AM
Boy that sounds good. I need to come West and hook up with you guys after Christmas!!
You're right on the money about the Game Commisions not getting anything out of small game as oppsed to the deer, turkey etc. Same way here in VA, they couldn't care less and it took 25 years of decline to appoint one or two people in Richmond to look into habitat management for Quail. Anyhow, off the soap box. I always like to think about how Pat McManus would say that they're a bunch of maniacs that are howling with laughter about how they're setting seasons and bag limits up, sitting back smoking cigars, drinking bourbon and thinking about how much torture they can out the hunters through!
A 3 Grouse limit just makes you feel a little smaller at the end of the day!:)

GrouseMan77
11-11-2010, 05:27 PM
Bran - that dog looks way too good to be just a fishing dog. If you ever take a notion to come over to the ruffed grouse mecca that is E. TN shoot me an email.

Everyone who grouse hunts - I would like to ask everyone that hunts grouse and woodcock in TN to do something. I have been participating in a survey conducted by TWRA for the past few years. I don't know if this will help anything or if they pay any attention to it. The survey is pretty basic: date of hunt, county, # flushed and bagged, hours hunted and # of dogs.

If your interested in this you can contact Roger Applegate - TWRA Small Game Program Coordinator. His number is 615-781-6610 and his email is Roger.Applegate@state.tn.us.

I use the form to help me keep up with my hunts through the year.

Thanks.

FishNHunt
11-13-2010, 11:26 PM
Grouse for the most part have a 7 year cycle. I'm not up to date on the current trend as to if it's up or down. My uncle and I used to grouse hunt religously when I was younger. Once my dog died I lost all interest in it. Later in life I had a favorite place that I would kill a few grouse with my 22 while riding my 4 wheeler. But, like everything else all good things must come to an end and that land was bought up and sold off. A few places that we always found birds were in the Big South Fork where, I saw my largest "covey" of grouse. If I remember correctly there were over a dozen grouse came out from that one point. We also hunted North Cherokee WMA in Newport. We hunted private lands in Hawkins county which after deer gun season where rather easy to obtain by simply asking the land owners. I hunt along Chilhowee lake and in South Cherokee WMA alot and have at times saw several birds in a day and on one nice sunny day I sat on a stump and counted 5 different birds drumming all around me. Of course I wasn't hunting them that day. I have saw many grouse while traveling the Foothills Parkway but, you can't hunt from there so you will be doing alot of walking to get to them. You might try Foothills WMA from the Happy Valley side. There is a pull off at the "water spicket". It is only a small sliver of ground at the road but, opens up wider once you travel up alittle. Foothills WMA also goes along the right side of 129 threw "The dragon". It's steep in places but, that the state line there is a nice pull off and a good days hunt can be made out of it. I have also saw a grouse both times that I have gone to Farrs Gap. Just go up Citico road to "Double camp" and turn left. It makes a long loop and puts you back out on Citico Rd. I found a grouse nesting in our woods at home this spring. I don't know if she made it but, I hope so. The woods are surrounded by cow pasture and her being in there was a surprise. Sorry but, you can't hunt her. Maybe that will give you some general directions to look.

BlueRaiderFan
11-14-2010, 12:38 AM
Any Grouse in Middle Tennessee, maybe up around Cookville or somewhere on the plateau? Thanks in advance.

russ
12-14-2010, 04:52 PM
This Saturday if anyone is interested in joining me. I don't know where I'm going yet but wherever it is we probably wont see any grouse but I've got to get the dog out! Anyone that wants to meet up with me let me know. russells@mbiarch.com

GrouseMan77
12-14-2010, 07:41 PM
This Saturday if anyone is interested in joining me. I don't know where I'm going yet but wherever it is we probably wont see any grouse but I've got to get the dog out! Anyone that wants to meet up with me let me know. russells@mbiarch.com

Russ, would still like to meet up with you sometime but can not commit this weekend. Good luck.

billyspey
12-14-2010, 09:17 PM
have you considered hunting coal country , north side of hills are more productive and old overgrown farm land that have been reclaimed by mother nature, moist valleys, pine thickets ,clear cuts that are growing back. strip pits spore piles hold birds. spent many years searching for places and hunting grouse. got to do lot of home work and driving and asking premission if you want to be a sucessful grouse hunter .not easy work, early season birds will be higher on the mtn. in grape vines . later moving down to overgrown moist valley,s . find food find birds. hope this helps.

BlueRaiderFan
12-15-2010, 08:28 PM
Thanks Bill. I appreciate the advice.

highstick
12-15-2010, 09:32 PM
Love seeing pictures of all the bird dogs as well as the mention of grouse hunting. In fact spent the morning trudging through thick steep woods myself. And much like all of the recent reports came home empty handed. Although we did move 1 bird. Great morning out, and my German Shorthair did her job, but i did not trust her beeper collar and stood on the down hill side of the thicket thinking she was relieving herself. After a short few minutes the bird blew and flew along the contour, and after what I felt was a thorough search, was never found.

We used to hunt only quail and have seen the local wild quail opportunity go almost extinct. So in our boredom we have moved to grouse. I have found it to be much more exercise and at times frustrating but as mentioned previously extremely rewarding.

I find it a hard sport to learn. With as many blanks as one draws, it is hard to put together what you did right or wrong. The biggest lesson I have learned is persistence pays off. Last year was my first year and had one day where I did kill my limit. After that day I shot AT one more bird and that was it.

I read a mention of the younger folks not enjoying or pursuing upland birds. There is much more "instant" gratification in deer hunting as well as glamour put out there on TV. Bird hunting in East Tennessee has to be about something else. The love of the out doors, or "the chase", or what ever. For me it is the dog. I took a guy with me earlier this year for both quail and grouse. At the end of the day he was overwhelmed at the dedication and drive a bird dog has. We moved one grouse and shot several released quail, and at the end of the day my dog Belle was a beat up mess. Briars had cut everything from her chest to her tongue. She received many verbal praises and a few short pats on the head or ribs, but still hunted hard all day for nothing but the pleasure it brought to us. I love a bird dog.

Funny the similarities between modern day bird hunting and fly fishing. Fishing the park is my favorite fly fishing forum. Mostly for the EXPERIENCE. I can throw the drifter in the water most days and catch plenty of fish. But the park provides something more to my soul. Then there are those big browns. You know there many times and come home with nothing but tales of the one you saw but couldn’t get to eat.

I would love the opportunity to get together an run the dogs and learn from anyone who is willing to share a little bit of knowledge.

Sorry I got a little excited and wordy.

Alex
foresterq@hotmail.com (foresterq@hotmail.com)

old east tn boy
12-16-2010, 01:08 PM
Ms. Annie and I hunted the Sundquist unit of the North Cumberland WMA last Friday. We began around noon and hunted until almost dark. Beautiful day to be out, temperature a little cool and lots of snow still around up there. After the pup got her fill of playing in the snow we got down to business and hunted hard. Good looking places on the old strip mining property but no grouse. Finally, just before we quit she put up a woodcock out of a pine thicket beside a pond, a going away right-to-left wingshot, really easy so of course I missed it. We followed it and got another rise but the cover was far too close and it disappeared quickly over a rise. Well this jacked Ms. Annie up another notch but to no avail as darkness was soon to set in and the roads up there are easier to drive in daylight.

As many have commented on, success is not necessarily measured in how heavy the game bag is. We had fun that day and look forward to our next trip. I have reconciled myself to the fact that like fly fishing, one must pay his/her dues and learn bird hunting through experience. Luckily, the experience is fun too!

MickT
12-16-2010, 04:20 PM
I predator hunt there every winter and will see one every couple of years. Seems like the only place I ever see them is just inside the powerline cuts.


Exactly! Grouse favor what a forester calls pole-sized timber- stands that are 15-45ish years old. Active timber management (and harvest) is often wildlife's best friend in extensively forested areas.