Our Finest Grouse Hunts
October 05, 2010
Buckeye State biologists are working hard to enhance grouse habitat statewide. These proven hotspots will keep you going on your quest for Ohio's wildest game bird.
Biologists with Ohio's Division of Wildlife have been working steadily to improve grouse habitat in key locations around the state. Programs such as rotational timber cutting in state wildlife areas and special grouse management areas in state forest regions have helped to increase the numbers of these fast-flying birds.
Biologists also conduct surveys to monitor the grouse population. Such surveys provide biologists with critical information on how their management strategies are working.
"We have several surveys that we use in our grouse studies," said Mike Reynolds, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "One is the spring drumming survey; another is an observation survey reported by squirrel hunters. We also have a survey where selected hunters keep diaries on the number of flushes they encounter during their hunts."
Reynolds noted that the last time there were high numbers of grouse in Ohio was the early 1980s. Abandoned farmland had created excellent habitat for the grouse during those years, but now those same habitats have turned into mature woodlands, which is not conducive to grouse reproduction.
The outlook for grouse hunters in many areas is optimistic. The following public hunting lands have sizable grouse populations and good grouse habitat, everything the avid upland hunter needs for a productive October outing.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
POWELSON WILDLIFE AREA Four miles north of Zanesville, between state Route 60 and the Muskingum River, the 2,775-acre Powelson Wildlife Area is in Muskingum County and is an area noted for quality wildlife habitats of all types. The brushy mixture of pines, hardwoods, thickets and croplands helps to create a quality grouse environment.
The topography of Powelson is primarily woodlands. Over 75 percent of the terrain is covered in forest, with brush lands making up the remainder of this wildlife area.
Hunters seeking rugged and remote environments will appreciate Powelson.
County Road 49 runs east of state Route 60 and provides the best access to the central region of Powelson Wildlife Area. Several small parking lots are available, and secondary roads provide access throughout this hunting area.
According to Reynolds, surveys conducted within the east-central region of the state reveal a higher flush rate than in other regions. Flush rates averaged .86 per hour in much of the areas studied, whereas the east-central section of Ohio reported 1.07 flushes her hour.
For additional information on the Powelson Wildlife Area and the grouse hunting in this region, contact Wildlife District Four, 360 East State St., Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.
COOPER HOLLOW WILDLIFE AREA The 5,421 acres of Cooper Hollow Wildlife Area are 12 miles southeast of Jackson off U.S. Route 35 in Jackson County. This is the heart of southern Ohio's grouse country, with rotational timber cutting areas that help to create excellent grouse habitat.
Cooper Hollow is an area that has consistently provided quality grouse hunting through the years. More than half the wildlife area is covered by trees. Oaks and hickories dominate the upper slopes, with elm, ash and silver maple along the streams.
Twenty percent of this wildlife area consists of reverting old fields with Virginia pines in abundance. The shadowy cover of pine groves provides protective cover for grouse. The combination of hilly woodlands, pines and reverting fields has helped create excellent grouse habitat.
Several miles of interior roads and scattered parking areas provide good access to the area. There are 20 miles of walking trails in Cooper Hollow, giving hunters easy access to this public hunting area.
Cooper Hollow is best reached from the north by following state Route 93 to Jackson and from the northwest by following U.S. Route 35.
Additional information can be obtained from the Area Manager, Cooper Hollow Wildlife Area, 5403 CH&D Road, Oak Hill, OH 45656; or call (740) 682-7524.
PEABODY COAL COMPANY LANDS Perry County's 3,225-acre Peabody Coal Company Lands are approximately three miles east of New Lexington and south of state Route 37. The scattered tracts can be reached from state routes 13, 37 and 93. This is in the east-central region of the state, where grouse numbers appear to be doing extremely well for the times.
Nearly 50 percent of the property had been strip-mined for coal prior to modern reclamation. This resulted in many miles of spoil banks and high walls that have reverted to excellent grouse habitat, including brush and pole-sized locust and maple trees.
Woods, brush and open fields cover the remaining 50 percent of the land. In an area that is well known for whitetails and wild turkeys, the grouse population is also doing quite well. The reverting strip areas provide much-needed habitat for these birds.
Hunters are cautioned to be aware of the miles of high walls and other forms of exceptionally rough terrain that exist in this hunting area. Also, portions of the area are designated as active mine areas, and entry is prohibited. By obtaining a map of this area and scouting the planned hunting areas, grouse hunters will be able to steer clear of potential problems.
For information on the hunting regulations pertaining to Peabody Coal Company Land, contact the Division of Wildlife District Four Office, 360 East State St., Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.
WILDCAT HOLLOW In portions of Athens, Morgan and Perry counties, Wildcat Hollow is northeast of Burr Oak State Park near Glouster, Ohio. This public hunting area includes approximately 49,000 acres of top-notch grouse habitat.
Public lands include over 7,600 acres of Wayne National Forest and nearly all of 3,800-acre Wolf Creek Wildlife Area. With terrain made up of 40 percent woodland and the remainder a mixture of crop fields, permanent pasture and brushy stream borders, few areas in southern Ohio can match Wildcat Hollow for grouse habitat.
This region of Ohio is well known for its hilly ruggedness; bird hun
ters may therefore want to study a topographic map of Wildcat Hollow. These maps also show streams, woodland cover, roads, electric powerlines, trails and other features that can be helpful to hunters.
The names of the sectional maps are Deavertown, Rokeby Lock, Corning and Ringgold. These maps can be purchased from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Publications Center, 1952 Belcher Drive, Building C, Columbus, OH 43224; or call (614) 265-6605.
Primitive campgrounds are available at the Wolf Creek Wildlife Area and in Wayne National Forest. Non-electric sites with showers are available at nearby Burr Oak State Park.
State routes 78 and 555 provide access to the interior of the area. Nearby towns include Corning on the west edge of the area and McConnelsville five miles to the northeast.
For additional information on this public hunting area, contact the Wildlife District Four office in Athens.
SALT FORK WILDLIFE AREA Over 12,000 acres of prime grouse hunting await hunters at Salt Fork Wildlife Area. This Guernsey County area has grouse terrain suitable to all types of bird hunters. As with much of the grouse habitat in this region of Ohio, "rugged" pretty much describes the landscape, but, of course, rugged is precisely what grouse prefer.
Salt Fork has the preferred mix of forests, croplands and brushy areas that grouse seem to thrive on. Preferred habitats for other game species usually suit ruffed grouse as well, and Salt Fork has the right combination of food, cover and water to maintain a healthy grouse population.
The steep-to-rolling terrain of Salt Fork Wildlife Area is east of the 3,000-acre Salt Fork Lake. Numerous streams and tributaries that flow into the lake highlight this area.
Elevations can vary over 200 feet in this district, so hunters are advised to be in good physical condition before tackling certain sections of these public hunting grounds.
Thirty-five percent of this wildlife area is in woodlands, mostly on the steeper slopes and along streams. Oak and hickory dominate on the higher grounds, while maple, beech willow and sycamore are more common in the lowlands.
Another third of Salt Fork hunting grounds are in croplands, former croplands and old pasture fields. Shrubs and small trees, such as sassafras and dogwood, cover the remaining land.
Salt Fork is 72 miles south of Canton and 88 miles east of Columbus, a strategic location for southeastern Ohio bird hunters. The main entrance road is seven miles east of Cambridge on U.S. 22. The best access from greater distances north or south of the wildlife area is via Interstate 77.
Additional information on camping and lodging accommodations can be obtained by writing the Salt Fork State Park office, Box 672, Cambridge, OH 43725; or by calling (740) 439-3521.
SCIOTO TRAIL STATE FOREST The 9,400 acres of Scioto Trail State Forest provide grouse hunters the right terrain and plenty of birds for a quality hunting experience. In southern Ross County, this area is noted for quality grouse hunting as well as for its beautiful scenery.
With the purchase of this forest in the early 1920s, Scioto Trail has been carefully managed to help establish good grouse habitat. With six miles of paved roads and 18 miles of gravel roads, access is also good to all areas of the forest. Many scenic overlooks are also scattered across this steep patch of southern Ohio woodlands.
The forest was named after the Native American trail that ran from what is now Chillicothe to Portsmouth. U.S. Route 23 now traces what's called the Scioto Trail. Approximately an hour's drive due south of Columbus, Scioto Trail Forest is midway between Chillicothe and Waverly just off U.S. 23.
Within the confines of the forest is 250-acre Scioto Trail State Park. Two 15-acre lakes, a campground and two primitive camping areas are within the park. Other lodging is available in Chillicothe, a 10-minute drive to the north.
For maps and additional information, contact the Scioto Trail Forest office, 124 North Ridge Road, Waverly, OH 45690-9513; or call (740) 663-2523.
For information on the park, write the Scioto Trail State Park office, 144 Lake Road, Chillicothe, OH 45601-9478; or call (740) 663-2125.
BRUSH CREEK STATE FOREST Brush Creek State Forest in southwestern Ohio contains over 12,000 acres of public hunting land in Adams County. A combination of scattered brush lands mixed with farms and woodlands provides good October grouse hunting.
Brush Creek is a little over an hour's drive east of Cincinnati. Follow state Route 32 east to state Route 73 south. Brush Creek State Forest is near Otway, Ohio, and is broken into several large tracts of land, including many in neighboring Scioto County. The lands bordering Coffee Hollow Road and Dry Run Creek are recommended for grouse. State forest boundaries are identified with signs and/or yellow paint on trees.
While much of this forested area is steep, the terrain of Brush Creek State Forest is rolling compared to the steeper lands in the southeastern section of the state.
Information on the forest can be obtained from the Brush Creek State Forest office, 275 State Route 73, Peebles, OH 45660-9592; or call (740) 372-3194
Maps and information on the grouse management of the state forest can be obtained from the ODOW's Wildlife District Five office, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.
OTHER GROUSE HOTSPOTS Additional public lands recommended for grouse hunting in Ohio include Blue Rock State Forest in Muskingum County and Wayne National Forest in Lawrence County. Both of these areas are noted for their quality grouse habitat.
With over 100,000 acres of land, Wayne National Forest provides bird hunters with plenty of territory to traverse, but hunters are urged to obtain maps of the public lands they plan to hunt. Large tracts of public land mixed with private holdings could present problems for hunters who are unfamiliar with the region. Many southern Ohio forests boast miles and miles of rugged, unbroken forest. Being in good physical condition is a prerequisite for grouse hunters in these areas.
Ohio's hunting season for ruffed grouse opens Oct. 12 and closes Feb. 28, 2003. Hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise until sunset. The daily bag limit is three.
This grouse is a game bird of the dark woods and is noted for its startling flush, which is often close by and underfoot. The bird's unique primary wing feathers are responsible for its trademark "whirr" as it flushes. The grouse's explosive flush fro
m cover has made many a hunter feel foolish as the bird bursts into the air and the hunter stands open-mouthed with his gun halfway to his shoulder.
This feather arrangement is also responsible for the unique drumming sound that reverberates through the woods during the grouse's spring courtship. The solitary male will sit erect on a log with his back braced against spread tail feathers and beat his wings up and down, creating the rush of air that produces a distinct, loud drumming sound. To the grouse hunter, this is music soothing to the soul.
For additional information on the grouse hunting opportunities available around the state, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife headquarters, 1840 Belcher Drive, Columbus, OH 43224-1329; or call (614) 265-6300.
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