The disappointing news is that the state is once again facing severe wildfire conditions with recent bushfires, active bushfires, and fire restrictions occurring in some national forests historically famous for grouse and mountain quail hunters, including Tahoe National Forest, Modoc National Forest, Klamath National Forest and Rivers National Forest. The six. Anglers are strongly advised to check for any emergency closures when planning their fishing trips. In the past two years, intensely dry wildfire conditions have forced the closure of most of the state’s national forests and many nearby CDFW properties just as hunting seasons for these particular highland birds are about to begin.
annoyed grouse (umbellas bonus) and sooty grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus(Together with mountain quail)Orortyx drawing) are forest-dwelling birds that provide hunters with abundant hunting opportunities on public lands. This species has been affected by both forest fires and drought. The birds have lost their natural habitat in the forests and hunters have lost some of their favorite bird hunting sites due to the recent bushfires. The California drought’s third year means less green grass, fewer seeds for birds to eat, and fewer insects that their chicks depend on in their first weeks of life. However, the burned habitats offer hope that they will regenerate to provide a better habitat for quail and grouse in the coming years.
Hunters are reminded that non-lead ammunition is required when hunting grouse and mountain quail and when taking wild animals anywhere in California with a firearm.
Ruffed and Sooty Grouse
Ruffed grouse is the most widespread gamebird in North America, found in every Canadian province and from New England to Alaska in the United States
California represents only a small portion of its total range, and birds are restricted to the far northwest corner of the state, primarily in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and parts of Trinity and Siskiyou counties.
Angry grouse prefer young forests and disturbed forests, especially aspen with a mixture of small logs caused by logging, wind or wildfire. All the better if those spaces have some brush to cover and drop records for width and drums.
Cynic grouse is widely distributed throughout California’s wooded landscape. Spotted grouse can be found in the northern parts of the state and along the backbone of the Sierra Nevada Mountains extending south into Inyo County and the fringes of the Central Valley.
Both soot and crowded grouse are subject to statewide hunting (PDF) and can only be taken legally in 28 of California’s 58 counties. Jungle grouse season runs from September 10 to October 10, 2022. Shooting hours are from half an hour before sunrise to sunset. The maximum daily bag is two species – each grouse is one or a mixture of both species. The holding limit is three times the daily baggage limit.
The colorful mountain quail is the first of the three native California quails to be opened for hunting each year. Early California mountain quail season begins on September 10 and runs through October 14 in the Q1 Quail Hunt Zone that includes all or parts of 26 counties in the northern part of the state and along the Sierra Nevada and Backbone foothills. Starting Saturday, October 15, mountain quail can be taken as part of the statewide quail season that runs until January 29, 2023.
As its name suggests, mountain quail can be found within the highland forests of usually California quail (Callipepla californica) or gumble quail (Callipepla gambelii). The mountain quail prefers a terrestrial habitat, and it is best for hunters to start the early hunting season at at least 5,000 to 7,000 altitude ranges so that winter snow forces the birds to descend to lower altitudes later in the quail season.
The mountain quail is unique among North American quail species. They are the largest of the quail and are not sexually dimorphic, which means that male and female mountain quail are alike and difficult to tell from each other, even on hand.
Identification is key when hunting mountain quail early in the season so you don’t misidentify the birds and accidentally shoot California quail as their habitats can overlap. Filming hours are from half an hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 10 mountain quail. The holding limit is three times the daily baggage limit.
The minimum hunting requirements for both grouse and mountain quail are a valid hunting license, validated upland game bird (validation is not required for young hunting license holders) and good boots.
A light, fast shotgun of nearly any scale is the ideal tool due to the long hikes often involved in hunting for these birds and the fleeting quick shots they sometimes offer amidst thick cover and woodland habitats. Non-leaded shotgun shells are required. Eye and hearing protection is recommended. Having a cooler with ice to store the birds in, especially in the hot September weather, is always a good idea.
For many grouse and quail hunters across the country, a well-trained hound is an essential part of the overall experience, and is a valuable companion in locating birds and finding fallen game. However, a lot of California hunters do well to hunt grouse and mountain quail without the help of a dog.
Grouse and mountain quail hunters should know that California tree squirrel season also opens on September 10, 2022, throughout northern California and central parts of the state (PDF), providing mixed bag opportunities as tree squirrels often share the same forest habitat as Grouse and mountain quail.
CDFW Image: A painting of a puffy grouse in flight by artist Jeffrey Kleinfelter has been selected as the 2019-2020 Highland Games Flying Tooth from CDFW.
Catherine Miller, CDFW Upland Game Program (916) 261-5019
Peter Terra, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858