Get Your Blues – Finding Blue Grouse

Cinque Terre

We’ll tell it to you straight: if you’re after blue grouse this winter, you have your work cut out for you. Be ready to walk, and walk some more. And then you get to climb! Although it’s nice they live in Alberta’s foothills and mountains, come winter, they love high elevations. No matter how far up roads will take you, you’re in for a hike.

Still up for the challenge? Good, because the eating doesn’t get any better when it comes to blue grouse! It’s a big bird, with succulent, light-coloured meat.

To find late-season blues, it’s all about the right combination of habitats and elevations:

  • In Alberta, Blue grouse live in the foothills and mountains, moving to different habitats in different seasons. You will find them at lower elevations early on, but as winter starts to settle in, they migrate to areas higher up ridges and mountains.
  • Many hunters find luck in the mountain transition areas, where the trees meet the alpine. If you see ruffed grouse, go higher to find your blues!
  • Snowberry shrubs have stark white berries about the size of a blueberry, and are a grouse staple.
  • South-facing slopes are definitely a favourite hangout. Look for an open, patchy understory here. If you see low-growing rug juniper plants that encircle the base of mature fir trees like a wreath, you’re at the perfect elevation.
  • Watch for tracks, droppings and feathers. Don’t forget to look up, as blue grouse often roost in conifer trees.

By the first week of October the broods begin to disperse and make their way up and up to their winter range. Late season is a definite challenge, but if you have the outdoor and mountain skills you might find hunting blues in winter worth the work.

Check the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations for details at www.albertaregulations.ca.

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