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This bird takes its name from a collar-like neck ruff of triangular feather patches which it can raise and spread when excited. Like the quail, it feeds in the morning and late afternoon (wild grapes, sumac berries, rose hips), drowsing and dusting in the noon hours. Unlike quail it frequently feeds on trees and bushes rather than on the ground.
Mother grouse often employ the "broken wing" trick (hobbling and dragging along a wing) to distract attention from their broods.
Because few dogs are steady enough on grouse, hunters often dispense with them, preferring to hunt unassisted.
Ruffed grouse this season present a mixed outlook. Populations are up in Michigan, New Jersey and Tennessee, but down in Minnesota, New York, Utah and New Hampshire. In other states populations remain level. The ruffed grouse appears to go through a population cycle of increase and decline over a duration of 7 to 10 years. Biologists are beginning to feel that hunting pressure does not hinder the recovery of the birds and, in fact, may speed them on the upward climb in numbers. Studies made in New Hampshire indicate the best years in the most recent cycle in ruffed grouse population were 1951 and 1952. The year 1953 was poor, last year was worse, and this year is expected to drop even lower.
The American woodcock, a native North American, is a member of the snipe family and is related to the sandpiper, godwit and curlew. But unlike his relatives, the migratory woodcock lives in the uplands, swamps and soft beds and edges of creeks and streams.
Found in eastern North America from Newfoundland to central Florida, the woodcock in winter ranges from (red map area) the Gulf region north to Missouri, northern Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and southern Virginia.
Its characteristics include a long pointed beak and, unlike other birds, eyes located high on top of its head. Its hearing is extremely sensitive and it finds freezing to approaching danger more effective than flight. When it does flush it darts up from the ground at deceptively high speeds.
The popularity of the woodcock as a game bird has increased tremendously in the past five years, and statistics show that increased gunning pressure has not decimated population.
A close-ranging steady pointer or English setter is generally preferred for woodcock shooting because of the bird's tendency to sit tight in close cover. Careful, slow steps punctuated by pauses are most likely to drive out this bird.