New York Public Land Ruffed Grouse Hunting Hotspots
Most people don’t think of New York as a grouse hunting destination. However, the hunting can be downright excellent, especially on public lands. Based on recent hunting surveys, New York grouse hunters averaged about one flush per hunting hour in 2010. It’s an impressive number but it is the lowest in the state since 2004. What may be surprising to some is that flush rates were higher on public lands than private property. This is due in large part to forest management practices on state properties. Here is a look at some of the best public land options for ruffed grouse in New York.
Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area
This nearly 9,000 acre property is intensively managed for ruffed grouse and has been the subject of numerous studies. The terrain is mostly flat but it’s proximity to Lake Ontario leads to several heavy snowfalls. Late season hunters should plan on bringing snowshoes along. Management practices include prescribed burnings, tree cuttings, and timber stand improvements. Various logging trails are also grouse hotspots. Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area is a well known grouse hunting location that does attract some crowds, especially during the weekends early in the season.
Rattlesnake Hill Wildlife Management Area
This 5,000 acre Western New York property has the added bonus of being right next door to an additional 2,500 acres of public land hunting in the Ossian & Canaseraga State Forests. Rattlesnake Hill has it all when it comes to upland habitat. Mature woodlots, overgrown fields, conifer plantations, and old growth apple orchards make up it’s acreage. The adjacent state forests have similar makeup but the woodland habitat tends to be a little thicker in the state forests due to less intrusive management practices.
Erwin Wildlife Management Area
The Erwin WMA coupled with the Erwin Mountain State Forest offer New York grouse hunters nearly 3,000 acres to hunt. You’ll find mature conifers and second growth hardwood forests on both tracts. The terrain is steep so this hunt isn’t for the out of shape grouse hunter. Keep your eyes peeled for recent logging activity. Where there is cutovers, there are grouse.
Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area
There is over 3,800 acres of rolling hills on this West-Central New York Property. Habitat is made up of classic brushy upland cover, hardwood forests, and conifer plantations. Again, intense management is the norm here so there is always diverse habitat to hunt. Property managers carry out mowing and timber sales. Tioughnioga is also a popular wild turkey hunting destination.
Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area
OK, we saved the best for last. The Connecticut Hill WMA is over 11,000 acres of steep, rugged terrain. It is home to many ruffed grouse studies including one of the first. The Connecticut Hill Ruffed Grouse Study (1930-1942) is still considered one of the most thorough ever completed. Forest habitat includes beech, maple, hemlock, oak, and pine. Open meadows, streams, and ponds are scattered throughout the property. Fresh timber cuttings and logging roads & trails are grouse magnets.
Keep in mind, none of these locations are secret. Still, grouse hunting has a small but dedicated following. You typically won’t find the crowds attracted by pheasants and deer during grouse season.