Upland game bird hunting season is underway, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a special request for hunters.
ODFW conducts annual harvest surveys to understand which areas of the state hunters have the most success finding upland game birds like forest grouse. This year, they are also accepting wings and tails from mountain quail.
NewsChannel 21 spoke recently with Mikal Cline, the upland bird game coordinator for ODFW, to learn why the wings and tails are valuable to biologists.
“The birds molt their primary wing feathers,” Cline says. “We can actually tell if they’re a youngster or not, depending on whether they’ve retained those feathers or not.”
Each year, ODFW collects wings and tails from all four species of forest grouse. Biologists use the data gathered from the wings and tails to help them understand grouse population trends. The wings and tails also help the biologists identify the bird’s sex, species, age, and hatch date.
Cline says because of the vast areas the birds cover, ODFW officials have difficulty physically gathering the wings and tails themselves.
Successful hunters are asked to drop off their wings and tails into blue barrels located across the state. The barrels closest to Central Oregon are located in the Santiam Forest.
Cline says the wings are stored in a freezer at the ODFW office. At the end of the hunting season in January, the biologists gather all of the wings and tails in a room and study them individually.
“We call it a wing bee, kind of like the old quilting bees,” Cline says.
Each wing and tail is unique. Cline says the ruffed grouse is the most common forest grouse in Central Oregon and last hunting season, ODFW collected more than 1,500 wings and tails.
Open season for forest grouse began Sept. 1 and ends Jan. 31 statewide. Mountain quail hunting season is open in western Oregon, Hood River and Wasco counties over the same time span.
For more details, visit the ODFW website at https://myodfw.com/game-bird-hunting.