Who knows how many grouse are hiding in Idaho. Isn’t it time you found out?
More than 50 million acres of Idaho is publicly-owned. That certainly puts the state in the top ranks for public land and national parks, but what does Idaho have? Quite a bit, actually. Idaho is one of the most mountainous and forested states in the country, with all sorts of treasures waiting to be discovered. And few other states have five different kinds of grouse all within reach. There are parts of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness still left untouched by humanity. The parts of Idaho that have been touched can still be difficult to access. That is why programs like Access Yes! exist, which so far has opened about 400,000 acres of private land and 500,000 acres of public land.
|Game Species||Dates||Daily/Possession Limits||Restrictions|
|Forest Grouse (Dusky, Spruce, Ruffed) – Area 1||Aug 30, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||4/12 (combined)||See https://idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland for definition of Area 1|
|Forest Grouse (Dusky, Spruce, Ruffed) – Area 2||Aug 30 – Dec 31, 2020||4/12 (combined)||Rest of state|
|California and Bobwhite Quail||Sept 19, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||10/30 (combined)||Season limited to: Ada, Adams, Benewah, Blaine, Boise, Bonner, Boundary, Camas, Canyon, Cassia, Clearwater, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Idaho, Jerome, Kootenai, Latah, Lewis, Lincoln, Minidoka, Nez Perce, Owyhee, Payette, Shoshone, Twin Falls, Valley, and Washington|
counties ONLY. Rest of state is CLOSED.
|Gambel’s and Mountain Quail||CLOSED||NONE|
|Chukar||Sept 19, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||8/24|
|Hungarian Partridge||Sept 19, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||8/24|
|Sage Grouse||Season to be set by mid-August||1||Permit validation required|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse||Oct 1 – 31, 2020||2/6||See https://idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland for definition of Area 1. Permit validation required.|
|Pheasant – Area 1||Oct 10 – Dec 31, 2020||3/9, cocks only||Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah,|
Lewis, Nez Perce, and Shoshone counties.
|Pheasant – Area 2||Oct 17 – Nov 30, 2020||3/9, cocks only||Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Bonneville, Butte, Caribou, Clark,|
Custer, Franklin, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, Oneida,
Power, and Teton counties. See https://idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland for additional rules for WMAs.
|Pheasant – Area 3||Oct 17 – Dec 31, 2020||3/9, cocks only||Ada, Adams, Blaine, Boise, Camas, Canyon, Cassia, Elmore,|
Gem, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Owyhee, Payette,
Twin Falls, Valley, and Washington counties (including all islands
in the Snake River except Patch and Porter Islands). See https://idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland for additional rules for WMAs.
|Pheasant – youth||Oct 3 – 9, 2020||3/9, cocks only|
The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for the most up to date information on bird hunting in Idaho. This information was last updated August 6, 2020.
Ruffed grouse in Idaho are not exactly the same thing as ruffed grouse in other places. They’re less experienced with being chased by avid hunters and can sometimes be found just hanging out by the side of the road. Depending on who you ask, their behavior might have more in common with spruce grouse — which you can also find in Idaho, too. Dusky grouse, also known as blue grouse, inhabit the mountains of Idaho.
The daily bag limit for forest grouse is 4 in aggregate of the three species.
Idaho has some of the best chukar hunting in the Pacific Northwest. They prefer arid areas with sagebrush and much of the population resides in southern Idaho. Many travel from out of state to hunt the iconic Hells Canyon for chukar.
The daily bag limit for chukar is 8 birds.
The population of ring-necked pheasant in Idaho has declined sharply in recent years. If you really want to find pheasant while bird hunting in Idaho, you might have to look hard. Southwest Idaho might be good, as well as the southeast.
There are three separate areas defined for pheasant hunting and the season dates vary by area. There is a daily limit of three birds (cocks only), with special rules and permits necessary for Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).
Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse
Idaho boasts one of the largest populations of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in America. Good places to look are in the southeast including both Power and Oneida counties. Conservation Reserve Program fields offer some of the best opportunities for hunting sharp-tailed grouse.
There is a daily bag limit of 2 birds. You will also need to purchase a separate permit to hunt sharp-tailed grouse in Idaho.
While Idaho has both bobwhite quail and California quail, you’ll probably have an easier time finding California quail. Their range goes from southern Idaho all the way up to the beautiful Palouse region in the Idaho Panhandle bordering Washington. They prefer to be near streams or rivers that have dense cover for them to escape predators.
The daily bag limit is 10 in aggregate. Note that there is no legal hunting season for mountain or Gambel’s quail. Quail hunting is not open state-wide; check regulations for the legal areas to hunt quail.
Other Species for Bird Hunting in Idaho
There are plenty of other species for bird hunting in Idaho. Sage grouse are distributed across sagebrush habitats and are mostly limited to areas in southern parts of the state. There is a short season that requires a special permit to hunt sage grouse. Hungarian partridge is another great species for bird hunting in Idaho, with a daily bag limit of 8 birds.
Related Conservation and Non-Profit Organizations for Idaho Bird Hunting
The Hunter Safety Course and Dog Training for Bird Hunting in Idaho
Anyone born after December 31, 1974, will need to complete an approved hunter education course before purchasing a license. There is an internet course and field day option available for anyone 9 years old or older. Idaho also offers a hunting passport, which lets any first-time hunters older than 8 hunt without having to complete an education course. They will need to be accompanied by an adult mentor.
You will need a sport dog and falconry training permit in order to train your dog for bird hunting in Idaho if captive game birds will be released.
COVID-19 Restrictions and Updates for Idaho Hunting
There are no restrictions on the hunting season due to COVID-19, but the State of Idaho reminds hunters to observe social distancing practices and stay home if you feel unwell. Any changes will be communicated via the Idaho Department of Fish and Game COVID website.
Hunter education courses are being conducted online and the field day requirement is temporarily waived.
License Requirements for Bird Hunting in Idaho
In addition to the fee table below, hunters must pay an Access-Depredation Fee for the first annual license purchased each year. It is not applicable to additional or daily licenses. The Access-Depredation Fee is $5 for resident adults and $10 for non-resident adults; $2 for resident youth and $4 for non-resident youth.
|Hunting – annual||$15.75||$97.75 (not valid first 5 days of pheasant season)|
|Non-resident 3 day small game||—||$35.50 (not valid first 5 days of pheasant season)|
|Junior hunting (10-17 yrs)||$8.25||$31.75|
|Sage/Sharp-tailed grouse permit||$5.75||$5.75|
|Upland game bird permit (required for pheasant hunting on WMAs)||$28.75||$51.75|
* License fees, laws, and availability is subject to change. For the latest information please go to https://idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland The last update of this information was on August 6, 2020.
Project Upland is an editorial initiative to capture the cultures and traditions of upland bird hunting. We seek to inspire a future generation of upland bird hunters to understand the essence of hunting traditions and the critical cause for conservation.