Sometimes You Gotta Wing It

March 4, 2014

Today was the annual Western Oregon Wing Bee at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Western Regional Office in Roseburg. A bunch of wildlife folks gather to examine the wings and tails submitted by forest grouse and mountain quail hunters since the season began in September.  Special paper bags are available free to hunters with detailed instructions for wing and tail collection. Each paper bag contains a wing and tail from one bird and is labeled by the hunter with the date of harvest and general location. Hunters can submit their samples at one of many grouse wing barrels that are placed around the state or take it to any Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Office.

Paper or plastic? Hopefully if you’re gonna bag your own bird samples use paper, because it allows moisture to escape and plastic does not… which means nasty gooey samples with things crawling over it.

What kind of information is obtained from these samples? The wing and tail together can provide the species, sex, and age of the bird. When combined with the information provided by the hunter, you can back-date the week a juvenile bird was hatched and get a good idea on the forest grouse production as well as the amount of young to adults harvested that year.

So, if you’re not going to eat that tail and a wing, consider dropping it off at the nearest ODFW office or wing barrel collection site. You’ll be helping them gain better insight into the grouse population so they won’t be flying by the seat-of-their-pants; instead they’ll just wing it!

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Ruffed grouse as seen by many people driving around the woods in western Oregon.
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Donating some wings and tails from your grouse harvest provides some good feedback to wildlife biologists
A look at the showy feathers on a male ruffed grouse. Isn’t that head almost perfectly camouflaged?
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A wing barrel in northeast Oregon located in the heart of grouse country
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A wing barrel located at Dry Creek Store on Hwy 138 along the North Umpqua River
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Some grouse wing bags located inside the barrel
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Detailed instructions for hunters donating their grouse wing and tail
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A barrel full of wing & tail samples ready to be examined
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Sorting bags out by county before examining the samples
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Some blue grouse samples
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Taking a close look at a tail of a ruffed grouse trying to determine the sex.
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Examining a grouse wing trying to determine it’s age.
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Looking at the primary feathers shape, wear and growth can provide clues to a bird’s age
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The last samples to examine are the nasty ones stored in plastic bags. Outside there’s lots of fresh air.
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End of a great grouse hunt with more wings and tails for the annual wing bee

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