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Any landowner who wants to manage property in a manner that encourages a healthy grouse population needs to recognize the importance of aspen. The buds of mature male aspen trees serve as a major winter food source, and young stands of aspen — which sprout prolifically following a clear cut during dormancy (when leaves are off the trees) — provide the necessary dense cover for good grouse habitat.

Given that the home range of a grouse hen with a brood may approach 40 acres, managing an area of that size is adequate and will provide habitat to several male grouse, as well.

If managing land for grouse, the Department of Fish and Wildlife publication A Landowner’s Guide to Wildlife Habitat Management for Vermont Woodlands recommends the following practices.

Once an area to be managed for grouse has been identified (preferably one that includes some component of aspen), divide the area into stands of five acres or less. Every 10 years, rotate treatment on one-quarter of the stands as described below in a checkerboard pattern. Stands with the oldest aspen trees should be treated first. Within each stand of five acres or less:

  1. Prune apple trees and other fruit-producing trees and release them by cutting adjacent trees that are crowding them.
  2. Retain small patches of soft-wood trees (one-quarter to one-half acre in size) for winter cover.
  3. Maintain rock walls and/or several large logs as drumming sites after the stand has been treated.
  4. Provide openings with herbaceous vegetation [small, non-woody plants] on 10 percent of the area being managed (4 acres of a 40-acre management area). Create openings by seeding log landings and woods roads. Maintain by periodic mowing.
  5. Maintain sources of fall foods such as oaks, hophornbeam, or beech as long as they do not total more than 25 percent of the area.
  6. Clear cut the remainder of each stand being treated during the winter season.

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