Regional Reports-West

Gila National Forest

One thing's for sure: Blue grouse don't get altitude sickness. The Gila Wilderness in the Gila National Forest offers some of the best habitat for the late grouse season. Here, at an elevation of more than 8,500 feet (you rarely find New Mexico's blues lower than that), the many spruce, fir, manazanita, kinnikinnick, berry patches and a scatter of alpine meadows create optimal blue grouse habitat. In fall, grouse feed on raspberries, elderberries and the soft mast of the manazanita and kinnikinnick in this area. In winter, needles and buds from spruce and fir provide the grouse's staple diet. Find the right cover and food at the right altitude along the ridges, and you should find the grouse. If you're hunting the Gila National Forest, a habitat stamp (available from any license vendor) is required in addition to your regular hunting license. The daily bag limit is three grouse; the possession limit is six. Contact: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (P.O. Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM 87504-5112; 505-476-8000; www.gmfsh.state.nm.us).