The woods where ruffed grouse live

G. Sam Piatt

I thought at first it looked like a drive to the end of the world. But the good folks living in Huttonsville, West Virginia might not like that description of the place they call home.

Huttonsville, located on the western edge of the Monongahela National Forest, was the gathering place for a group of outdoor writers reporting on a project of land management to provide habitat for the ruffed grouse, as well as for the American woodcock.

For me, from my home in Sand Hill, two miles east of South

Shore, it’s a long two-hour drive just to Charleston. But to get

to Huttonsville required a long, long drive out of Charleston

on Interstate 79 to past Stonewall Jackson Lake.

There I would take Route 33 through Buckhannon and on

east to Elkins.

And I still faced a sizeable drive south on routes 219 and 250 to Huttonsville. There, at the Exxon Station, we would meet with officials from the Tri-State Drumming Feathers Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society.

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife.

RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

The name “ruffed” grouse stems from the ruff of feathers around the bird’s neck.

There is seemingly a conflict between some conservation groups who want trees in our state and national forests to be protected and let nature take its course.

But it’s not the old mature trees of a hundred years or more in age that old ruff needs to survive. It’s young forests 10 or 15 years old sustained by a controlled burn or two, and here and there a clear-cut area of a hundred acres or so.

Such a project underway in the forest near Huttonsville was what we were there to see.

There is no range-wide population survey of ruffed grouse, but some states monitor populations through drumming surveys. Male ruffed grouse drum in the spring to attract females.

They stand on a log or stump and beat their wings up and down, creating a vacuum. Air rushing in to fill the vacuum creates the drumming sound, much the same as the relationship between lightning and thunder.

It seems that, if the wild grouse and other birds of the forest are to survive, the viewpoints of the so-called “tree huggers” and those who want to see a younger, more open forest must survive together – can survive together, not clash.


I well recall a trip – more than one actually – through the Monongahela from my younger days that called for days of hiking and tent camping in some of the most wild and wonderful country you can experience.

Continuing south from Huttonsville will take you across the Elk, Gauley, Williams and Cranberry rivers. Continue east and you’ll strike the Greenbrier River, which travels many a twisting, rushing mile to meet with the New River at Hinton, W. Va. – upstream from the famed white-water rafting of the New River Gorge.


On this trip, though, as soon as I struck the Greenbrier, still in the Monongahela National Forest, I had but one goal in mind, and that was to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite authors.

The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace is a historic home in Hillsboro, West Virginia where American writer Buck was born. The three-story frame home now serves as a museum offering guided tours.

It was built around 1875 by a Dutch refugee family escaping religious persecution in the Netherlands. Buck was born at the house in 1892 while her parents, Caroline Stulting and Absalom Sydenstricker, were on leave from Presbyterian missionary work in China. They returned to China three months after her birth.

I don’t know how much you know about Pearl S. Buck, or whether you’re a fan of her novels and short stories, but consider this tidbit of information about her:

She is the first American woman to win both the Pulitzer Prize (1932, for The Good Earth) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1938). A world-renowned author, she wrote over 100 books and hundreds of short stories and magazine articles. Her books have been translated into 69 foreign languages.

Guided tours of the house are available May 1 – November 1, Mondays, and Thursdays through Saturday, or by appointment. The site also hosts various events throughout the year.

Meanwhile, if you love to visit forests and rushing, pristine streams, pack up this summer and head for West Virginia’s

Monongahela National Forest.

G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.