Showing posts with label Counts / Numbers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Counts / Numbers. Show all posts

Prospects good for Michigan grouse hunters

By Darin Potter

Lansing — Hunters throughout the state in pursuit of upland birds and small game can expect another successful season this fall. Upland game birds like ruffed grouse and woodcock should be found in good numbers, and rabbits and squirrels are plentiful.

“The 2013 fall ruffed grouse and woodcock numbers could be similar if not a little bit lower statewide compared to 2012. With favorable annual production, hunters could take approximately 240,000 grouse and 74,000 woodcock in 2013,” Al Stewart, the DNR’s upland game bird specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News. “Although spring arrived two weeks later than normal in 2013, the warm, average weather conditions this year may have a positive impact on brood survival. If we have favorable production this spring, I anticipate fall ruffed grouse and woodcock numbers could be similar to or only down slightly from last year.”

Stewart said grouse drumming counts were down this spring.

Using data from 87 routes run in 2012 and 2013, statewide there was a 10.3-percent decrease in the average number of drums heard per route between 2012 (11.8) and 2013 (10.6).

The drumming counts were highest in Zone 1 (14.5 drums per route), followed by Zone 2 (9.4) and Zone 3 (6.4).

Grouse season runs Sept. 15 to Nov. 14, then re-opens Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. The woodcock season opens Sept. 21 and ends Nov. 3.

When hunting woodcock, a Harvest Information Program endorsement is required. The HIP survey takes about a minute to complete and must be added by the agent when you purchase a small-game license.

A relatively new tool created by the DNR called, MI-Hunt ( gives hunters the ability to scout areas ahead of the season by viewing land from aerial photos and learning the habitat online. With 10 million acres of public land in Michigan, it’s not difficult to find areas that hold upland game birds or game animals, according to Stewart.

“Bird hunters have found this tool to be very helpful for viewing different forest types, topography, satellite imagery, and road layers – all from the comfort of their own home. There’s even a tutorial designed for grouse hunters,” he said.

Calling the local wildlife biologist before the season is also a good way to find areas that hold game.

Read the rest of the Outdoor News article

With birds on the low end of cycle, opportunities for grouse hunters scarce in Minnesota

Written by Glen Schmitt

The Department of Natural Resources has monitored the ruffed grouse population in Minnesota for more than 60 years. Part of that process involves driving established routes in the forested region and counting the number of male grouse heard drumming each spring.

Those drumming counts are used as an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population, which tends to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle. Results from this year’s survey showed that drumming counts were down for the second consecutive year and that ruffed grouse numbers are likely at the low end of that natural cycle.

In the northeast, which is considered the state’s premier ruffed grouse range, drumming counts dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 per stop. Counts in the northwest dipped from 0.9 last spring to 0.7 drums per stop this year, while drumming counts showed little change from a year ago in the central hardwoods and southeast with an average of 0.9 and 0.4 drums per stop, respectively.

According to Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse biologist, the decrease in drumming counts this spring was not unexpected since the ruffed grouse population is still in the declining phase of its cyclical pattern.
“We’re near or at the bottom of the cycle and I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” Roy said. “Historically, you can see that it takes three or four years to rebound so it wasn’t surprising to see the counts down this year.”

Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop in years when grouse abundance is low and as high as 1.9 drums per stop when the grouse population is up. Drumming counts spiked last in the spring of 2009.
The peak of spring drumming efforts usually occurs somewhere during the first few days in May. The median date this year was later, around May 10, likely the result of lagging cold and snow in the state’s core ruffed grouse range.

Roy pointed out that she asked DNR officials and volunteers that were counting drums across the 117 surveyed routes to do so when they thought drumming was at its peak. Most of them indicated that drumming peaked later than usual.

MN 2013 Grouse counts decline, later spring nesting may help hatch

Ruffed grouse drumming counts were down across most of the bird’s range, according to the annual survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“This decrease was not unexpected because the ruffed grouse population is still in the declining phase of its 10-year cycle,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse biologist. “Drum counts peaked most recently in 2009.”

Drumming counts dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 per stop in the northeast, which is the forest bird’s core range in Minnesota. Counts in the northwest declined from 0.9 in 2012 to 0.7 drums per stop in 2013. Drumming counts did not change significantly in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.9 and 0.4 drums per stop, respectively.

Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population.

This year, observers recorded 0.9 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2011 and 2012 were 1.7 and 1.0 drums per stop, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. Drumming did occur later this year because of the late spring, suggesting that nesting likely occurred later than normal.

“Later nesting would have pushed the hatch out a bit, hopefully beyond the spring rains,” Roy said. “Time will tell if that occurred and the impact on production.”

Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in the state each year, making it the state’s most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin – which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota – round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

One reason for the Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

For the past 64 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 14 organizations surveyed 117 routes across the state

Sharp-tailed grouse counts decrease slightly
Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest, the bird’s primary range in Minnesota, were similar to 2012. Counts in the east-central region declined significantly.

Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds.

Despite several years of declining numbers, this year’s statewide average of 9.2 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Overall, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.

The DNR’s 2013 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online.

Original MN DNR article

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WI 2013 Ruffed grouse survey indicates slight population decline

MADISON – Ruffed grouse populations in Wisconsin have shown another slight decline this spring, according to results of the recently completed roadside ruffed grouse survey.

“The index that Wisconsin uses to track ruffed grouse decreased 9 percent between 2012 and 2013,” said Brian Dhuey, Department of Natural Resources wildlife surveys coordinator. “This decrease isn’t unexpected at this point in the population cycle. Ruffed grouse populations are known to boom and bust over a nine- to 11-year cycle. Grouse populations in Wisconsin tend to be at their peak in years ending in a nine or zero.”

The roadside survey to monitor the number of breeding grouse has been conducted by staff from the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees, and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers since 1964. Surveyors begin 30 minutes before sunrise and drive along established routes, making 10 stops at assigned points and listening for four minutes for the distinctive “thump, thump, thump” sounds made by drumming male grouse. Results from this survey help DNR biologists monitor the cyclic population dynamics of ruffed grouse in the state.

The number of drums heard per stop in 2013 was down 9 percent statewide from the previous year. One of the primary regions for grouse in the state, the central region, showed an 18 percent drop in the number of drums heard per stop, yet the other primary region in the north showed a 2 percent increase.
Intensive surveys were also run on two research areas. The Sandhill Wildlife Area in Wood County showed a decline of 5 percent. The Stone Lake Experimental Area in Oneida County showed an increase of 2 percent.

According to Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, maturation of southern Wisconsin’s forest community in recent decades, and the resulting loss of dense, brushy areas that grouse need for cover, has contributed to lower numbers of grouse.

“Ruffed grouse are closely linked to young forest habitats that develop following large disturbances, notably logging activities,” Walter said. “While we often focus as hunters on grouse numbers in a single year, it’s important to remember that the long-term health of grouse and other early-successional wildlife is dependent upon our ability to create the dense young cover they require. Lacking significant, broad-scale forms of natural disturbance such as fire, we need to ensure that intensive timber harvests remain a component of our forest management activities.”

In regard to the slight increase in northern Wisconsin, Gary Zimmer, coordinating biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, points to the weather.

"Weather, especially during the brood rearing period in late May and early June, plays an important role in ruffed grouse numbers," said Zimmer. "The slight increase shown in this spring’s northern region drumming counts, even in a downward cycle, can definitely be tied to 2012's excellent brood rearing conditions with its lengthy dry, warm period in June.

“Unfortunately, this spring’s weather is not following the same pattern and it is doubtful fall grouse numbers will be comparable to last year in the north woods. However, even with lower populations, Wisconsin still has some of the best grouse hunting in the country," Zimmer said.

Complete survey results can be found by searching the DNR website for “ wildlife reports.”
For more information, search the DNR website for “ruffed grouse hunting."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861 or Brian Dhuey, wildlife surveys coordinator, 608-221-6342

2012-13 New York State Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log Results

During the 2012-13 ruffed grouse and American woodcock hunting seasons, 280 hunters recorded their daily hunting activities, including information such as the number of birds flushed, the number of hours hunted, the number of birds killed, and if a dog was used to hunt grouse and woodcock. The primary purpose of the log is to monitor the number of birds flushed per hour. Changes in the flush rate illustrate trends in the grouse and woodcock populations when viewed over a long period of time and will provide insight into statewide distributions for these popular game species as habitats change both locally and on a landscape scale.

You can view, print, or download the 2012-13 Grouse and Woodcock Log Report (PDF) (1.1 MB).

We thank all the hunters that participated in this survey during the 2012-13 seasons.

Results from the 2012-13 Season

During the 2012-13 season, participants reported data from over 2,600 hunting trips across the state, from the lower Hudson Valley in the south, to the Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley in the north, and the Lake Plains and Allegheny Plateau in far western New York. They spent almost 7,000 hours afield and flushed almost 5,000 grouse (about 0.7 flushes/hour) and close to 2,700 woodcock (about 0.6 flushes/hour). Some findings from the 2012-13 season include:

Grouse Hunting

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 25 hours afield during the 2012-13 season. They took about 9 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Grouse log participants averaged about 18 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2012-13 season and had to spend about one hour and 20 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged about 1.4 birds harvested for the season and had to invest over 16 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 12 grouse flushes resulted in a kill (a 8.5% success rate).
  • About 68% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September November). In addition, about 75% of the grouse flushed and 79% of the grouse harvested occurred during this early part of the season. The flush rate was higher during the first half of the season (0.79 vs. 0.61), and varied by month with a peak in November (0.84 flushes/hour).
  • Slightly more effort was expended by hunters on public lands, and the number of grouse flushed was slightly higher there; however, the flush rate was slightly higher private lands (0.76 vs. 0.69 flushes/hour).
  • Overall, there was far more effort expended in the southern grouse season zone than the northern season zone (over 70% of the total), but the flush rate was similar between the southern zone and northern zone (about 0.73 grouse flushed/hour).
  • Hunting effort was well distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 40% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (35% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 5% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 27% in northern New York (15% Adirondacks Tug Hill Ecozone, 9% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 3% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 33% in the southeastern part of the state (17% Catskills Delaware Hills, 16% Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands). The highest number of grouse were flushed and harvested in the Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, followed by the Catskill Delaware Hills and Adirondacks Tug Hill ecozones (see PDF above of the 2012-13 report for a map with the regions referred to here).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Adirondacks-Tug Hill Ecozone (0.91 grouse flushed/hour), followed by the Catskills Delaware Hills and Appalachian Hills & Plateau ecozones (0.84 grouse flushed/hour). The rest of the ecozones were below the annual statewide average of 0.73 grouse flushed/hour.
  • Most hunters that participated in the survey used a dog to hunt grouse. In general, hunters that used a dog flushed and harvested more grouse and had a higher flush rate (0.81 grouse flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.60 grouse flushed/hour).

Woodcock Hunting

  • Analyses for woodcock data were restricted to 20 September through 30 November. This represents the period in which resident and migrating woodcock were in New York and accounted for 99% of all the woodcock observations during the survey. The results presented in this report are based on 1,749 trips and 4,703 hours afield by 252 hunters.
  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged almost 19 hours afield during the 2012 woodcock season. They took about 7 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Survey participants averaged almost 11 woodcock flushed per hunter for the 2012 season and had to spend just under 2 hours hunting in order to flush one woodcock. In addition, hunters averaged about 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest about 9 hours of hunting effort to harvest one woodcock. On average, one out of every 5 woodcock flushes resulted in a kill (a 20% success rate).
  • Hunting effort was evenly distributed over the 45-day season, with a peak in effort in early October. More birds were flushed during the first week of October than during any other week of the season, but the flush rate was highest during the fourth week of October (0.81 birds flushed/hour). The overall flush rate from 20 September through 30 November was 0.58 birds/hour.
  • There was more hunting effort and woodcock flushed and killed on public land than on private land, but the flush rate was slightly higher on private land (0.61 vs. 0.55 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • There was more hunting effort and woodcock flushed and killed in the southern zone than in the northern zone, but the flush rate was higher in the northern zone (0.67 vs. 0.54 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • The flush rate was highest in the St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone (0.89 woodcock flushed/hour). Several other ecozones were close to the statewide average flush rate (0.58 birds flushed/hour), with the exception of the Champlain Valley Ecozone, which was below the statewide average (0.41 birds flushed/hour).
  • Most hunters that participated in the survey used a dog to hunt woodcock. Hunters that used a dog flushed and harvested more woodcock and had a higher flush rate (0.78 birds flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.16 birds flushed/hour).

Comparing 2012-13 to Previous Seasons

Ruffed Grouse

  • Over the past nine seasons, 1,132 hunters have participated in this survey. They took over 26,000 trips afield, spent almost 74,000 hours pursuing grouse, flushed about 74,000 birds, and harvested roughly 6,400 grouse. During this time period, the average flush rate was 1.04 grouse flushed/hour.
  • Summary statistics for hunter effort (trips/hunter, hours/hunter) during the 2012-13 season were lower than the previous season and were below the long-term average. Indices for grouse abundance (flushes and kills/hunter, flushes/hour) were lower than 2011-12 and below the long-term average. The 2012-13 flush rate (0.73 birds/hour) was the lowest observed since this survey was initiated in 2004.
  • The amount of time spent afield to harvest a grouse has increased the past four seasons from 9 hours in 2009-10 to over 16 hours in 2012-13. The number of grouse flushed and harvested per hunter during 2012-13 were both lower than the previous season and below the long-term average.
  • Flush rates declined from 2011-12 to 2012-13 in every ecozone, with the exception of the Adirondacks-Tug Hill which increased about 20% (0.75 to 0.91 birds flushed/hour). Declines ranged from 3% in the Champlain Valley Ecozone (0.67 to 0.65 grouse flushed/hour) to about 30% in the Lake Plains, Appalachians Hills & Plateau, St. Lawrence Valley, and Catskill ecozones. Only the Adirondacks-Tug Hill Ecozone was close to the long-term statewide average (1.04 grouse flushed/hour).
  • Annual variation in grouse abundance is likely a result of variation in weather, including spring temperature and rainfall and winter snow conditions, and food availability during the summer and fall (e.g., soft and hard mast). Ecozones with flush rates that are consistently below the statewide average likely suffer from poor habitat quantity and quality. In areas with a lack of the early successional habitats on which this species depends, grouse, their nests, and young are more vulnerable to predation and other limiting factors.
  • Over the past nine seasons, trends in grouse populations statewide and in major ecozones have resembled a "bell-shaped curve" that peaked from 2006-09. It is unclear whether this is illustrative of the grouse population "cycles" that have been observed in other states. If we use statewide grouse harvest estimates as an index to grouse populations, over the past two decades there does not seem to be a 10-year cycle in New York. Whether this is because declining habitat quantity and quality have disrupted the cycle, or whether these habitat factors are "masking" a cycle that would normally occur during optimal habitat conditions is not known. Alternately, there may be population cycles operating at a geographic scale larger (e.g., the northeastern U.S.) or smaller (e.g., the St. Lawrence Valley) than currently being measured. In the coming years, data from the Grouse Hunter's Log will help identify patterns in grouse populations and help us determine whether such cycles occur in New York.
  • After nine seasons, we can begin to assemble a picture of grouse distribution and abundance in New York State, and use this information to help target habitat management efforts to improve conditions for early successional species (Figure 3). Improving or restoring habitat in or close to regions with high quality habitat has a better chance at being successful than habitat management in regions devoid of high quality grouse habitat. In fact, conducting habitat improvement in regions with a lack of good habitat can have detrimental impacts on grouse populations by creating habitat "sinks" (islands of good habitat in a sea of poor habitat) that are insufficient for reproduction and survival.

American Woodcock

  • With the expansion of the woodcock season from 30 days in 2010 to 45 days in 2011, we observed a concomitant increase in hunter effort. From 2011 to 2012, hunter effort was similar, but the flush rate increased from 0.49 to 0.58 birds flushed/hour, comparable to the flush rate in 2010 (0.59 birds flushed/hour).
  • A similar trend was observed in the spring "Singing-ground Survey" (SGS) coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number of singing males per route in New York from 2010 to 2012 was 2.78, 2.61, and 2.67 males, respectively, so over this short time span the SGS conducted in the spring and the hunter's log conducted in the fall seem to be correlated.
  • The timing of migration was similar between 2010 and 2012, with the peak in migration occurring slightly later in those years (week of October 25th) than in 2011 (week of October 18th).