Showing posts with label NY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NY. Show all posts

The Traveling Wingshooter 2014: Ruffed Grouse Forecast MN, MI, ME, WI, NY, PA

by Dave Smith

Ruffed grouse hunters in the Great Lakes region have learned over generations to pursue ruffs when they peak in their 9-to-11 year cycle, which last occurred between 2009 and 2011. Each year since has been marked by a predictable decline, but the results of this springˊs drumming surveys show an increase, statewide, in Minnesota and Michigan, and a slight increase in northern Wisconsin.

The M's

"This may indicate the beginning of an upswing in the grouse cycle, which has been in the declining phase since 2009," said Charlotte Roy, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Roy reported a 34 percent increase in the annual drumming surveys statewide, driven by the birdˊs prime range in northern Minnesota.

Michiganˊs drumming surveys revealed an increase from 10 to 12 drums per route, according to Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Further, Stewart says that the heavy snow this winter and ideal moisture conditions this spring were perfect for over-winter survival and reproduction, thus he is cautiously optimistic for a slight increase in grouse numbers this fall.

Grouse populations in Maine have declined from the recent peak but are still near the long-term average, and this yearˊs hatch makes for a promising hunting season. "We had favorable weather for grouse nesting and hatch," said Kelsey Sullivan, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "Drumming surveys completed this spring revealed that areas with quality grouse habitat – such as much of northern Maine above Old Town – showed good activity, so I expect production will be relatively good."

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).