Despite favorable conditions, Pennsylvania's grouse count low

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania hunters should see an outstanding grouse season, by all indications except one -- the absence of grouse.

As the first leg of a three-part split season opens this weekend, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's go-to person on ruffed grouse said spring research and summer sightings don't add up, resulting in a recent advisory that grouse hunting was expected to be "slightly below average."

"Conditions were good in winter and spring, with a lot of early reports of plenty of broods by June 1. Then as summer came, our people in the field were filing reports saying [grouse] numbers were down, down, down," said Game Commission grouse and woodcock specialist Lisa Williams. "It didn't make sense. I was scratching my head, because my gut still tells me we should see a lot of grouse out there."
Pennsylvania's official state bird is North America's most widely distributed resident game bird. While the grouse population has declined in the state since 1980, and the number of hunters targeting them is down, more than 100,000 Pennsylvania hunters are expected to harvest 75,000 to 100,000 grouse in the 2012-13 seasons, contributing some $79 million to the state's economy, according to a Game Commission report.

Ruffed grouse can be found in most forested areas. But like the woodcock and song birds with whom they share the thickets, grouse are habitat specialists preferring what Williams called "really thick, gnarly stuff." Serious grouse hunters know they'll have to get physical in grape tangles and dense stands of seedlings and saplings to force an adrenaline-inducing flush.

Pennsylvania Grouse Cooperators -- a group of 314 hard-core grouse hunters who keep track of their hunts and report back to the Game Commission -- documented 1.32 flushes per hour last season, the highest flush rate among neighboring states. But Pennsylvania has been tough on grouse.
"Losses of young forest habitat over the last several decades have been bad news for grouse, woodcock and other species that rely on these habitats," said Ian Gregg, Game Commission Game Bird Section supervisor, in a written statement.

Young forests up to 20 years old dropped from nearly 20 percent of total forest acres in 1980 to a little over 10 percent today.

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Grouse hunter kills charging wolf in northern Minnesota

A ruffed grouse hunter in northern Minnesota shot and killed a wolf he said was charging at him and his dog, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR's weekly law enforcement summary includes the following report:
"(Conservation officer) Sam Hunter (of Park Rapids) took a call from a grouse hunter who had shot a timber wolf that was chasing his hunting dog. The dog ran back to the hunter with the wolf on its heels. The hunter shot the wolf at about 8 yards with bird shot as it was coming directly at him/his dog. Proper measures were taken by the hunter to notify the DNR and enforcement action was not necessary. It was a frightening experience during a grouse hunting trip that will not soon be forgotten."

Killing a wolf to protect livestock or pets is legal throughout Minnesota at any time of year, provided the kill is reported to the DNR within 48 hours.

Read the complete Pioneer Press article for more of the story

American Woodcock Migration Mapping System - Reactived

 Woodcock Migration Mapping will be Active from September 2012 through April 2013

Submit Daily Migration Activity Report 

Access Historical Maps and Summaries 

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Welcome to the Ruffed Grouse Society’s National American Woodcock Migration Mapping System. In partnership with, the online authority in waterfowl migration tracking, RGS started providing real-time tracking of the annual American woodcock migration in 2006 -- for the first time in history. It has continued each year since. The advanced GIS mapping system relies on daily migration data provided by our members and online readers. Users enter the zip-code for the area they're reporting on, then select if the woodcock activity in that area is Light, Medium, Heavy, or at its Peak.
**The map is a real-time summary of daily (24-hour) entries which reset each midnight, so we encourage our visitors to report each day they encounter woodcock. To view prior 24-hour or longer prior period historical maps, click the Historical Maps and Summaries link.

More Info and Complete RGS Article

Observations from the 2012 Ruffed Grouse Opener

I had the good fortune of celebrating the ruffed grouse hunting opener in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula over the weekend with a large contingent of my immediate family. While we didn’t spend every moment of daylight scouring the woods, four ruffs found their way into our game vests. In the afterglow of barbecued grouse jalapeno poppers, I offer the following observations:
  • The Woods were Grousey! Although all Midwest drumming counts will indicate our slide on the downward side of the grouse cycle, there are absolutely enough birds to keep the aspen and alder woods exciting. Our group averaged 2.5 grouse flushes per hour in four hours of hunting on Saturday and one hour of hunting on Sunday. And our group included me, my brother, his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, my mom, my dad and two shorthairs. In other words, we weren’t exactly a stealth group of grouse hunters.
  • A Special Family Opener. Many folks will complain about the grouse opener being too warm or tough hunting with the woods filled with leaves. The grouse opener is particularly special to me and has become a St.Pierre family tradition. A little over 13 years ago, my dad suffered an aneurysm that nearly took his life. Thanks to medicine and miracles, I am always thankful to spend another walk through the September grouse woods with my dad. This year was extra special as my brother joined us for his first bird hunt in two decades. And, to top it off my niece and nephew slapped on their blaze orange Pheasants Forever gear and joined the family tradition. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
  • Grouse Broods already Dispersed. It seems the grouse family groups had already broken up in the grouse covers we walked. Every flush was a solo bird. Perhaps the early spring in the Northwoods did indeed result in an earlier hatch. If that were to be the case, it’d make sense for the grouse family groups to already be broken.
  • Crazy about Timberdoodles. I was amazed by the number of woodcock we encountered on opening weekend: the most I can ever remember on a grouse opener. Presumably, the migration hasn’t yet begun so these would have been local ‘doodles. We averaged 3.5 woodcock flushes per hour. My older shorthair, Trammell, showed mid-season form pointing numerous woodcock right out of the gates, which presented a number of “honoring” opportunities for my 6-month-old pup, Izzy. NOTE: Michigan’s woodcock hunting season doesn’t up until September 22nd.

ND Sharptail, Huns Show Slight Increase, Ruffs Down

North Dakota hunters should expect to see a slight increase in sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge numbers this hunting season, based on spring survey numbers. However, the ruffed grouse population continues on a downward trend.

The season for sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse and Hungarian partridge opens Sept. 8.
 Aaron Robinson, State Game and Fish Department upland game management biologist, Dickinson, said the spring sharptail breeding population was up from last year. However, he said the continued losses of native prairie and acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program are negatively affecting the sharp-tailed grouse population in North Dakota.

Hungarian partridge numbers show a moderate increase from 2011. “Similar to recent years, scouting areas will be critical to success,” Robinson said. “Pockets of decent hunting may be found in areas where multiple pairs reproduced successfully.”

This spring’s statewide ruffed grouse drumming counts took a dip of 37 percent from 2011. The number of drumming males decreased almost 42 percent in the Pembina Hills and 24 percent in the Turtle Mountains.

Biologists are in the process of compiling summer brood date, which provides a more complete assessment of the fall season. Results will be available the first week in September.
The sage grouse and prairie chicken seasons will remain closed in 2012 due to low populations.
Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Sharptails, ruffed grouse and Huns each have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of 12.

Hunters, regardless of age, must have a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. In addition, hunters age 16 and older need a small game license.

For further season information and regulations, hunters should consult the North Dakota 2012-13 Small Game Hunting Guide.

Complete Article and ND G&F Website