While I may not spend as much time as I wish I could in the grouse woods of Northern Michigan; I try to make the most of my trips when I am able to head North. This fall I had several 4:00am wake up calls, attended multiple grouse camps, and spent time with several great guys that I am lucky to call my friends and family.
The news isn’t particularly good for West Virginia’s upland bird hunters.
Their favorite target, the ruffed grouse, is especially scarce this year. Their next favorite, the woodcock, has been in gradual decline for several years. While there are areas where both species are relatively abundant, statewide a hunter’s chance to bag a brace or two is pretty poor.
Keith Krantz, a biologist with the state Division of Natural Resources, said nesting success for grouse was poor last spring.
“That’s what’s driving this year’s poor outlook,” he said. “Observations of grouse broods were 6.7 percent less than in 2015, and 17.6 percent less than the five-year running average.”
Krantz said grouse were most abundant in the mountain counties.
“That area of the state continued to lead the state in observations, but the level we saw this year declined from last year,” he added. “The number of broods this year was roughly equivalent to the 2012-13 season.”
The southern and western counties had even fewer broods.
“If you’re in those parts of the state, you’re in for a tough year,” Krantz said.
Hall of Fame Trainer Dave Hughes and Long Gone Kennel owner Lloyd Murray run pups, intermediate dogs and broke dogs in August in Northern NH to prepare for hunting and field trial season.
Ruffed Grouse hunting over GSPs
By John Holyoke
The leaves are still on the trees, and there have been relatively few frosty mornings thus far, but the state’s upland bird hunters will still celebrate their own opening day on Saturday, taking to the woods in their annual October search of ruffed grouse and woodcock.
What will they find?
Kelsey Sullivan, the game bird biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said he expects a mediocre year of hunting, especially for those seeking grouse — known to many Mainers as “partridge.”
“I would expect it’s going to be spotty, patchy,” Sullivan said. “You might find some good places, but overall, I think [a] middle-of-the-road [season] is what we could hope for. I don’t want to get anybody geared up that it’s going to be a bumper year, because I don’t think it is.”
The DIF&W is conducting research and has put radio transmitters on hen grouse to track their mortality through the year.
“This past spring, [we learned during the study that] there was higher hen mortality during the nesting season, and even after the eggs hatched and [the hens] were on the ground with chicks, there was higher mortality for those breeding hens,” Sullivan said.
During 2014 and 2015, hen mortality during breeding season — largely attributed to predators — was about 30 percent, he said. This year, it was 40 percent.
Sullivan said that during those first two years of the study, 45 percent of the grouse died of natural causes each year, and another 15 percent were shot during hunting season.