Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Missouri Restocking Ruffed Grouse

By Joe Healy
After many years of population declines, Missouri’s ruffed grouse finally may be seeing a turnaround. This past year, in a collaborative effort between the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF), of Buffalo, Missouri, and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), 100 ruffed grouse were relocated from Wisconsin to Missouri’s Daniel Boone Conservation Area, in Warren County.

QUWF credits more than a decade of hard work, constant fundraising, generous sponsors, cooperative landowners and MDC personnel with the success of the effort. Craig Alderman, a research biologist and the founder and executive director of QUWF, cites in particular support from Ruger Firearms and personal interest from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

According to Alderman: “Our plan this year is to capture another 100 grouse and bring them down to Missouri and release them. We have a grouse coop right now of about 110 to 112 members that encompasses about 100,000 acres, and we’ve been doing extremely intensive timber-improvement work to prepare for a minimum of a 25-year plan for the grouse to stay, adapt and grow . . . . Between the chapters and the private landowners, I’d say we’ve seen an investment of well over $2 million in timber harvest and getting lands ready.”

Read the rest of the full Shooting Sportsman article

Monday, July 1, 2019

MN 2019 Ruffed Grouse counts similar to last year

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were similar statewide this year to last year. 

DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations for the past 70 years and this year, DNR staff and cooperators from 14 organizations surveyed 131 established routes across the state’s forested region. 

Each year on the routes, surveyors count the number of grouse drums they hear. Drumming is the low sound male grouse make as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory and attract females ready to begin nesting. 

Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. Grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle that can vary from 8 to 11 years, and Minnesota’s most recent population peak was in 2017.

2019 survey results

The 2019 survey results for ruffed grouse were 1.5 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were 0.9, 1.1, 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, and 1.5, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.
Results this year follow a decrease from 2017 to 2018. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of Minnesota’s grouse range, counts were 1.6 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 2.1 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.8 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.7 drums per stop. 
Check the DNR’s grouse hunting webpage for the 2019 grouse survey report and grouse hunting information.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

George Bird Evans Collection Available Online

The George Bird Evans Digital Collection, part of West Virginia & Regional History Center’s extensive Evans collection, contains sixty-five years of detailed hand written hunting journals, which document George and Kay’s pursuit of both woodcock and grouse behind their personally created line of Old Hemlock setters, in varied coverts mostly in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The journals are rich in the experiences and natural observations of a keen intellect and perceptive observer. They are further enhanced by his lively and expressive pen sketches which illustrate many of the entries. These unique journals were the original source material for many of his books and numerous magazine articles, and remain an important resource for understanding his and Kay’s chosen lifestyle and principled sporting ethic. 

Covering the years 1932 to 1997, the hunting journals can be downloaded in PDF format. The West Virginia & Regional History Center also holds significant additional Evans material which is not available online. Please refer to the collection finding aid to learn more about the contents of the George Bird Evans Collection.

George Bird and Kay Harris Evans generously endowed the Old Hemlock Foundation in order to preserve and support their passionate lifelong interests. Today the Foundation preserves and shares with visitors Old Hemlock, their eighteenth century home and surrounding forest near Bruceton Mills, Preston County, WV.

The Old Hemlock Foundation also offers scholarships to WVU Medical School students, provides funding for arts and literature studies in the Bruceton Mills schools, and support for the Preston County Humane Society. The Foundation actively shares the Evans legacy with ongoing outreach programs for all ages, and welcomes visits to and tours of Old Hemlock.

Visit The Collection

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Scientific Impact of West Nile on Ruffed Grouse


In working with private, state and federal partners to conduct intense research on West Nile virus and investigate other issues that might be involved in grouse declines, we’ve learned a lot.

Here’s a sample:
  • Ruffed grouse are highly-susceptible to WNV, and infected grouse suffered very high mortality, based on our 2015 lab study with Colorado State University.
    Young forest is important habitat for grouse courting and brood-rearing, but only 8 percent of Penn’s Woods is made up of young forest. Habitat loss and degradation have left grouse populations more vulnerable to threats, including West Nile virus.
    We still don’t know how many other woodland birds are vulnerable to the WNV.
  • Wild grouse are exposed to WNV throughout Pennsylvania, in good and poor habitat.

    We know this from looking for WNV and virus antibodies in hundreds of hunter-harvested grouse from 2015 through 2018. We also see evidence that the proportion of WNV survivors among harvested grouse varies with the virus’ severity in any given year.

    There is no way to know how many grouse die during the peak WNV season – July through September, but we see fewer survivors in the fall/winter harvest during severe WNV years.
  • Both young forest availability and WNV prevalence determine the fate of grouse populations.

    A 2017 Game Commission-Penn State University analysis showed habitat and WNV influence whether grouse persist in an area, whether they colonize new areas, and whether individual populations disappear over time. This gives us something to work with! We now know our management efforts will be more effective if we take disease prevalence into account when managing habitat.
  • Individual grouse in areas of highly abundant and high-quality habitat might have a higher chance of survival, based on antibody findings.

    Further, hunter-flush-rate data show grouse populations in good habitat rebounding more quickly after bad WNV years, compared to populations in more isolated or marginal habitats. This also has valuable management implications.
  • We’re more knowledgeable about the primary disease vectors, based on a 2017-18 collaboration with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s West Nile Virus Surveillance Program.

    The mosquito Culex pipiens is the primary WNV vector in human residential areas. But Game Commission trapping shows it’s rarely found in the state’s forests. Rather, the vector we must target is Culex restuans, a closely-related country cousin of Culex pipiens that prefers to target birds.

    Our 2017-18 research shows Culex restuans thrives in woodlands, occurring in each of the 10 game lands we’ve studied.
  • We know Culex restuans populations rise and fall largely due to temperature and rainfall. WNV transmission benefits from above-average spring and autumn temperatures, because warm temperatures prolong the mosquito-breeding and the WNV-transmission season. Unfortunately, we also know WNV is not going away. High-prevalence years are becoming more frequent. Eight of the past 10 years exhibited extremely high WNV prevalence.
WHAT WE KNOW NOW  --- Read the full RGS article

Monday, June 17, 2019

Pockets Of Hoosier National Forest Cut Down For Wildlife Habitat

Officials with the Hoosier National Forest are drawing attention to an effort to preserve “forest openings.” These are pockets in the forest where older trees have been cut down to make way for younger trees, shrubs and grasses. 
Hoosier National Forest Wildlife Technician Brian King says before humans started changing the landscape, these openings were created naturally through things like forest fires.
“So we’re trying to bring back this habitat that once was here and has now gone away because we as humans have kind of stopped that flow,” he says.
King says more than 4,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest is set aside for these clearings, with the average size being about six acres. They’re good habitat for species like the ruffed grouse — which the state says is on track for extinction.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wisconsin Ruffed Grouse Drumming 2019 Counts UP 41% Over 2018

Wisconsin statewide ruffed grouse drumming activity increased 41% between 2018 and 2019, based on the roadside survey to monitor breeding grouse activity. Changes in indices to breeding grouse populations varied by region, and the statewide mean number of drums per stop was different (P= <.0001) from 2018 to 2019. Drummer densities on the Sandhill Wildlife Area in Wood County showed a decrease of 13%. 

 Read the full Wi DNR article

Monday, March 18, 2019

Cover Dog Trials – Good for Grouse Dogs

by Seth Heasley


For better or worse, this is written from a setter enthusiast’s perspective but still is just as applicable to any pointing dog breed that can compete in cover dog trials (AKC or American Field sanctioned). Many have heard about field trials but far less understand how they work, in their basic form they’re setup like two hunters, with two dogs going for a walk in the bird woods, here’s an attempt to explain how they differ in the particulars…

Earlier this month, I entered one of my setters in a field trial which had the luxury of being close to home. All stakes were “open” meaning both professional handlers (and trainers) as well as amateurs were able to enter as handlers. This particular trial is commonly referred to as a cover dog trial meaning wild birds in grouse and woodcock cover.

Generally, there’s three stakes in an average cover dog trial:
Puppy- younger than 1.5 years old, 20-30 minute course
Derby- 1.5 to 3 years old, 30 minute – 1 hour course
All Age- Any age but requires completely broke bird work – the dog must stand through flush and shot, 1 hour or more.

Stakes are made up of braces. A brace is composed of the following:
Courses- predetermined path that was intentionally timed upon it’s creation to match the length of the type of stake with marked trees to follow
Dogs- each brace has two dogs, if there’s a pulled entry (for example a female went into heat) or there was an uneven entry amount of dogs and a dog does not have a bracemate, that space is referred to as a bye
Handlers- each dog has it’s own handler (two)
Judges- two judges ride behind the handlers, they determine the placements
Scouts- help find dogs believed to be on point deep in cover or as an extra set of ears and eyes if the handler temporarily “loses” the dog.
Gallery- spectators, generally dog owners, breeders other handlers or anyone else who would like to spectate who are behind the judges.

Handlers are on foot, but often in All Age cover dog trials the judges are on horseback. A horse allows judges a better vantage point with eyes ahead on dogs and less worried about their footing. Most importantly, hour-long braces with a 30-dog or more entry would mean 15 hours of hiking to complete a trial.

Cover dog trials are beneficial to just about anyone who is involved with pointing dogs, those looking into getting a grouse dog, present pointing dog owners and of course the breeders. You would be hard pressed to find a group of individuals that have their finger on the pulse of present grouse populations and cycles better than those who actively campaign dogs in cover dog trials. They are in the woods and running nearly all year long.

Read the rest of the Ruffed Grouse Society article