2017 Ruffed grouse numbers lagging for hunters in Wisconsin, Minnesota

, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

After one month of the 2017 season, hunters have been flushing fewer ruffed grouse in the bird’s Upper Midwest strongholds of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The relative lack of grouse comes after spring drumming counts were reportedly up double digits in both states.

In addition, grouse populations were expected to be higher this year as the species was rising from its 10-year cyclical low.

The dearth of birds has been noted in field reports from hunters as well as results from the annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt in Grand Rapids, Minn., organized by the Ruffed Grouse Society.

“Something is going on,” said Jim Hayett of Hartland, an avid grouse hunter and former RGS national board member who has spent 10 days in October hunting on public and private land near Park Falls, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Minn. “The numbers were supposed to be up and it’s looking like the complete opposite.”

At the national hunt held Thursday and Friday in Grand Rapids, Minn., hunters harvested an average of 0.5 grouse per day, lowest in the 36-year history of the event.

After one month of the 2017 season, hunters have been flushing fewer ruffed grouse in the bird’s Upper Midwest strongholds of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The relative lack of grouse comes after spring drumming counts were reportedly up double digits in both states.

In addition, grouse populations were expected to be higher this year as the species was rising from its 10-year cyclical low.

The dearth of birds has been noted in field reports from hunters as well as results from the annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt in Grand Rapids, Minn., organized by the Ruffed Grouse Society.

“Something is going on,” said Jim Hayett of Hartland, an avid grouse hunter and former RGS national board member who has spent 10 days in October hunting on public and private land near Park Falls, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Minn. “The numbers were supposed to be up and it’s looking like the complete opposite.”

At the national hunt held Thursday and Friday in Grand Rapids, Minn., hunters harvested an average of 0.5 grouse per day, lowest in the 36-year history of the event.

Read the full article

New England 2017 Forecast for the upcoming Grouse and Woodcock bird hunting season

  • Outdoors Dave Sartwell

Upland bird hunters will be getting some good news — and bad news — about the fall 2017 bird populations throughout New England.

This past winter the ruffed grouse fared well, while the migrating woodcock flew straight into the blizzards of March.

Let’s start with the woodcock. It’s important to understand the biology of these long-beaked birds.

Woodcock are the first ground-nesting bird to migrate north from their wintering grounds in the southern United States. They often arrive in late February or early March, looking for earthworms, grubs and other little crawlers that exist just below the ground surface.

Usually, the ground is just warming at that time of year. They find their food sources on those sunny side-hill slopes or spring seeps that lose the first snows of winter. In one of the many miracles of nature, if there isn’t enough food to provide the energy necessary to produce eggs, they’ll maintain their body weight and delay reproduction.

Earlier this year, however, they flew into New England just as we were experiencing a hard cold, followed by a large dump of snow. These new arrivals could not find enough food to eat to stay alive, and many perished in the cold. We haven’t had those conditions since the spring of 2007, when several snow storms in late March and April covered the Northeast.

The only good news is that woodcock do not fly north in flocks; they are individual birds that move at their own calling. Because of that, some would have arrived later in the spring and taken a different route to get here.

It’s still to early to tell the full extent of the decline this year, but everyone agrees there were less singing males in the spring woods — and there will be less young birds available this fall.

Ruffed grouse populations have fared much better. Biologists are reporting that we should see normal to above-normal amounts of birds in the woods, depending on location.

This grouse is one of the most widely distributed birds in North America, with the ruffed grouse being one of the smaller of the 10 different species. It’s almost impossible to tell an adult male from an adult female without examining the internal organs. The male tail feathers are often longer than those of the female, but aren’t a reliable indicator.

There are two predominant color phases: red and grey. The birds in our region are mostly grey.

Ruffed grouse populations have been tied to the amount of farmland under production. They love the logged-over areas, where the berry bushes and other food sources pop up when the forest canopy has been removed.

Grouse numbers this fall will be steady or a little higher than usual. Grouse have pretty good mechanisms for surviving our winters: they just bury in, create their own cave under the snow, and wait for the storms to blow over. They also eat a wide variety of foods, which makes them more adaptable to weather problems.

For example, in the winter they eat dead flower buds or the dried catkins of birch and cherry trees. After they hatch, the chicks feed mainly off a variety of bugs that are high in protein, which allows them to grow rapidly.

The woodcock season will open in Massachusetts Oct. 4, with ruffed grouse season opening Oct. 14. Both will open simultaneously in New Hampshire (Oct. 1) and Maine (Oct. 2).

Read the full GloucesterTimes article

Michigan – No hurry: Future prospects for grouse and woodcock hunting look good

Steve Griffin

The weather was too hot, the pup too young, so I stayed home. I’ll wait.

A week ago, Friday, September 15, instead of crashing through thick brush in pursuit of ruffed grouse, I leafed through the annual grouse and woodcock report and forecast from the DNR’s Wildlife Division.

A few days later, I swapped emails with grouse-avid Al Stewart, the DNR’s upland gamebird specialist.

What I read in both cases made me glad for my pup’s youth.

Hunting for grouse is pretty good and likely to get better: the bird population continues to build toward a 10-year cycle’s high point, due about 2020.

And although woodcock fortunes have fallen across the decades, those who hunt them in good cover still flush them at about the same rates as in the past.

This year? “Grouse hunting has been good,” Stewart reported a few days into the season, with his contacts reporting a few more flushes than in recent early seasons.

But, “It has been wicked hot, so finding birds is being impacted by the weather. If a dog is panting through his mouth, he is not pulling that fine bird scent through his nose.” Stewart said he’d been adapting by hunting early in the day, near creeks and other water sources.

Stewart expects hunters to have similar woodcock flush rates this year as last year, in the season that opens today, and maybe even a few more.

Read the rest of the MidlandDailyNews article

Hiring – Ruffed Grouse Society – Marketing Manager

Join the RGS/AWS Team! Marketing Manager Position:
ruffedgrousesociety.org/marketing-position

The Marketing Manager – will promote the RGS/AWS mission, membership, events and products by implementing and managing messaging campaigns through all media channels including social media, email, direct mail, press release, video and print.

All promotions will engage existing members, recruit and retain new members, educate the public and raise awareness of the RGS/AWS mission to preserve our sporting traditions by creating healthy forests for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. The position will focus on using analytics and SEO to optimize campaign success and to increase digital engagement, membership recruitment and fundraising opportunities.

Wisconsin New-hunter mentor program offered in Three Lakes – RGS Led

Anyone interested in learning to bird hunt can do so free of charge next month. The local chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) is offering a new-hunter mentor program Aug. 19-20 in Three Lakes.

RGS a national organization of grouse and woodcock hunters which supports scientific conservation and management efforts to ensure the future of the species.

“Our new-hunter mentor program offers those interested in bird hunting in the Northwoods a chance to learn this exciting activity directly from experienced, certified mentors,” said Dan Anderson, chairman of the local Chain O’ Lakes RGS chapter.  “The national organization has a successful program that we use as an outline, and locals with many years of experience hunting our area, including use of trained hunting dogs, teach the course.”

The course is open to participants over age 12 and will consist of two half-days Aug. 19-20.  Experience gained in this program can be applied to hunting most other species. Topics will include:

  • Gun safety, marksmanship and shooting
  • Dog handling
  • Field and mapping skills
  • Habitat awareness

The finale will be a hunt this fall with an experienced, certified grouse hunting mentor.

See the full Star Journal article for registration and more details