Given a Chance to be Heard . . . A Hunter’s Voice Makes A Difference

By RGS/AWS Regional Wildlife Biologist Linda Ordiway, Ph.D.

Grouse hunters must step up to influence agency decisions that affect the future of grouse populations . . .

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RGS/AWS Regional Wildlife Biologist Linda Ordiway, Ph.D., shares information with other hunters during the annual Upland Bird Hunt in Pennsylvania. Photo by James Boburka

Communications between Ruffed Grouse Society employees and members and non-member grouse hunters may not seem that important to you until you find yourself in a state or region with a declining grouse population, one declining for multiple years . . . not just the normal ups and downs but a steady 15 to 20-year downturn.  As a grouse hunter, you can’t help but want a direct line to those who are the “keepers of the data or information”. Reading reports, emails and newspaper articles sometimes just doesn’t cut it, or information gets lost in translation.

We have “Birds and Brews” events designed to rejuvenate committees and to find new members through an evening of swapping hunting tales and dog stories.  Don’t get me wrong, these events have their place – building camaraderie and meeting new grouse and woodcock hunters are necessary for our future. But on a rainy evening on March 6 in Mercer, Pennsylvania in the back room of a board-and-batten establishment amid six other tables playing their weekly rummy games, I witnessed the most incredible information-sharing session between a state agency and an interest group. The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) Web-less Gamebird Biologist Lisa Williams shared the state of the grouse population with 58 grouse hunters. The evening was incredible, considering my fond memories of the deer public sessions of the 90s that were not so incredible.

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Pennsylvania Game Commission Web-Less Gamebird Biologist Lisa Williams shares a “state of the grouse” presentation with attendees at an RGS event held in Mercer, Pennsylvania on March 6.

The idea for this information-sharing meeting was initiated by longtime RGS member Bill Halsey who approached RGS Regional Director Lisa Rossi RGS. The purpose of the meeting was to, yes help boost a chapter committee, but Bill wanted to provide the public with the opportunity to hear and discuss the current state of the grouse population with Lisa Williams.

We decided to take the opportunity to provide attendees with more detailed information necessary to evaluate the health of a grouse population. You see, Pennsylvania has roughly 640 grouse cooperators and much of the information they provide is used in the annual reports and has been for nearly 45 years. So Lisa Williams agreed to present the “LONG VERSION” of historic grouse data and current research, nothing else. Nothing else, just grouse. We did not anticipate the response to the announcement.

Not everyone in attendance was an RGS member, which means we spread the word for a true public meeting. But everyone shared a passion and had a similar concern, “What’s happening to OUR grouse?” Everyone in that room also had something they could be doing that night, but they made a choice to spend three hours participating, not just listening, in a state of the grouse discussion opportunity because they cared.

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Ruffed grouse in Pennsylvania. Photo by James Boburka

Perhaps not all state agency personnel are willing to get in front of their hunters, but perhaps they should. Grouse hunters are one of your best sources of information and the most passionate and knowledgeable groups out there. Give them a chance to be heard and you will hear them . . .  just ask Pennsylvania.

If I can convey anything to our members and those grouse hunters that aren’t members, there is strength in numbers. The common ground for most all grouse hunters is habitat. Grouse hunters usually are a rather solitary lot. There is something to be said in seeing a group with a similar interest in a non-social-designed setting being so focused and ready to do what it takes to ensure the resource they treasure. This happened that rainy night in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

www.ruffedgrousesociety.org

Make your voice known at a future RGS Event.

Become a member: www.ruffed.org

 

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THEY SAID IT! . . . Best Quotes from the Spring RGS Magazine

THEY SAID IT! . . . Best Quotes from the Spring RGS Magazine

By Matt Soberg

Are you an upland hunter?  Bird dog owner? Shotgun lover?

Have you become afflicted by the grouse and woodcock hunting addiction? Do you care about the future of our sporting traditions?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine is a must see – a one stop shop for everything grouse and woodcock hunting and forest habitat conservation – hunting tips, bird dog info, gun reviews, book reviews, cooking recipes, classic hunting stories, habitat management information . . . the list goes on and on.

spring coverThe Ruffed Grouse Society magazine comes as a member benefit – not only do you get all this grouse and woodcock hunting information, but your membership gives back to the resource we cherish of healthy forest habitat and abundant grouse and woodcock populations.

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They said it! Here are some of the best quotes from the upcoming Spring 2017 Ruffed Grouse Society magazine . . .

SPORTING TRADITIONS

“Much of the pleasure of shooting is what accompanies it and sharing it all with a good friend.” ~ George Bird Evans, The Upland Shooting Life (1971)

sporting traditiosn“The thought of losing the little things we love about grouse and woodcock hunting, some as simple as twirling a tail feather in your fingers, watching a puppy’s first day afield and shaking the hand of a smiling new hunter, reveals truly what is at stake for the future of our sporting traditions if we don’t strive to create healthy forests now.” ~ “Editor Note – The Little Things” by RGS & AWS Editor Matt Soberg

“Childhood memories of hunting with my father revolved around the pursuit of cottontails . . . I became as excited as an English setter prior to a grouse hunt when I found out we were headed to the nearby woodpiles and swamps . . . I didn’t spin circles or white nonstop, but set to work gathering vests, shells and guns in preparation for another grand adventure in the woods with Dad.” ~ “Gift Guns” by Kirk Brumels

“If you’re a piece of work similar to either a Van Gogh or a Velvet Elvis, you won’t find them here. Instead, you’ll find a wonderful variety of work that ranges from oils, etchings, line drawings, parchment and ink, watercolors, pastels, wood burnings, carvings and folk art. It’s tough to tell if this crew are bird hunters first and artists second. In the end, it doesn’t matter, for whether they’re running dogs or working in their studios, they are as serious as a heart attack.” ~ “Art from the Uplands and the Lowlands” by Tom Keer

CONSERVATION

“We cannot and will not allow the Forest Service to continue their failure to provide the young forest habitats required by the ruffed grouse, American woodcock, golden-winged warbler and other game and nongame wildlife on national forests throughout the Eastern United States.” ~ “President’s Message – Cup Half Full or Half Empty?” RGS & AWS President & CEO John Eichinger

pres message“Thought must be given to both site-specific and landscape-scale goals if we are to maximize the value of our work for the species and communities about which we care.” ~ “Adjusting Our Scope to Maximize the Value of Forest Management” by RGS & AWS Regional Biologist Scott Walter

“The failure of the Endangered Species Act to live up to its promise is in part due to elements of the legislation that, although well intentioned, have become substantial hurdles to its successful implementation, in part due to agency and judicial interpretations that have become barriers rather than pathways to success, and in part due to over-zealous preservationists seemingly more interested in producing lists than protecting species.” ~ “RGS Voice – Protecting Species?” by RGS & AWS Director of Conservation Policy Dan Dessecker

SHOTGUNS

“So the next time you miss a grouse or two or even three, you may not need to swear into the wind after missing a relatively easy straight away and proclaim out loud that you may be the world’s worst wing shot . . . the answer may simply be that you own one of the poorest fitting grouse guns in America. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!” ~ “In Search of the Perfect Grouse Gun . . . “ By Bryan E. Bilinski

“Maybe we don’t see enough pump guns in the grouse woods and woodcock bottoms these days. Back in say the 1920s and beyond, pump guns predominated – all because they were less expensive, extremely durable and light compared to semi-autos of yesteryear. If you’re not a pump gun guy or gal, maybe it’s time to re-think that position.” ~ “A Pump Gun for Grouse and Woodcock” by Nick Sisley

BIRD DOGS

“We love our bird dogs, though admittedly, many of us have a tendency to be “kennel blind” from time to time. Admit it . . . Guilty as charged . . . I strive to learn every time I go to the field. Here are a few of my observations from seasons past . . . “ ~ “Tips from Purina Pro Plan – Mind Your Bird Dog Manners” by Keith Schopp

“Dogs have 319 bones, compared to our 206. We all – humans and canines – have lots of joints connecting those bones. And as we all know, it’s tough to get a sporting dog to go slow.” ~ “Purely Dogs – Joint Health and Injury Prevention” by Bob West and Lisa Price

habitatBOOK REVIEWS

“His tales are not built on the redundant plot of points, flushes, gun report and success or failure . . . Each should be individually savored, as they were written as stand-alone works. Among the Aspens is not just a place to spend time each autumn, but an insightful read, enjoyable no matter the season.” ~ Glen R. Blackwood review of Among the Aspens by Thomas Carney

COOKING

“I have sought to create a recipe that aims to celebrate the ritualistic nature of returning home from the woods after a great day bagging grouse.” ~ “Roasted Grouse with Hunter-Style Gravy” by Jack Hennessy

FUTURE HUNTERS/CONSERVATIONISTS

“I am convinced more than ever that conservation is crucial to the future of our wildlife. It has become my personal challenge to recruit other teenagers to the join the efforts of my peers who attended the Wildlife Leadership Academy.” ~ “My Wildlife Leadership Academy Experience” by WLA Attendee Zara Moss

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Check out a sneak peek of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine or become a member at www.ruffed.org to start getting the magazine in your mailbox. For a limited time get the magazine, an RGS-patched had, a Jay Dowd artwork long-sleeve T-shirt, and a chance to win a SportDOG Tek 2.0 – only $35. www.ruffed.org

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What is it like to watch a drummer?

CONNECTING THE DOTS . . . From Habitat to Hunting

By Matt Soberg, RGS & AWS Editor & Director of Communications

This is what it’s like to watch a spring drummer connect the dots from habitat to hunting . . .

2 (1024x728)I lifted my Kromer above my left ear thinking I had heard a faint rustle of leaves down the hill from my strategically placed location. I set my Thermos cup of coffee onto the ground’s newly-green, late-April shoots and leaned my head forward toward one of the opened blind windows for a better vantage point. Sure enough, my ears were right . . . the pitter-patter of small feet traipsing across the forest floor was getting closer . . . and louder . . . and closer.

As I carefully, and ever so slowly, peeked out the left -corner window, I set eyes on a young forest moment that is more surreal than you can adequately explain. I knew I was in for a real show, my first time. Through the lowlight of that early morning landscape, I watched that male red-phased ruff approach not as slow and careful as I long-expected, but with a confident air about him. For, as you all know, he was approaching HIS drumming log, his throne so-to-speak, that special place that was his alone, and it seemed that he wanted all to know that he was present.

With great agility, he jumped onto the mossy log, walked back-and-forth turning twice, got himself comfortable and instantly began drumming, wasting no time. The forest was so quiet that morning, I guarantee all creatures, grouse and predators alike, knew exactly where he was performing at that very place and at that very moment. It was quite obvious, as with every booming burst of his drumming act, he was letting all know that the King of the Woods was here.

4 (1024x636)He stood in nearly the same exact place on the log for over two hours, hardly ever moved except for drumming, and I was a lucky spectator for every second of it. He moved his head from left to right, carefully scanning the immediate area for movement and only occasionally reached his beak toward his fanned-tail to groom his backside. While he stood still, I even watched him periodically close his eyes, almost like napping or maybe basking in the early morning, rising sun. When open, his eyes were wide, bright and vibrant, seemingly looking deep into my soul although he didn’t know I was there.

With every drumming sequence, he’d stick his head high, slick back his crest, stick out his chest, cup his wings, brace himself with fan-to-log and with effortless athleticism, he’d beat his wings the same every time. The sound would literally shake my body, and it is hard to explain if the scene and its effects should best be described as graceful or furious. The sequence would always end the same . . . he’d abruptly stop with his chest out and tail fanned, and at that instant he would perk up his crest, straight up . . . a look of graceful fury, convinced he was king.

1 (1024x768)To be quite honest, I’m not sure which grouse event I enjoy more . . . watching his majesty perform his spring ritual in-person from 20 yards away or following my birddog hoping to see a mere glimpse of the king flushing through the young forest in the fall. I’m not sure I want to choose . . . it is moments and experiences like this that guide one’s understanding of why we strive to create habit for forest wildlife.

We will cease to enjoy our cherished sporting traditions without spring drummers, and that beating of wings cannot happen without the proper habitat supporting young forest wildlife. It all goes hand-in-hand.

This article first appeared in the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine.

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President’s Message – And Now It’s Our Turn . . .

President's MessageEvery four years, the confluence of hunting season and the national general election causes me to think about our freedom, democracy and our passion for hunting grouse and woodcock that we so deeply cherish. I think about this in two ways: 1) we hunt grouse and woodcock because we can, and 2) we hunt grouse and woodcock because someone was there to help us get started.IMG_3271 (1024x719)

We often hear that hunting is a privilege – which it is. We often hear that the percentage of hunters in North America is in decline – which it is. What many do not realize is that there is more recreational hunting in North America, and more hunters afield, than practically anywhere else in the world.

That reality occurred because our forefathers declared that wildlife belongs to the general public, not the person who owns the land which is in direct contrast to the European approach where wildlife belongs to the landowner. That reality occurred because our forefathers granted the right for citizens to possess firearms. That reality also occurred because conservationists, more than 100 years ago, adopted the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, where hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell led sportsmen to regulate hunting and organize sportsmen’s groups, which eventually led to a sustainable mechanism to fund scientifically sound wildlife restoration efforts by taxing ourselves.

The principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation are explained more fully through a set of guidelines known as the Seven Sisters for Conservation.

Sister #1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust. In North America, natural resources and wildlife on public lands are managed by government agencies to ensure that current and future generations always have wildlife and wild places to enjoy.

Sister #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife. Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.

Sister #3 – Democratic Rule of Law. Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process where everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to develop systems of wildlife conservation and use.

Sister #4 – Hunting Opportunity for All. Every citizen has an opportunity, under the law, to hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.

Sister #5 – Non-Frivolous Use. In North America, individuals may legally kill certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection. Laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife merely for antlers, horns or feathers.

Sister #6 – International Resources. Wildlife and fish migrate freely across boundaries between states, provinces and countries. Working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation between countries to protect wildlife. The Act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.

Sister #7 – Scientific Management. Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. For example, scientific management of our nation’s forests creates habitat diversity that benefits a wide array of wildlife including ruffed grouse, American woodcock, numerous species of songbirds, white-tailed deer and more.

IMG_0802 (1024x683)This rich hunting heritage, and the precious privileges and freedoms we enjoy today are borne on the backs of many wise and dedicated sportsmen of past generations. And now it’s our turn – which brings me to the second thought I mentioned earlier: we hunt grouse and woodcock because someone was there to help us get started.

Most people do not just wake up one morning and decide they are going to go grouse or woodcock hunting that day, even though they had never been before. In the remaining days left this season, take someone out to the woods for their first grouse and woodcock hunt. Make an early New Year’s resolution to get involved with, or start, an RGS Mentor Hunter Program in your area. The Women’s Introduction to Wingshooting has been a great success, but we need more chapters to get one started.

It’s not as hard as you might think! These are turn-key programs with RGS creating all the booklets, guides, patches, teaching aids and other resources you need to get one going. Mark Fouts will be there every step of the way to help ensure your program is a success.

This is our heritage. Don’t let this be the last generation to enjoy it!

This President’s Message was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine.

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Vintage Shot for Your Classic Double

End the silence of your classic grouse gun with this vintage shot from RST.

A recurring theme with grouse and woodcock shotguns, and collectively throughout upland hunting guns, is the presence of turn-of-the-century manufactured doubles. Between the potentially rst-badge_000weaker steel tubes, chamber lengths less than 2.75 inches and guns that generally just weren’t designed with today’s shotshell pressures in mind – many of these guns have sat and continue to sit in silence. From past experience in the used double market, I can tell you there are some real gems still out there with owners that believe they have a inert relic for the mantle – which keeps them from carrying the gun afield OR with no real attachment to the gun and not against selling it, do not believe the gun as perceived relic won’t bring a price worth more than what it holds to them as a conversation piece. What many don’t know is a shotshell company in Friendsville, Pennsylvania fits these needs . . . the Classic Shot Shell Co. Inc. – RST Ltd.

rst-grouse-gun20RST offers shells in 2, 2.5 and 2.75-inch lengths. Their Best Grade offerings are low pressure and subsequently low recoil. There must be some sort of performance trade off, right? I can tell you that I haven’t been able to determine it. What is appealing about RST beyond the previously mentioned aspects of their offerings, is also their use of spreader wads, size 9 and 10 shot sizing, paper hulls and roll-crimped manufacturing. In short, they can make a 2 and 9/16-inch chamber 12 gauge double choked full and full, a viable woodcock gun. Their Premium shells fall within the more modern offerings from other manufacturers, yet still don’t punch your shoulder.


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A 1916 Baker Gun & Forging, 12 ga. Black Beauty with 2 and 9/16-inch chambers is all business in the grouse woods.

A 20 gauge, 2.5 and 7/8-inch ounce and 8 shot are generally the shells in the pocket of my vest – great on grouse and woodcock over pointing dogs. I’ll note, that the 20s annie-bird-rst are modern manufacturing, post 1950. Another favorite shell is in 12 gauge, a 2.5-inch hull, spreader load in 1 ounce, with 8s- a great grouse shell.

RST really takes care of an important need in classic grouse guns and has done so in a industry-leading way. You’ll often find them represented at an RGS banquet through a case of shells they’ve donated and proudly advertised in the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine. They offer mixed cases as well through their website, which allows you the option to combine different gauges, shot weight and sizes as well as their other specialty offerings.

For more information on Classic Shot Shell Co. Inc., RST Ltd. – visit their website: www.rstshells.com.

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2016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – North Carolina & Georgia

grouse-camp-tour-banner-2North Carolina/Georgia

RGS chapters are striving to ensure national forests are properly managed in the Southern Appalachian Region to preserve our grouse hunting traditions for future generations.

The famed conservationist Aldo Leopold once said, “We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.” The word “strive”, being the operative, is exactly what RGS chapter volunteers are doing in North Carolina and Georgia to ensure our public lands, namely national forests, are being properly managed for wildlife.

rgscamp2016-93-of-256-1024x684With two setters on point up a steep ridge off a North Carolina national forest trail, longtime RGS member and grouse hunter Jeff Johnson rounded one side for a better view as he directed 19-year-old college student Noah Smith to approach from the other. A report of one flush, and then another, escaped the hunters through the young forest. The grouse escaped, as the King of Gamebirds often does, straight up the mountain without a shot. The sequence of one generation of grouse hunter working in tandem with the next generation paralleled the discussions RGS staff had with the local volunteers from North Carolina and Georgia regarding the absolute need to have a bigger voice to influence proper forest management on national forests.

rgscamp2016-109-of-256-1024x684In North Carolina, the Tour met with Jim Gray, Jeff Johnson, Tom England and Noah Smith, among others from the local RGS chapters, to discuss the state of young forest habitat and hunting in their area. Through our discussions, Jim Gray urged that the continued decline of habitat populations, not just for grouse, is the biggest threat to their public lands. Jim, and others from the chapter, have spent countless hours making a stand for proper forest management on national forests in the region through numerous political processes including the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Plan Revision process.

One of the first things Jeff Johnson stressed was the need to support the next generation of grouse hunters. The local volunteers had a profound understanding that in order to ensure future advocacy for habitat and wildlife, we need to increase the voice for young forest habitat. For example, Jim, Jeff and Tom have made a concerted effort to grouse hunt with Noah Smith, a 19-year-old college student, to educate the next generation on the importance of habitat and to “pass the torch”, in a sense, to new grouse hunters.

rgscamp2016-115-of-256-1024x684Noah stressed why he is passionate about grouse conservation and hunting, “Without grouse conservation, my dogs wouldn’t have anything to chase in the forest that is truly wild. The fact grouse are truly wild are what make them so special.”

The Tour had the pleasure to stay at a hunting camp along a trout stream owned by Monte Seehorn near Hayseville, North Carolina. The next day,  Monte and Bill Bunch showcased RGS chapter habitat projects in northern Georgia. Monte is an 83-year-old grouse hunter who continues to climb the mountains grouse hunting and to advocate for young forest habitat creation in Georgia. During our hunt, we asked Monte why grouse conservation continues to be important to him at his age. “I’m stubborn . . . I’m not willing to let the Forest Service get away with not doing what they should be doing on their own,” he adamantly responded. “I’m old enough to know what grouse populations used to be, and I know what habitat management can do for grouse here in the future.”

rgscamp2016-45-of-72-1024x683We found birds in Georgia, and while walking the trail back to the truck for the final steps of this year’s Tour, we heard a grouse drumming deep down a seemingly endless ridge, almost as if sounding a signal of goodbye as the Tour ended.

The grouse hunting story of the Southern Appalachian region is one of historic tradition with optimism and potential for the future. Throughout the Tour, we found birds where we found habitat, however the bottom line is that thousands of national forestlands are not being properly managed, and therein lies the potential for grouse populations and sporting traditions in this region for the future.

rgscamp2016-38-of-72-1024x683The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to spread awareness about the need for young forest habitat by discussing regional and local habitat creation issues with chapter volunteers. For our North Carolina and Georgia stop, special thanks go to Jim Gray, Jeff Johnson, Noah Smith, Tom England, Monte Seehorn and Bill Bunch, among others from the local chapters,  for helping with the Tour and for donating your time and efforts for the benefit of forest wildlife.

Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

 

 

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2016 GROUSE CAMP TOUR – Virginia/Tennessee

grouse-camp-tour-banner-2

Virginia/Tennessee

Grouse/woodcock hunters are speaking for the wildlife that cannot speak for themselves – influencing forest management on public lands.

Only partially down the Tennessee mountain trail, Parker Street, of the Appalachian Highlands RGS Chapter, pointed to some Rhododendron sandwiched between clear old growth and a more recently managed mountainside. “Right here . . . there ought to be a bird in here, boys,” he urged.

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A mere second after rounding the first thick, green patch, the English setter’s bell went silent, and a quick glance showed the bird dog focused and facing us through a crack in the brush. A few steps toward the point, a red-phased bird flushed our way, leaving a memorable sight through the blue southern sky, all caught on video.

As we gathered admiring the flush, we could distinctly hear a male bird drumming his territorial cadence not 100 yards further into the forest. Parker said, “Well, there ya go . . . where you find habitat, you find birds. This is what they need, the diversity. Imagine what it would be like if we had more of it.”

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Wildlife in the Southern Appalachian Region are in serious need of a larger/stronger voice to create the habitat they require to survive. As RGS often states to members, grouse hunters and the public, “This is why your voice, our voice, makes a difference for the wildlife that can’t speak for themselves.”

Another theme that rang true throughout the region was the optimism for habitat creation, and the word “potential” was repeated multiple times. With thousands of acres of national forestlands, there is significant potential for the future of grouse populations and young forest habitat if science-based forest management is properly completed.

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Last year, RGS took a stand to benefit wildlife in the Southern Appalachian Region by filing a Petition for Rulemaking with the United States Forest Service due to the consistent failure to provide the young forest habitats required by the ruffed grouse, American woodcock, golden-winged warbler and other game and nongame wildlife on national forests throughout the eastern United States.

Unfortunately over the past several decades, individual national forests throughout the eastern United States have met, on average, only 24 percent of forest plan minimum acreage goals for these important young forest habitats.  Not surprisingly, wildlife dependent upon young forest habitats are experiencing substantial population declines on many of our national forests.

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Throughout this process, RGS is closely monitoring the on-the-ground actions and regularly interacting with the Forest Service at local and national levels to ensure that the outlined conservation imperatives are consistently and effectively addressed.

RGS staff, members and dedicated volunteers are actively spreading awareness about the truth behind science-based forest management to those who are uninformed and may battle against the issue of cutting trees on public lands. This is happening from the national to local levels, but the voice could be louder – the larger the contingent supporting healthy forests, the more this education and outreach can influence governmental agencies and the public for future change.

The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to spread awareness about the need for young forest habitat by discussing regional and local habitat creation issues with chapter volunteers. For our Virginia/Tennessee stop, special thanks go to Chris White, Parker Street, Robin and Raymond Cooper, O.J. Chartrand, Steve Stafford, Steve Dula and Tarn Rosenbaum, among others in the Appalachian Highlands RGS Chapter based in Bristol for helping with the Tour and for donating your time and efforts for the benefit of forest wildlife.

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RGS Digital Media Specialist Seth Heasley, Parker Street, O.J. Chartrand and RGS Director of Communications Matt Soberg.

Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

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2016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – Monterey, Virginia

grouse-camp-tour-banner-2RGS 2016 GROUSE CAMP TOUR – Monterey, Virginia

The Birthplace of the Ruffed Grouse Society

Walking down the short main street of Monterey, Virginia, a small mountain town in the northwestern part of the state, it would be difficult to assume that North America’s leading forest wildlife conservation organization was started there way back in 1961, but it was . . . welcome to the birthplace of the Ruffed Grouse Society.

day-3-1That year, three gentlemen sat around a table in a downtown real estate office and decided it was important to conserve ruffed grouse populations for future generations. Unbeknownst to them, they started a national conservation organization in that little mountain town that grew to the well-respected national conservation organization that RGS is today.

gruse-camp-va-day-3-8-of-48-1024x684During our Stop #2 in Monterey, we did a little research in town and located the original Articles of Incorporation from 1961 at the clerk’s office and stories from 1962 at the local newspaper. The 1962 newspaper article mentioned ruffed grouse as, “the king of upland game birds”. It is clear that passions for ruffed grouse were the same in the early 60’s as they are today.

gruse-camp-va-day-3-2-of-48-1024x684The Articles of Incorporation state that the purpose of RGS is to ” study ruffed grouse and its habitats . . . to cooperate with all agencies, public and private, who have an interest in conservation and good sportsmanship . . . and to simply promote interest in, and conservation of, the ruffed grouse.” That same purpose still holds true today.

While in northern Virginia, RGS staff also had the pleasure of spending time with volunteers from the James River and H.C. Edwards RGS Chapters afield and in grouse camp. We enjoyed the camaraderie, stories, great food and laughing inherent in the grouse camp tradition. Thank you to the many chapter members that welcomed RGS staff with open arms and thanks for all you do to create healthy forest habitat so we can preserve our sporting traditions for future generations.

1And, we found habitat. But, the wildlife in Virginia and the Southern Appalachian region need more habitat, the grouse need more, especially on national forests.

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Where we found habitat, we found birds. Hunts resulted in flushes and a birds harvested. RGS member Middleton Smith bagged his first grouse during the Grouse Camp Tour, which we all know is a memorable moment in the lifetime of a grouse hunter. The bottom line is that where there was habitat, there were birds, which proves that the RGS mission of creating healthy forests based on scientific forest management works.

gruse-camp-va-day-4-11-of-16-1-2-1024x684The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to celebrate grouse and woodcock hunting and the creation of young forest habitat by visiting local chapter grouse camps within the region to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the mission of RGS/AWS. Special thanks goes to Darrell Feasel, Bill Sneddon, Mike Carpenter, Roy Lambertson, Middleton Smith, and many others for donating their time and efforts to show staff around the great place of Virginia. There are others who helped, and names missing from this list will be added here and mentioned in the Spring Issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine. Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

 

 

 

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2016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – West Virginia

 

grouse-camp-tour-banner-22016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – West Virginia

The Habitat and History of the Canaan Valley

early-morning-canaan-valleyGrouse camp mystifies the overall grouse and woodcock hunting experience . . . sitting next to a fire, telling stories of misses and great days afield, belly laughing at your buddies, all while petting a bird dog . . . these are all things we cherish and must preserve for future generations of grouse and woodcock hunters.

Famed grouse and woodcock hunting author, George Bird Evans, who happened to write many of his oft-read stories about his exploits in West Virginia may have said it best about grouse camp importance when he said, “Much of the pleasure of shooting is what accompanies it and sharing it all with a good friend.”

img_4292-1024x683At the same time, our future of grouse hunting is being threatened by the lack of young forest habitat being created and enhanced, and this is true throughout the Southern Appalachian Region of the United States, our destination for this year’s RGS Grouse Camp Tour. The RGS/AWS staff kicked off this year’s Tour to spread awareness about the need for healthy forests by visiting the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia, a place with a storied history for grouse and woodcock hunting.

We had the pleasure to hunt with Walt Lesser, an author in his own right from Elkins, West Virginia, who is known as a local historian of the habitat and hunting within the Canaan Valley. His book, the Real Ryman Setter, showcases his experience raising and hunting this special bird dog breed. While afield carrying his 20-gauge Ithaca side-by-side, he took a break to share a special story . . . the day he hunted with George Bird Evans in 1958 at a place called “The Gates”. Although we didn’t know it at the time, he shared a secret with us . . . we were standing at that exact place. Hunting at “The Gates” is a story that will be told by future produced video . . . Stay tuned!

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Walt Lesser with his Ryman setter Katie are pictured while hunting the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia during the 2016 RGS Grouse Camp Tour.

We also had the pleasure to spend time in camp and to hunt with Dave Truban of the Northcentral West Virginia RGS Chapter, and Rich Skeweris and Scott Berg of the Backbone Mountain RGS Chapter who volunteer hours of their time and efforts to RGS to fight the right fight of creating healthy forests for grouse and woodcock. They get out in the community to spread awareness about the RGS mission and to get others involved with their local chapter. They hold numerous events including habitat projects, tree plantings, chukar challenges and more. We enjoyed hunting over their dogs and viewing the great assets and treasures of the West Virginia grouse woods. Without grouse hunters, RGS/AWS members and Chapters as these, RGS could not continue to preserve our sporting traditions for future generations.

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Pictured are, from left to right, RGS Digital Media and Marketing Specialist Seth Heasley, Rich Skeweris from the Backbone Mountain RGS Chapter, Dave Truban from the Northcentral West Virginia Chapter and A.J. DeRosa from Project Upland.

The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to celebrate grouse and woodcock hunting and the creation of young forest habitat by visiting local chapter grouse camps within the region to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the mission of RGS/AWS. Special thanks goes to Dave Truban, Rich Skeweris, Walt Lesser and Scott Berg for donating their time and efforts to show staff around the great place of West Virginia. Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

 

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35th Anniversary National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt Results

natlogo2016gr_v22016 results showed increases in ruffed grouse and American woodcock harvest compared to 2015.

The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) held its 35th annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt (NGWH) on October 13 and 14, 2016 in and around Grand Rapids, Minnesota with harvest results, obtained by RGS wildlife biologists, showing increases in ruffed grouse and American woodcock harvest compared to 2015.

rgs-national-hunt-1-1280x977Participating hunters (104) harvested 175 ruffed grouse during the two-day hunt, which is a 17 percent increase over the 2015 harvest of 149 ruffed grouse. Each hunter harvested an average of 0.86 grouse per day in 2016, which is the fourth lowest in NGWH history, compared to 0.73 in 2015, which was the second lowest. These results are not surprising as we climb from the bottom of the ruffed grouse cycle. Based upon calculated results, the index to reproductive success for ruffed grouse was 15 percent lower than the long-term average, which means there were fewer young birds in the current population.

Participating hunters harvested 384 American woodcock, which is an 8 percent increase over the 2015 harvest of 357 American woodcock. Each hunter harvested an average of 1.9 woodcock per day in 2016 compared to 1.7 in 2015. Based upon the calculated results, the index to reproductive success for American woodcock was on par with the long term average.

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RGS/AWS President & CEO John Eichinger is pictured with a harvested American woodcock during the 2016 NGWH.

“Not only has the RGS National Hunt been an important celebration of grouse and woodcock hunting for 35 years, but it provides an unparalleled opportunity to study the population ecology of ruffed grouse and American woodcock,” said RGS President and CEO John Eichinger. “Each year, the data collected gives us a chance to better understand these two important game birds. The information accumulated throughout the history of this event represents one of the longest, continuous efforts for collecting scientific data of a target species within a specific region.”

The late Gordon W. Gullion, universally acknowledged as the world’s expert on ruffed grouse, immediately recognized the scientific potential of the NGWH when the event was first held in 1982. Gullion understood that because it is conducted in the same locale, at the same time each year and using the same methods, it provides an outstanding opportunity to study the annual variation of the local ruffed grouse population and how that variation relates to the 10-year cycle.

The NGWH is conducted in the Grand Rapids area during the second week in October each year. This world-class event is sponsored and coordinated by the Grand Rapids Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society whose volunteers contribute literally thousands of hours of their time to make the event happen.

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RGS/AWS Director of Member Relations & Outreach Mark Fouts is pictured mentoring a young grouse hunter during the 2016 NGWH.

“We are proud to host the RGS National Hunt in Grand Rapids. Not only does the event enhance the future of grouse and woodcock populations, but it brings marketing and tourism benefits to the local community. Thanks to all the Grand Rapids Chapter committee members for their hard work and dedication to host this celebration of grouse and woodcock hunting,” said Grand Rapids Chapter President Marty Niewind.

For 35 years, the NGWH has provided invaluable insight into the ecology of these two premier game birds. RGS will continue to ask questions and, hopefully, find answers through the NGWH that will help secure the future for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and the sportsmen and women who hold them so dear.

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