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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
Make your voice known at a future RGS Event.
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