WHY WE HUNT, Member Stephen Faust

Our sport will die out if we’re not bringing in new hunters. In the sales world, we say if you’re not growing you’re dying. In the hunting world, the same may be true.

S Faust Photo 1 I was about 8 years old when I rounded the corner of a bean field in Hyde County, North Carolina, and it was there I saw what would guide me through the rest of my life. That was 40 years ago, and I can still see the combination of five English setters and pointers locked up on the edge of that field. Walking in on that first point was a blur of wings, sights, sounds and pure exhilaration. I am sure I shot in self-defense, and I don’t remember the first quail I bagged, nor the first woodcock or grouse. But I have points and birds from 40 years of upland hunting scattered throughout my memory. I cannot remember what I went to the grocery store for on a normal day, but I can see a woodcock I bagged over an old setter when I was about 12, just like it was yesterday. From the UP of Michigan to Louisiana, the “Little Russet Feller” has haunted me ever since. When my son bagged his first using the same gun on which I learned, he jumped up and down with excitement. He was hooked, and I was delighted.

S faust photo 2 (960x1280)I would not hunt without a dog because seeing a dog point still makes my heart race with excitement, but why I hunt has changed over the years. The desire to bag a bird at first was replaced with the joy of seeing a young pup point its first bird. Then it was watching the young dog learn the games and become a master. Painfully witnessing the old dog become frail, and then watching his last point. Knowing his lifetime has run full circle, even as mine has not changed much in the dozen or so years. Lastly, as my son grew and started shooting, watching him learn to handle the dogs has been the gravy on top. I hunt to pass along our tradition. As a guide, I have taken many folks out to bag their first grouse or woodcock. Seeing the smile on their faces is heart-warming. Not everyone had the chance to have a dog-man as a dad, but I did. Dad taught me well, just the way he learned, the way I brought up my son, and now my new step-children. But also, the way I take new comers on hunts and point out the little things, all which keep them coming back for more.

s faust photo 3 (1151x1280)As a Centurion Member of both RGS and AWS, my aim is to bring as many new people into our sport as possible – not to crowd out my favorite spot, nor your hidden alder run, but to make sure there is a big enough presence in grouse and woodcock hunting so that my children can all take their kids and show them how to cast a young dog into a likely looking spot – then be happy when they see that dog hunt the right spots all on his own. Mentoring is near and dear to me, as it should be to all of us. Our sport will die out if we are not bringing in new hunters. In the sales world, we say if you’re not growing you’re dying. In the hunting world, the same may be true.

To join RGS and AWS or for more information, go to www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.

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New Hunters Gain Momentum in Pennsylvania

By Richard Elliott II
Treasurer/Retention & Recruitment Coordinator Allegheny RGS Chapter
Assistant Huntsman Coordinater UBH RGS Chapter
Brockport, Pennsylvania

I’m very grateful for and to the RGS and AWS staff and to the many other people making this program a possibility. I believe this is a program every chapter can use to benefit the next generation of upland hunters.

ANF-New-Hunter-Mentor-programWhen I first saw the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society New Hunter Mentor Hunt Program (NHMP), I said to myself, “Finally a non-age discriminating program!” I eagerly researched the program learning the requirements and setting standards for considering a participant as a new upland bird hunter. Our current participants range in age from 12 to 61, both male and female. I quickly requested a workbook from RGS and AWS Director of Member Relations and Outreach Mark Fouts so I could then coordinate and locate volunteers to help us make the program successful for the Allegheny RGS Chapter. Program content and supplies offered have been a great basis to get us started administrating the first Allegheny RGS Chapter  NHMP in the PA Wilds Region.

I choose to break up the program by starting with a spring gun safety awareness and shooting event in late April. This is allowing our new hunters to go through a gun fitting/patterning process early enough to spend the summer practicing shooting skeet or other shot gunning games. We choose the first weekend in August to have a habitat awareness, field skills and mapping event day in the morning before our Chapter fun luncheon banquet. I believe habitat identification is probably easiest at this time of year in the PA Wilds Region. We already do a fun bird dog challenge in September so pairing the bird dog safety awareness and demonstrations with this day is looking like a sure win. We will be holding our first NHMP Upland Bird Hunter Program Hunt in the PA Wilds Region in October.

ANF-New-Hunter-Mentor-program2I’m very grateful for and to the RGS and AWS staff and to the many other people making this program a possibility. I believe this is a program every chapter can use to benefit the next generation of upland hunters. You can stretch it out like our chapter or condense it down to just a day or two. Many of our mentors are as excited as the new hunters. I believe for myself and fellow upland hunting enthusiasts that it is very rewarding to share our beloved upland bird hunting experiences with new hunters who have a desire to become a part of what we love.

For more information about the RGS & AWS New Hunter Mentor Program, go to www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.

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WHY WE HUNT, Member Noah Smith

1The sun was making its way across a high top in the Nantahala Mountains, and the first rays of light hit the frozen windshield of my truck. The thoughts of previous hunts high in the Carolina hills fought for a piece of time in my memories. The memories make grouse hunting so unique . . . no two are ever the same. Every dog has its own slot, every bird too, and the covers, well they reside down the deepest passage in the rooms of the brain, only visible to me and those in which I choose to share them.

I started grouse hunting the first semester of my freshman year at Western Carolina University, and all my friends would tell you I would have been better off on drugs. On more than one occasion I would leave my dorm room around the same time my friends would be coming in from a night out on the town. I would walk nearly a mile to freshman parking, drive to a friend’s house where I stored my side-by-side scattergun and meet up with one of my mentors somewhere in the national forest for a hunt. That first grouse flush over a setter’s point, miles back in the land of the noon-day sun hooked me for life.

2It wasn’t long before a dog consumed my thoughts, a setter of course, and a road trip to New York State from my Carolina home to pick up my male Llewellin, “Jeb”, only added fuel to the grouse hunting fire that burned in my mind. This past season was our first together, and I would not trade the memories for anything. It amazes me that most days in my busy life I cannot remember what I had for lunch, but I can travel in my mind to Jeb’s first grouse point, the way the wind was blowing, where I was standing, the staunch concentration on his face, how long he held and the direction that old mountain bird flushed out from under the grape vine from where it was feeding and effortlessly disappeared into the mountains that hide its legacy.

At the end of the day all grouse hunters hunt for different reasons. Some repetition is found in explanations of why we hunt when asked. Some say it’s for the dogs, some for the exercise, but for me, it is the creation of memories. I know as the years pass and my season’s change that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to visit my covers even if I can no longer traverse these Southern Highlands where I’m rooted. I’ll be able to travel in my mind to that first point with Jeb or our first bird. I will never be storyless when in company because I have the memories locked in for good. Joy, solace, exhaustion, love, accomplishment and many other emotions can be summoned at any time because of these memories.

3My Name is Noah Smith, and I am a proud member of the Ruffed Grouse Society. I cherish the memories I have made and look forward to making many more. We all hunt for different reasons, and I encourage you to take someone new and help them find theirs.

Noah Smith is an RGS member from North Carolina who will be a new intern handling communications and social media for the RGS through the summer. Welcome Noah!

For more information about how the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society enhance habitat and hunting, go to: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org

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President’s Message – Glass Half Full or Half Empty?


Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? That is the classic question people ask to decide if someone is an optimist or a pessimist. When considering the mission of the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society regarding healthy forests, abundant wildlife and our sporting traditions, what are you . . . an optimist or pessimist?

The pessimist could argue that we have plenty to worry about. Today, there are grouse hunters in Tennessee who know when they have moved off the Cherokee National Forest and onto private property, not by crossing a fence or spotting a posted sign, but by taking note of how much better the land is managed on privately held woodlands. Too many of our nation’s federal forests are being neglected, are getting older and gradually being overtaken by climax species that crowd out, or shade out, the pioneer species preferred by ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. The devastating wildfires and tragic loss of life in the Southeast last November is the direct result of neglect and mismanagement of forests and woodlands – an area of the country that formerly supported abundant ruffed grouse and woodcock populations and provided many days of hunting enjoyment for local hunters and those who traveled to the Southern Appalachians specifically to hunt ruffed grouse and woodcock.

It took decades of inaction by the United States Forest Service to place ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife of young forests in their current precarious positions on many of our national forests. RGS will closely monitor on-the-ground actions and regularly interact with the Forest Service at local and national levels to ensure that the conservation imperatives outlined in our legal challenge are consistently and effectively addressed by the Agency.

Each national forest operates under a forest plan that is developed with substantial public involvement. These forest plans are, in essence, contracts with the public. 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. Clearly, the Forest Service has broken its contract with the public.

The optimist’s view would include words like “opportunity” and “potential”. Check out the videos of the 2016 Grouse Camp Tour on www.grousecamp.org to see first-hand some of the optimism we found. Last year’s Grouse Camp Tour celebrated habitat, membership and the grouse and woodcock hunting experience by making stops throughout the Southern Appalachian Region that spans across several states. We saw and heard the absolute determination that so many of our members have in restoring healthy forest habitat and returning grouse and woodcock populations to historical levels. That determination is founded on an optimism that recognizes the potential for those forests to provide recreational enjoyment for far more citizens than is the case today. We cannot and will not allow the Forest Service 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.

The Forest Service and RGS met in November 2015 to find a path forward to resolve the issue raised in the Petition for Rulemaking and to secure the future for wildlife of young forests on our national forests. To its credit, the Forest Service acknowledged that the picture painted by the data provided by RGS is indeed accurate. On our part, RGS recognized that the Forest Service faces multiple challenges that affect what the Agency can and can’t accomplish on a daily basis. However, RGS reiterated that despite these challenges, the Forest Service has the personnel and financial resources to pay far more attention to the habitat needs of young forest wildlife species.

The Forest Service and RGS met again in March 2016 at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference to discuss steps that the Agency had taken to address the compelling need for additional emphasis on the conservation of wildlife of young forests since our Petition was filed. The Forest Service identified several recently proposed habitat management projects on national forests in the Eastern United States that, if fully implemented, will help move the ball forward. In addition, the Forest Service set aside a big chunk of time during its regularly scheduled meeting at the Conference with wildlife conservation organizations from across the nation to specifically address the status and trends of wildlife of young forests. If was gratifying to note that these organizations were unanimous in their support for additional attention to the needs of these critters.

We will again meet with the Forest Service this spring in Washington, DC. RGS has been patient and appreciative of what appear to be sincere efforts on the part of the Forest Service to substantively address the compelling needs of wildlife of young forests – after all, the Agency is a bit like a super tanker – it can’t be turned on a dime. However, this patience is limited, and we will need to see consistent progress in turning the ship around.

One measure of progress will be the goal for young forest habitats set by the Nantahala/Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina when it completes its ongoing forest plan revision. The public, including many RGS members, spoke loud and clear at the numerous public forums sponsored to identify issues of concern. A primary issue, if not THE primary issue raised by the public, was the need to dramatically increase sustainable timber harvests to dramatically increase the availability of these habitats on the Forest. RGS hopes that the Nantahala/Pisgah is indeed listening to the public and will act accordingly.

At the end of the day, RGS is optimistic and sincerely desires to work collaboratively with the Forest Service – and we sense that this desire is mutual. However, should the need arise, RGS will take whatever steps necessary to compel the Agency to meet its legal and principled obligations.

For more information about how RGS and AWS preserve sporting traditions by creating healthy forests, go to www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.

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Risk and Reward for the American Woodcock

Risk and Reward for the American Woodcock: the Energy Balance of an Early Migrant in a Late-Winter Storm

By Andy Weik, RGS & AWS Regional Wildlife Biologist

Woodcock huddle together in Central Park, New York City following March 2017 snowstorm. Food stressed woodcock are at increased risk of starvation and predation. Photo by Thomas Schuchaskie, from Facebook March 15, 2017.

Woodcock huddle together in Central Park, New York City following March 2017 snowstorm. Food stressed woodcock are at increased risk of starvation and predation. Photo by Thomas Schuchaskie, from Facebook March 15, 2017.

In the snowy North, we look forward to the arrival of woodcock and red-winged blackbirds as the first signs of spring. Woodcock are among the first – if not THE first – ground-nesting birds to begin nesting. Woodcock really push the envelope as they migrate north from southern wintering grounds, moving into open ground along spring seeps, streams and south-facing slopes in search of earthworms and grubs as snow cover recedes. In years when winter segues smoothly into spring, the early-arriving woodcock is rewarded with sufficient food and mild weather to hatch its four-egg clutch within a month of arriving on the breeding range, before most of its predators have extra mouths of their own to feed.

But this year in the Northeast we had spring conditions in the heart of winter. Mild February weather and bare ground enticed woodcock to arrive back in parts of the Northeast up to a month or more earlier than usual, and freeze-ups and snow-falls were brief enough to pose little problem to these hardy birds. Although woodcock hens may not have found enough food to develop eggs and commence laying, woodcock likely were able to find enough food to maintain weight, in other words to not expend more energy than they took in.  Woodcock that had arrived on their nesting areas were in a holding pattern until spring arrived and food became more abundant.

And then in March came a sharp cold snap followed within a few days by storm Stella, dumping significant snow across the region.  Snow-free, frost-free cover – feeding access – became very limited. Already stressed by the energy demands of migration, woodcock had a hard time finding food, and their energy budgets turned negative. Many lost weight, some died.  During the second day of storm Stella I got a call from a worker at the Newark, New Jersey airport reporting several dead or weakened woodcock, and a gentleman in Connecticut emailed asking how to care for and release a weakened woodcock he had picked up.  Social media sites lit up with pictures and video of woodcock feeding or huddled in snow-free gaps along small brooks or next to houses. A wildlife rehabilitator in NYC reported a sharp uptick in emaciated and dead woodcock, and one in Maine also reported receiving numerous emaciated woodcock. The Raptor Trust (Millington, NJ) posted on Facebook “Winter Storm Stella – we admitted more Woodcocks at The Raptor Trust than in the entire 2016 calendar year.”

ManhattanNY16March2017by AndersPeltomaa (2)

Distressed woodcock were photographed in Manhattan, New York on March 16, 2017. Photo by Anders Peltomaa.

So, what does it all mean in the big scheme of things? Late winter or spring snow storms that stress and kill woodcock are nothing new. The most memorable for me was 2007, when a Nor’easter hit the Northeast hard in the middle of April, causing widespread flooding and dropping several inches of snow on coastal Maine. For eastern Maine, this was one of 3 or 4 significant snow storms that maintained nearly complete snow-cover for the month of April, after many woodcock had returned in March. The woodcock singing male count at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge dropped by 41 percent that spring, and surveys on the Refuge indicated minimal woodcock production. It took three years for Moosehorn’s woodcock population to recover to pre-2007 numbers; Maine’s statewide singing male count dropped that year also, but rebounded one year later.

This year, the mild weather and lack of snow in February was more significant than storm Stella in March. In a typical year, this snow storm would not have generated nearly the discussion among timberdoodle enthusiasts, as typically the landscape would be snow-covered in February and most of the birds would not have been back yet; however, birds were back and the snow was significant and widespread.  The effect of a “Stella” will depend largely on two factors – weather that follows (duration of freezing temperatures, a warm spell, additional snow storms, rain, etc), and the proportion of woodcock that have migrated north vs. those that were still south of the storm. We’ve learned through research, such as the recent satellite telemetry migration study, that not all woodcock have the same migration strategy – they follow varying routes to the same destination, and some arrive as early as possible whereas others lag behind. Now we can look forward to the results of local and regional woodcock singing ground surveys as we keep an eye on the activity of the little russet fellows in our home coverts.

For more info on American woodcock ecology

For info Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society habitat programs

Become a member of the American Woodcock Society: www.ruffed.org



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By Meadow Kouffeld, RGS & AWS Regional Wildlife Biologist

Despite the current negative state and federal climate toward public land holding, RGS and partners are working with government agencies to reverse this trend.

DSC_9790 (848x1280)

RGS member Tracy Lee hunts with her English setter puppy on public land during the RGS National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Coming from the West, I appreciate public land. The nature of our western big game requires that large tracts of land are available to support populations substantial enough for hunters to pursue. Huntable numbers of mule deer, blacktails, bighorn sheep, moose, caribou, mountain goats and elk don’t occupy 40-acre stands of trees in seas of corn. Very few people have the financial wherewithal to own thousands of western acres, however America’s greatness comes from our ability to enjoy the great outdoors, hunting and fishing notwithstanding personal wealth.

Access to public lands (of which every single American citizen is part owner) is key to hunting and the future of outdoor recreation. Ruffed grouse are much like western big game. Huntable populations need large tracts of contiguous habitat, and hunter’s need access to those tracts in order to pursue them. A few fortunate landowners have several hundred private acres to hunt ruffed grouse but even those parcels can sustain so much pressure.

Fortunately, the State of Minnesota is blessed with an abundance of forest lands accessible to the public. Public lands are arguably one of the State’s greatest assets, but unfortunately a big chunk of publicly accessible land is on the docket to sell.

There are 17.4 million acres of forest in Minnesota comprised of diverse ownership and even more complicated management regimes; 2.7 million in national forest, 0.3 million in other federal ownership, 4.2 million in state, 2.6 million on county and local government and finally the lions-share at 7.6 million acres in private and tribal ownership. In total, the forest products industry is the fifth largest manufacturing sector in Minnesota by employment, worth $17.8 billion dollars annually (gross) and critical to the economic vitality in the non-metro northern areas of the state.

DSC_0317 (1280x848)A healthy proportion of those private lands are private-industry owned, meaning they belong to companies focused on paper, lumber, fiber and even pharmaceuticals, textiles and biomaterials products. Some of the names that one might recognize include Blandin (UMP Paper, ~188,000 acres) and Potlach Corp. (~158,000 acres) among others. Much of the acreages these companies hold are available for public use, under active forest management, and often have extensive infrastructure (i.e. roads) that make the acreage as well as adjacent public owned land accessible. There are several key benefits those private industry lands provide to both our natural resources and the human population. One of the most significant benefits to the public is access.

In recent years, many people return to hunt areas they have hunted for decades only to find them suddenly posted as private property or greatly altered. The resulting consternation and sense of loss is coupled with the stark reminder that the land is in fact private and can be sold with no notification.

I have experienced both sides of this coin. Potlach Corp. is one such company that is divesting (selling off an investment they no longer need) some of their land ownership. From the public’s perspective, the trouble is this land transfers to private ownership that either restricts access (permanently, unlike recreational leases on industry land) or the forest is completely removed and the land repurposed (e.g. conversion to agricultural fields such as potato fields in Cass and Hubbard counties). Both remove public access to the land itself and the land beyond the far side of the ownership boundary. Beyond selfish interest, one should look to the long-term impacts of the decline in land access. The fact is the future of hunting in part hinges on access to public lands where people can hunt!

In a state and federal climate negative toward public land holding (“government owned”), the hope that some of these divested industry lands can join the ranks of public ownership through acquisition is not likely. In general, state, county and federal governments often hold a “no-net gain” policy toward public lands, meaning that no additional acres can be held in public ownership within their jurisdiction. In order to acquire a new parcel, some other acreage needs to be sold to private ownership. Justifications range from tax-base loss (which is an extremely controversial topic and not always a benefit to the tax base) to anti-government sentiment.

The average hunters, regardless if they are from one political extreme or another, will need access to public lands to hunt. Selling public-owned land has been used to balance budgets, once. This short-sighted move deprives future generations of opportunity to benefit from access to natural lands and the economic benefit of access to surrounding communities. The future of publicly-owned land is one thing that all sportsmen and women, regardless of political affiliation, should rally around.

In Minnesota, despite the current negative climate toward public lands, several conservation organizations are working with a few select counties to buck the trend. You may have already read about it, but the Conservation Fund, Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association and the Ruffed Grouse Society have been working with several northern Minnesota counties to acquire private-industry lands and transfer to public ownership.

UntitledIn two years, the partners have applied for Legacy funds from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund Committee for the purchase of these private-industry lands. Nearly $6 million dollars have been awarded and up to 8,000 acres are targeted for acquisition (Cass, Hubbard and St. Louis Counties).Once acquired, the partnering counties have agreed to receive the land and hold it in trust of the public and continue to manage the properties for forest products and wildlife habitat. Timber revenue will compensate local taxing districts for loss of current property tax income (at property taxes somewhere around $6/an acre, timber revenue will likely exceed projected tax income).

The Conservation Fund, Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association and the Ruffed Grouse Society have worked together to make this significant project possible. Without partners, the project would not have been made possible. The Ruffed Grouse Society hopes to continue to do good work with partners across North America to preserve the future of our sporting traditions and maintain healthy forests.

For more information: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org

Become a member: www.ruffed.org


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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 . . .


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.


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.


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.


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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


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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