October 16, 2019
For Immediate Release
Coraopolis, Pa. – The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) and American Woodcock Society (AWS) held the 38th Annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt (NGWH) on Thursday and Friday October 10 and 11, 2019 in and around Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Throughout the NGWH history, data have been consistently collected from all harvested birds by RGS/AWS wildlife biologists to provide historic perspective on population trends. Results this year showed increased harvest rates compared to 2018, and considerably improved grouse recruitment.
Hunters participating in the 2019 NGWH harvested 112 ruffed grouse during the two-day hunt (64 on day 1 and 47 on day 2). A total of 261 American woodcock were bagged (131 on day 1 and 125 on day 2). Ruffed grouse harvest for the event increased 17 percent compared to 2018. Fewer American woodcock were taken compared to 2018, but fewer hunters participated in the event this year. A total of 5.8 birds (grouse and woodcock combined) were harvested per hunter in 2019, a 41% increase over the 4.1 birds taken per hunter in 2018. The 2019 NGWH produced an average of 1.8 ruffed grouse and 4.1 American woodcock bagged by each hunter, up from 1.0 grouse and 3.1 woodcock per hunter last year.
The 2019 recruitment ratio (the number of immature birds divided by the number of mature females in the harvest) was 7.67 for grouse, more than double the 2.72 recruitment ratio from last year, and a 78 percent increase over the prior 5-year average from 2014–2018. The American woodcock recruitment ratio of 1.22 was down from 2.76 in 2018, but close to the 5-year average of 1.28.
“Not only has the National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt been an important celebration of hunting traditions for over 35 years, but it provides a unique opportunity to study the population ecology of ruffed grouse and American woodcock,” said RGS/AWS President and CEO Ben Jones. “Each year, the data collected gives us a chance to better understand these two important game birds. The indication of improved grouse recruitment this year is welcome news, though poor recruitment in recent years is a still a topic of concern that warrants further consideration. We look forward to engaging with our valued agency and university partners to ensure this is given appropriate attention.”
The NGWH has also played an important role in monitoring ruffed grouse populations for West Nile Virus (WNV). Tests on grouse harvested by hunters during the 2005 NGWH discovered one bird with WNV antibodies. Presence of those antibodies indicated the harvested bird was previously infected but survived. RGS/AWS has assisted with WNV surveillance efforts in multiple states as WNV has continued to be of concern. Hunters submitted samples from 47 the 112 grouse harvested during the 2019 NGWH, more than three times as many samples than were collected during a pilot effort last year. WNV surveillance in the region is currently being coordinated among agencies in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The testing laboratory recently provided 2018 results to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, but public release is pending final reports from all cooperating states.
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.
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. The information accumulated throughout the history of this event represents one of the longest, continuous efforts for collecting scientific data for these or any other hunted species from a specific area.
For over 35 years, the NGWH has provided invaluable insight into the ecology of these two premier game birds. RGS/AWS will continue to ask questions and seek answers through the NGWH and follow-up efforts that will help secure the future for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and the sportsmen and women who hold them so dear.
Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society is North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS/AWS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.
Information on RGS/AWS, its mission, management projects and membership can be found on the web at: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.