Improving the community and investing in the future of the ruffed grouse and American woodcock
Like many age-old notions in life in which we can never remember the exact instance of discovery or introduction, I cannot recall the moment or setting in which I first learned of or heard about the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS). The organization as I knew it was innately synonymous with the ruffed grouse, bird hunting and conservation altogether. Although ruffed grouse and bird hunting were not an integral part of my upbringing, the day would come when the “the birds” and the “organization” would become something extremely near and dear to my heart.
Growing up as an occasional, fair-weather deer hunter in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the purchase of the obligatory hunting license was about the extent of my contribution to conservation for several years. And while I would develop a deep affinity for wildlife, habitat and the hunting lifestyle during my early ventures afield, volunteering my time and donating money was not something I ever felt compelled to do.
I later moved to Vermont in my mid-twenties where I became an avid waterfowl hunter. My capacity for conservation increased slightly with the addition of the state and federal duck stamps to accompany my hunting license. I even joined the local waterfowl conservation group chapter and attended their annual banquet, but I still had not identified as a conservationist. I began to develop an expanded awareness of the connection between game-habitat-hunting, but my commitment to conservation was mediocre at best. It was at a waterfowl organization banquet where I won a double-barrel shotgun, an entry-level 20 gauge over-under and finally became an upland hunter. It was just a few days prior to this event that I had unexpectedly and only briefly, met the marvelous woodcock for the very first time, walking down a woodland trail in route to jump shoot ducks on a local beaver pond.
Rediscovering Ruffed Grouse Society
Realizing I could hunt for these newly identified trail rockets and with my newest upland adornment in hand, I left the wetlands and began my endeavor into the uplands. Being a recent transplant to New England, a complete novice to upland bird hunting and not having any family member or friend to mentor me, rediscovering and joining the Ruffed Grouse Society was the first thing I did, and the organization became a springboard to my success and stewardship as a passionate upland hunter and ardent conservationist.
As I began to learn more about the ruffed grouse, the American woodcock, forest health and habitat, naturally (and fervently), the conservationist within me was awakened and sprang into action. I joined the Green Mountain RGS chapter and began attending the annual banquets. I developed friendships, supported the cause and learned about the specific issues affecting the birds and habitat in my area. I experienced a fundamental shift in my mentality and the way I thought about these birds, their habitat, hunting them, and my own contribution to ensuring their viability into the future — in my mind I can no longer isolate myself or any other single element of this conservation equation.
I found tremendous value in the resources of RGS, like the website, proving essential to my successes in the field as I learned about bird identification, basic bird biology and behavior and hunting strategies. As a fan of classic print media, the RGS magazine and its charming tales of old pointing dogs and coverts of days gone by enriched my admiration for this timeless tradition.
Every member of the organization carries the same unspoken sense of pride and esteem that comes with contributing to this community and supporting other members. The sense of kinship is strong amongst our membership as we are here to uplift each other and unify our sporting community. The organization is a place to ask questions, banter about bird dog breeds, mentor the next generation of sportsmen and women, advocate for creative conservation and discern management solutions to enhance and restore bird populations across the country.
Joining The Movement
Joining your local RGS chapter allows you to have a voice for the unique situations and circumstances affecting your local grouse and woodcock populations and their habitat. Many chapters host fundraising banquets, skeet shoots, habitat workdays, mentorship outings and many other events and opportunities to network, support conservation and strengthen the upland community. The function of individual chapters is to increase awareness and visibility of the organization and highlight the work being done to protect and preserve the birds, habitat and the sporting traditions on a local level. Chapters have the ability to perform boots-on-the-ground habitat enhancement and restoration projects to bolster bird populations and hunting opportunities and create conservation collaboratives with state wildlife agencies, special interest groups and other non-profits and non-governmental organizations, having an impact right where it matters to members the most.
While my experience discovering, joining, and supporting RGS might look different than yours, the common goal we all seek is to conserve the birds we love to hunt, the habitat they need to survive and this lifestyle we cherish. What RGS means to me is the resources, the opportunities, the community, the unspoken connections with fellow hunters and bird dog owners, making a difference and knowing I am not alone in this fight. I know that I can talk to any member, from any part of the country, at any time, and have something to talk about, something in common — our fondness and admiration for the ruffed grouse and American woodcock.
The benefits and rewards of being an RGS member are exactly what you put into it and what you hope to get out of it. Everyone and every effort matters, and it takes a united community to make a lasting impact. So, whether you are simply looking to add an additional resource to your experience, expand your network or volunteer your time on a chapter committee, we hope you will join the movement and fuel the mission for healthy forests, abundant wildlife, and conservation ethic.
To join, find an event, or locate your nearest chapter, visit www.ruffedgrousesocity.org