It won’t be long before it’s time for us to think about New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I’ve never really taken this practice very seriously, but I know a lot of people who do. I can see some value in making promises to ourselves at the beginning of every year aimed at making some change for the better or improving some aspect of our lives. To me it’s another form of goal-setting . . . so why confine that activity to just one day of the year?[Read more…] about PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – Pause to Reflect
NEW YORK & NEW ENGLAND
2017 GROUSE CAMP TOUR
October 21 – 29
“There is an old New England saying to the effect that if you give a man a shotgun, a bird dog and a violin, he won’t amount to a damn.”
~William Harnden Foster ~
Join the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society for the third Grouse Camp Tour, where we celebrate habitat, membership, volunteers and the grouse/woodcock hunting experience. This year’s Tour will be throughout the New York and New England region: New York Grouse & Woodcock Benefit Hunt – Malone, NY, Vermont, Western Massachusetts and Southern Maine.[Read more…] about GROUSE CAMP TOUR STARTS TODAY!
I might have arrived late to the grouse hunting scene, but I am determined to do everything I can to “pay it forward” and leave it in better shape than I found it.
Why do I hunt? I really didn’t have any choice, and I have been eternally grateful. My dad was a quail hunter. He started taking me when I was four or five years old. When I got too tired, he carried me on his shoulders. We hunted the sand hill scrub and pine/palmetto woods of Florida. I got my first shotgun, a JC Higgins .410 single shot for Christmas when I was 10. About that time, quail hunting lands began getting scarce as the hills and pine woods of Central Florida were bulldozed for orange groves. So, we shifted to dove and duck hunting.[Read more…] about WHY WE HUNT, Member Jim Gray
I was honored to be one of the speakers at the recent 100th anniversary event at the Gladwin Field Trail Area (GFTA) in Meredith, Michigan. The GFTA is one of the premier if not THE premier field trial area in the nation. While all RGS members are not Field Trialers and all Field Trialers are not RGS members we all share the common bond of loving bird dogs and appreciating young forest habitat and the wildlife that need it.
From the Michigan Department of Natural Resources press release on the event:
Located in the northwest corner of Gladwin County on more than 4,900 acres, the Gladwin Field Trial Area brings people from all over the country for premier dog field trials, which are competitions for hunting dogs to test their levels of skill and training in locating and pointing. Trials are held in the early spring and again in the late summer and early fall, avoiding the quiet period when birds are nesting. The uniqueness of these field trials comes from the dogs working wild native birds, ruffed grouse and woodcock. Birds are not placed in the Gladwin Field Trial Area. With an intense timber management program, this area – which includes 14 different field trial courses – can hold birds with its young forest habitat.
Gladwin is special for many reasons. From a strict scientific perspective this area is as good of a demonstration site for what sound scientific forest management can do for wildlife populations as there is. The plans laid out in late 70’s have shown that clearcutting is not a dirty word and does not “destroy” the forest. On the contrary, it, and other similar techniques, support an entire suite of species dependent on the thick woody and herbaceous cover that a cutting creates by letting sunlight reach the forest floor. Grouse and woodcock thrive in the area as well as many other species including Whip-poor-wills, which were nearly deafening at the campground at the site the night of the event.
Gladwin is also special for the unique research opportunities it offers. Just last year woodcock were captured there and fitted with GPS transmitters as part of a nationwide project that is exponentially increasing our knowledge about woodcock. The management guidelines in place, specifically the ban on hunting grouse and woodcock, made this the perfect site for this work as birds outfitted with $3,000 transmitters were not under threat to be shot while at the site.
Finally, the GFTA provides a unique spot for getting the next generation of upland hunters and field trailers involved in the sport. It is an exceptional place for a new hunter or young person to develop a passion for bird dogs, grouse and woodcock. I hope that the GFTA is a key site during our implementation of our New Hunter Mentoring Program in Michigan and helps a new generation embrace what we have here.
BUT, everyone who loves this area needs to remain vigilant against the persistent calls to change what has been so successful for the past century and open the area to activities that would degrade the area. The GFTA has weathered these calls for a century, let’s hope the people who love this area, bird dogs, and young forests can continue to do so and have our descendants meet there again another 100 years down the road at the next anniversary.
RGS and AWS staff and their dogs convened at headquarters in Pittsburgh last week to plan for the future of habitat programs, membership, events and communications.
RGS and AWS staff and some of their grouse dogs convened at headquarters near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last week to plan for the future of habitat programs, membership initiatives, events and communications. Numerous presentations and break-out sessions allow staff to collaborate planning at the national level and also specific to their regions. Biologists, regional directors and headquarters staff are able to meet and plan in-person and brainstorm ways to create and implement more effective and efficient programs that enhance healthy forests that support abundant wildlife and preserve our sporting traditions for future generations.
Presenters focused on recent highlights, new ideas and specifically focused on challenges that need to be overcome. This meeting discussed in detail RGS and AWS habitat programs, the Petition for Rulemaking, RGS-owned habitat machines, habitat outreach programs and more. The organizations also discussed ways to better recruit and retain hunters, specifically the implementation for the New Hunter Mentor and Women’s Intro to Wingshooting programs. Plans were made for communications content in digital, video and print for the magazine, blog, social media platforms and more with specific plans for a new-member drive coming this fall.
Visit www.ruffedgrousesociety.org for more information about how RGS and AWS impact the future of forest habitat and upland hunting.
2015 Annual Report – read the 2015 RGS & AWS Annual Report that provides a comprehensive and statistical highlight of habitat programs, membership, financials and communications from last year with a specific “thank you” to sponsors and supporters. Read HERE.
Exclusive Grouse Hunting Content – Get exclusive grouse hunting and conservation information from the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine – see the summer online teaser HERE. For only $35, you receive up to 100 pages of grouse hunting and conservation information exclusive to members in addition to assurance you are supporting North America’s foremost forest conservation organization.
Getting out of Michigan in early April during a late winter weather blast is always a fun time. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to not only get out of town right before a week of forecasted “wintry mix” but also to spend time with biologists from around the country at the Woodcock Wingbee being held this year in Mobile, Alabama. The Wingbee is an annual event and culmination of the Wing-collection Survey. Here is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service description of the Survey and Wingbee:
The primary objective of the Wing-collection Survey is to provide data on the reproductive success of woodcock. The survey is administered as a cooperative effort between woodcock hunters, the FWS, and state wildlife agencies. Wing-collection Survey participants were provided with prepaid mailing envelopes and asked to submit one wing from each woodcock they bagged. Hunters were asked to record the date of the hunt as well as the state and county where the bird was shot. Hunters were not asked to submit envelopes for unsuccessful hunts. The age and gender of birds were determined by examining plumage characteristics during the annual woodcock wingbee conducted by state, federal, and private biologists. The ratio of immature birds per adult female in the harvest provides an index to recruitment of young into the population. The… recruitment index for each state with greater-than-or-equal-to 125 submitted wings was calculated as the number of immatures per adult female.
Woodcock hunters from around the country participate with representation from nearly the entire woodcock range. Wings arrive in varying conditions. Some are perfectly laid out and were likely pinned to cardboard and dried before sending in. These folks get a gold star. Others, clearly those sent in by GSP owners, are little more than nuggets of dried blood and feathers. Most wings can be identified after a few seconds of careful examination. Sometimes a ruler needs to be brought out or even a dissection scope. There are a number of seasoned pros who have attended this event for 10+ years and are very good at helping with ID and questionable wings.
The first order of business is for the Wingbee participants to pass an exam to make sure their ID skills are polished. Once passed, you pick out a seat, grab a box of envelopes and get to work. Many familiar names are on the envelopes: RGS committee members, various state agency employees, woodcock banders, old friends and new friends. The first folder I picked up was from a guy who bought a setter from my Great Uncle and is one of the rare breed of woodcock hunters from Indiana. Later the next day, I picked out one from a guy who bought a pup from me the previous year and likely shot it over that dog. Patterns develop and the real woodcock gurus start to show up with their numerous envelopes with three wings in each indicating a limit for the day they hunted.
This year the biologists at the Wingbee went through 11,292 woodcock wings. This is the numeric breakdown by cohort:
Adult Female = 4,028
Immature Female= 2,348
Adult Male = 2,300
Immature Male = 2,507
Raw age ratio (immatures/adult female) = 1.21
This age ratio has not yet been broken down by region but is likely going to be on the very low part for both the Eastern and Central woodcock Management Regions. Below is a long term ratio for both regions:
From: Cooper, T.R., and R.D. Rau. 2015. American woodcock population status, 2015. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, Maryland. 16 pp.
The event is not only a useful wildlife management tool but also a time for presentations on current woodcock research as well as discussions on potential collaboration, new projects, the state of woodcock in the United States, and anything and everything woodcock related. I am grateful for being able to attend and spend time with the other biologists. It would be hard to find anyone more dedicated to young forest wildlife than the folks that attend this event.
Public input opportunity extended to all members:
If you hunt on state land in Michigan and feel strongly about maintaining our upland sporting traditions now is the time to let your voice be heard.
On Wednesday May 11, I testified on two Michigan Senate bills that could significantly affect wildlife conservation and hunting (read his written comments…). We appreciate the Legislature’s interest in public recreation on public lands and there is language in these bills that we agree with but overall they would negatively impact the public land we need for hunting and active forest management required to maintain habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and other young forest wildlife.
Senate Bill 39 (Read the most recent version…):
This bill includes:
- Language that would expand the ability of private individuals or corporations to purchase state hunting lands while allowing for the process to be confidential; clearly a threat to the future of public recreation on public lands.
- Language that will make it more difficult for the state to acquire land where long term wildlife and forest management can be conducted.
- Language establishing a lengthy process, including public hearings that the DNR would be required to conduct if requested to remove an existing berm (or gates or other barriers), even if the request addresses only a single berm on a single trail. With tens of thousands of berms, many serving vital wildlife and natural resource purposes, this would create an enormous burden on the DNR requiring extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and money that is better directed towards managing our wildlife and other forest resources.
- Wording that could facilitate lawsuits against conservation officers carrying out their duties.
- Language that would limit the use of state funds to manage “non-game” such as golden-winged warblers. This would stifle fundraising opportunities of the DNR and conservation organizations and essentially redirect federal dollars from Michigan to other states.
- On the positive side, the bill specifically supports active forest management, promoting working forests, and management to improve wildlife habitat.
Senate Bill 40 (Read the most recent version…):
Historically, funds from the Land Exchange Facilitation Fund have been used exclusively to purchase additional state lands. This legislation would allow these funds to be used for virtually any natural resource management-related costs thus limiting new land purchases.
How can you help?
A public meeting took place Wednesday, May 18 in Lansing but a vote did not take place yet.
You can submit comment to Mr. Corey Woodby, Committee Clerk, at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a resident you can contact your Senator with opposition to these bills, this is especially important if you live in any of the following Senate Districts. These are the members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. You can find your Senate District by entering your zip code at this website: http://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html.
- Tom Casperson (R) Committee Chair, 38th District
- Phil Pavlov (R) Vice Chair, 25th District
- David Robertson (R) 14th District
- Jim Stamas (R) 36th District
- Rebekah Warren (D) Minority Vice Chair, 18th District
If you have questions about how to make your voice heard, or this legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact:
Eric Ellis, Lower Peninsula, East U.P., Indiana, Ohio
Meadow Kouffeld-Hansen, West U.P. and Minnesota
(218) 398-1076 (Cell)
(218) 999-4722 (Office)
This past weekend, RGS staff members were fortunate to attend the now annual Woodcock Banding Clinic at Pineridge Grouse Camp near Remer, Minnesota. I (RGS/AWS Regional Director Nick Larson) was joined by coworkers: Mark Fouts, director of member relations and outreach; Meadow Kouffeld-Hansen, regional wildlife biologist and Ted Dick, MN DNR forest game bird coordinator. We walked away from this weekend completely satisfied, excited about the future of woodcock banding as well as having an even greater appreciation for the unique and amazing bird that is the American woodcock.
The format for the weekend consisted of significant classroom time, which included presentations by experienced and certified woodcock banders Earl Johnson and Donna Dustin. Also included was a presentation by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and a habitat walk on Pineridge property with Kevin Sheppard of ABC. Other experienced banders present were Terry Petro, Tye Sonney and Jerry Forgit. Among them, they have cumulatively banded hundreds of woodcock and shared a constant stream of information, experiences and strategies for all of the future woodcock banders in attendance. Our afternoons consisted of breaking off into smaller groups to train and certify dogs, as well as search for woodcock broods to band. Experienced banders were paired with apprentice newcomers, and we took to the woods in the surrounding area.
Bird dogs play an important and unique role to this type of woodcock banding, specifically pointing dogs. For those not familiar with the process, a pointing dog is run in suspected nesting cover much like a hunting scenario. When the dog goes on point, the banders then move in, extremely carefully in order to first secure the dog by tying it to a tree on a short lead and then begin searching for birds on the ground. Once the dog is secure, banders must tread carefully as the woodcock hen and/or chicks are absolute masters of camouflage as any experienced woodcock hunter knows. Most of the banders time is spent standing perfectly still and scanning the ground until the tiny birds take form and appear on the ground below. Once all of the birds are accounted for and visually marked, the banders swiftly gather them up and gently place them in mesh bags on the ground for temporary holding. At this point, banders carefully and quickly record the necessary data, place bands on legs and return the birds to their natural cover. The dog is untied and led in the opposite direction as the banders leave the area and let the hen return to the brood.
The experience at Pineridge Grouse Camp last weekend was certainly one to remember. The group of people that came together to participate shared a unique interest and passion for the American woodcock. That was evident throughout the weekend in all presentations, conversations and activities. Many of the newcomers, were fortunate enough to find our first broods and band our first woodcock chicks under the supervision of certified banders. Being able to find a brood of woodcock in their native habitat with the help of a good bird dog and then subsequently handling and banding chicks before releasing them left a lasting impression. As experienced bander Tye Sonney told me, after banding your first bird, you’ll be smiling about it for days. The experience also left me with an interest and a motivation to get involved and be a part of the banding effort next spring.
The more birds successfully banded, the more bands will be returned and/or called-in upon harvest. This in turn increases the data points for researchers in the ongoing study of woodcock habitat and biology. If a bird dog and bander can help in that effort, you can bet we’re going to take the opportunity to get involved. If not for the simple pleasure and enjoyment of getting out in the spring woods, then certainly to support the conservation effort of the birds we love and treasure.
THANK YOU to Jerry Havel and Pineridge Grouse Camp for supporting this event and making it happen. All participants enjoyed first rate accommodations at Pineridge, and it would be tough to think of a better venue for this type of event. Also, a huge THANK YOU goes out to Earl Johnson and Donna Dustin for coordinating the event and providing the formal educational component of the clinic. Their extensive knowledge and experience with woodcock banding was impressive and rivaled only by their willingness and passion for sharing this information and passing it along to a new group of hopeful woodcock banders. Thank you to Kevin Sheppard and his crew from American Bird Conservancy for the time and information they shared as well as their continued efforts in the conservation of woodcock and other bird species. To everyone else involved, THANK YOU for making this a special weekend.
For more information on woodcock banding in the state of Minnesota, please contact: Donna Dustin, Woodcock Banding Coordinator; 218-849-2148; email@example.com