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
A focus on simple gateways to grouse hunting can recruit our next generation of hunters.
By Matt Soberg, RGS/AWS Editor & Director of Communications
We always hear about perceived barriers to entry purportedly inherent in grouse and woodcock hunting. “There are no birds around, and it’s hard to find them. The cover is so thick, too hard and strenuous. When you do find birds, the shots are impossible. Guns are intimidating, and I don’t know how to train a bird dog.” Blah, blah, blah.
Grouse hunting is not that scary. Trust me.[Read more…] about GROUSE AND WOODCOCK HUNTING GATEWAYS
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
It 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.
My 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
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.
The 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)
“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
“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
Every 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.
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.
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.
The Women’s Intro to Wingshooting is a new RGS & AWS program designed to introduce women into upland hunting with the pilot program currently ongoing in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
Take a moment and think about why you hunt and who introduced you to hunting. What sex are you? I bet there’s a good chance you’re male. When I think about why and who, I think about my dad, a man that “only” had daughters. Although the participation of women and girls in hunting is increasing, there are still very large roadblocks including deeply ingrained cultural associations. I still hear some of my most open-minded and supportive male friends make statements similar to, “He finally got his baby boy after all those girls. He got a hunting buddy.” I’m generally quick to point out what was just said, and they’re often surprised by themselves.
The truth is the assumptions that little girls and women don’t belong in the field, are not capable or will not be interested still exist. I was fortunate that my father didn’t think girls shouldn’t hunt, and my sister and I have loved it from a very early age. For one reason or another, many little girls don’t have a hunting mentor. Those little girls may grow up to be women that are interested but missed out on hunting. Women and girls are the fastest growing demographic in the hunting community, and a target group for recruiting and retaining new hunters in efforts to sustain the future of the sport.
The Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society has developed a program designed to introduce women to upland hunting, the Women’s Intro to Wingshooting (WIW) program. The pilot year of WIW is taking place in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in summer 2016. So far, the program has been well received, the participating ladies are incredibly enthusiastic, and we are looking forward to expanding the program to new areas beginning in 2017. This year, we have 15 students enrolled with a range of experiences with shotguns and the outdoors. For a fair number of the ladies, the first day on the trap range was the first time they fired a gun! A big goal of the course is for the ladies to build confidence and skills with shotguns.
So far, the volunteer instructors have seen the ladies improve in leaps and bounds during the first few shooting sessions. In addition, ladies are learning about a broad range of topics associated with upland game hunting including the North American Model of Wildlife Management, shotgun safety, cleaning and use, gun dog breeds, training and use and the game birds of North America.
Although the pilot year is still underway as I write this, we have identified some necessary adjustments for future iterations including condensing the course schedule. The first shoot was held in April and the beginning shooters found themselves in a wind and snow storm that tested everyone’s endurance and patience. Despite the bad weather, everyone was smiling and having a great time. There is, of course, a better chance for warmer weather in the summer months. In addition, we are absolutely certain that the success of the WIW program hinges on dedicated volunteers that are good with new shooters. One of the goals for WIW is to provide a comfortable environment for women to learn new skills. Beyond the ability of instructors to teach new shooters is the important skill of giving confidence to the new shooters and maintaining an even keel. With the incredible effort of volunteer instructors, many ladies have gone from shooting their first clay target to consistently hitting double digits on the trap range.
The course will culminate in September 2016 with a guided pheasant hunt on preserve in Blackberry, Minnesota. The ladies will get to hunt pheasants with a volunteer guide and their bird dogs. This hunt will be the opportunity for course participants to put all of their learned skills together to successfully harvest birds over dogs and hopefully bring home some meat to enjoy with friends and family. With every course, the ladies grow more excited about this excellent chance to put their new skills to use. ~ RGS & AWS Regional Biologist Meadow Kouffeld-Hansen
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.