RGS PRESS RELEASE
451 McCormick Rd
Coraopolis PA 15108
October 10, 2015
For Immediate Release
Results obtained by RGS wildlife biologists show reproductive success lower than the long-term average for both ruffed grouse and American woodcock.
Coraopolis, PA – The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) held its 34th annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt (NGWH) on October 8 and 9, 2015 in and around Grand Rapids, Minnesota with harvest results, obtained by RGS wildlife biologists, showing reproductive success lower than the long-term average for both ruffed grouse and American woodcock. 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.
Participating hunters (102) harvested 149 ruffed grouse during the two-day hunt, with each hunter harvesting an average of 0.73 grouse per hunter, per day, which is the second lowest total on record. Based upon calculated results, the index to reproductive success was 40 percent below the long-term mean, which means there are few young birds in the current population. “The low proportion of young-of-the-year grouse is a double whammy for hunters. Not only are there fewer birds to pursue, but many of the birds in the woods are adults who have previously encountered hunters and dogs before; they know how to play the game,” said RGS Director of Conservation Policy Dan Dessecker.
Participating hunters harvested 357 American woodcock, with each hunter harvesting an average of 1.7 woodcock per day, which is similar to the long-term average. However based upon the calculated results, the index to reproductive success was 20 percent below the long-term average.
The leaf cover was heavier than normal and may have affected hunting conditions in the southern hunt areas for this year’s hunt, however much needed rain the evening before the first hunt day provided excellent scenting conditions for bird dogs.
The NGWH provides an unparalleled opportunity to study the population ecology of ruffed grouse and woodcock. The manner in which it is structured is what makes it so unique in the field of wildlife research and so valuable to wildlife conservation. 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 and how that variation relates to the 10-year cycle.
Ruffed grouse populations in northern Minnesota, and elsewhere throughout the northern portions of the grouse range, exhibit this cycle of approximately 10 years. Cyclic lows typically occur in years ending in “4” or “5”. These lows are followed by four to five years of increasing populations toward the cyclic high, which typically occurs in years ending in “9” or “0”. Four to five years of subsequent population declines lead to another low, and the cycle again begins.
These population cycles have been documented in Minnesota for over 60 years. Not surprisingly, the ruffed grouse harvest at the NGWH shows a strong correlation with the ruffed grouse population cycle in northern Minnesota. During cyclic highs, each hunter at the NGWH will harvest 2.0 to 2.5 ruffed grouse each day during the two-day event. Daily harvest-per-hunter during cyclic lows is only 0.6 to 1.0 grouse.
Like ruffed grouse, the harvest of American woodcock at the NGWH is related to trends in Minnesota’s woodcock population. Since 1997 when the woodcock daily bag limit was reduced from five birds to three, NGWH participants have harvested on average one to two woodcock per day.
In total, the 50 teams at the NGWH (two hunters per team) will harvest approximately 200 to 400 ruffed grouse and 300 to 400 woodcock. Although these totals may seem quite large, this harvest is in reality merely a drop in the bucket as it is distributed over almost 8,000 square miles of public and private land.
For over 30 years, the NGWH has provided invaluable insight into the ecology of these two premier game birds. RGS will continue to ask questions and, hopefully, find answers through the NGWH 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 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 works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.
Information on RGS, its mission, management projects and membership can be found on the web at: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.