Proposed Ohio ruffed grouse hunting season changes.
Following the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Wildlife Council meeting on January 16, 2020 the Ohio Division of Wildlife has recommended the following regulation changes for ruffed grouse:
Ruffed Grouse Season Length:
Public Land Oct 10-Nov 29 (Currently to Jan 31)
Private Land Oct 10-Jan 1 (Currently to Jan 31)
One bird bag limit (Currently two bird bag limit)
Ohio has seen a dramatic reduction of young forest age class on the landscape, however even in large scale state forest land where forest management has stabilized, grouse populations have not recovered.
In 2019, Division of Wildlife staff created an online Gamebird Survey open to the public and followed the survey up with a Gamebird Summit held on February 9th, 2019 to discuss the status of several upland gamebird species along with hunter responses to survey questions related to harvest regulation questions.
RGS/AWS Members can take action and get involved.
ODNR has ample evidence to support what we all recognize – Ohio ruffed grouse populations are in trouble. Regulations changes are warranted, but will not solve the problem. Here are ways to assist ODNR and RGS/AWS in developing a plan for the future of healthy forest management and ruffed grouse in Ohio:
- Attend and provide input on the ODNR Division of Forestry’s Forest Action Plan. RGS/AWS will be actively engaged in this process and will be participating in the plan revision process.
- Provide input on the ODNR Wildlife hunting regulation proposals at an Open House or Wildlife Council meeting. RGS/AWS will be submitting overall comments which support the proposed regulation changes, these will be available on the RGS/AWS website prior to the comment period closure.
- Provide input on the ODNR Division of Forestry’s Annual Work Plans at summer open houses, the schedule for those available around July.
- Participate in the Wayne National Forest Land Management Plan revision stakeholder process. RGS/AWS is heavily involved in the working group for the Wayne National Forest Plan Revision process, the draft plan will be released Jan 24, 2020 followed by a 24-day public comment period.
- Participate in the Ohio Ruffed Grouse Hunter Diary Program. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Obtaining information on grouse encounters and flush rates is critical to determine where ruffed grouse persist in Ohio and where future data collection efforts may focus.
Stay informed on Ohio ruffed grouse conservation efforts.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife is also currently working under numerous new initiatives toward science based forest management which RGS/AWS will be involved in:
- Division of Wildlife, in partnership with National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), contracted a forest habitat inventory that was completed in 2012 (similar to the Division of Forestry inventory) and has trained public lands staff in Oak Silviculture and Ecology (and Silvah Oak software use) to prescribe appropriate forest management treatments for oak-hickory forests on wildlife areas in southeastern Ohio. This has led to more timber stand improvement (TSI), invasive species control, prescribed fire, and both shelterwood and regeneration harvests to provide young forest habitat.
- Division of Wildlife Participates on the Interagency Forestry Team that was originally funded through the USDA Joint Chief’s Program entitled “Collaborative Oak Management of the Appalachian Mountains” . This partnership includes ODNR Forestry, ODNR Wildlife, USDA NRCS, USFS Wayne National Forest and the Northern Research Station, and OSU extension. The Team has identified a 17-county area in southeastern Ohio to focus on cross boundary management on both public and private lands to maintain and regenerate oak forests in southeastern Ohio.
- The Division of Wildlife is redesigning the ruffed grouse drumming survey to more effectively monitor remaining grouse populations on large forest landscapes and is working on a proposal to model ruffed grouse habitat quality on larger state forests and WNF landscapes. This will focus efforts where habitat quality can be improved and may inform areas that might be suitable for reintroduction projects in the future.
Ohio ruffed grouse populations have experienced precipitous and steady declines to the low point they are at today. Unfortunately the news in Ohio will come as no surprise to anyone following overall ruffed grouse populations on a national level. With similar news emanating from Indiana and New Jersey, the question “which state is next?” is an ever increasing reality.
Despite the bad news, the good news is there are people and organizations answering the call. Unwilling to watch Ohio ruffed grouse disappear from every last cover, efforts are being made to maximize habitat with available resources.
If ever there were a time for those standing on the sidelines to join the fight, it sure feels like today is the day. Tomorrow could simply be too late.
Join the movement and stand up for Ohio ruffed grouse.