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Mike Schiavone, NYSDEC upland game bird biologist, noted that grouse and woodcock hunters planning their fall activities will be interested to read the results of recent drummer surveys and grouse and woodcock hunter log surveys, available on the web at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/92738.html and http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9351.html.
Lisa Williams, the grouse and woodcock specialist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, reports that there should be tempered excitement for the 2013-14 Pennsylvania ruffed grouse and woodcock season.
Fairly good winter conditions, with limited rain and ice events, should have led to fat and healthy grouse hens coming into the 2013 breeding season. Incubation weather was great through early May with sun and warm temperatures, and by late spring the picture looked bright for grouse production. However, late May and June experienced poor brooding and incubation weather with a string of cold and wet weeks throughout much of the state.
Williams said, “In Central Pennsylvania, we experienced multiple late freeze and frost events with extended wind and cold rain on May 12 and again during the week of May 26. This was potentially bad news for grouse broods and could affect your hunting strategy for fall 2013. Those spring freeze events could have nipped a lot of the soft mast producers again this year, as has occurred in several recent years. I have a feeling that grouse may be gathered in and around food sources this fall, as they have been in past years when food was particularly limited. Most successful grouse hunters keep a close eye on coverts with good food sources, and this could be particularly important this year. Find the food - find the grouse.”
The annual grouse season forecast is based upon the PGC’s Summer Sighting Survey in which Game Commission foresters and surveyors record the number of broods and individual grouse seen while working in the woods. Though the marginal June weather could impact later broods, the early brood numbers for June are looking good in much of Pennsylvania. In fact, both grouse brood sightings and adult grouse sightings were higher in June 2013 than they’ve been in three or four years.
Trends in hunters’ fall flush rates follow those of the summer survey about 80 percent of the time, so this information is used to develop the season forecast. According to Williams, “Compared to June of 2012, this year’s brood sightings are up 42 percent and observations of individual grouse are up a whopping 84 percent. Although August observations are the very best indicator for the season ahead, the June observations give Pennsylvania hunters much to be excited about. Based on these early sightings, I’m really beginning to think that the 2013-14 season will provide hunters with an above-average experience in Pennsylvania.”
Several anecdotal observations from long-term grouse hunters indicate the PGC’s focus on balancing deer populations with forest health, as well as the active timber harvesting being conducted by the PGC, DCNR, and Allegheny National Forest is paying dividends in terms of high grouse flush rates.
“Since 2005, we’ve seen stabilizing or improving trends in grouse populations in all regions,” said Williams. “A well-managed forest provides the dense and highly diverse understory necessary for quality grouse habitat. Well-managed forests across a large landscape can turn an area into a real grouse production zone. The northwest region is now producing bird flushes 10 percent higher than its long-term average – these are the “good old days” in that region.”
Big woods areas of northern Pennsylvania that have received active timber harvesting five or more years ago should produce abundant grouse flushes. Flush rates are always highest in regions where high-quality young forest habitat is scattered throughout a largely forested landscape.
Forecasts for the rest of the United States and Canadian Provinces are available from the RGS website.These forecasts are compiled by Ruffed Grouse Society biologists and state/provincial agency biologists.
This report has been compiled by the Ruffed Grouse Society biologists:
Dan Dessecker, Director of Conservation Policy, Alaska
Linda D. Ordiway, PhD, Regional Biologist Mid-Atlantic & Southern Appalachia
Larry Visser, PhD, Regional Biologist Michigan, Ohio & Indiana
Andy Weik, Regional Biologist New York, New England & Eastern Canada
Gary Zimmer, Coordinating Biologist, Western Great Lakes