2009 Grouse and Woodcock Season Forecasts
There are few woodcock singing ground routes in the state, and they indicated continuing long and short-term downward trends, most likely due to limited habitat. Heavy flights of migrating birds in the fall can provide great action in favorite covers for the persistent hunter.
Few and widely scattered pockets of good habitat have resulted in low grouse densities through the state. Drumming counts conducted primarily with Ruffed Grouse Society volunteers indicate impressive concentrations of drummers where prime habitat exists.
Last year hunters indicated a generally poor season. This year enthusiasts should scout for concentrations of grouse near prime habitat.
Woodcock hunting can be excellent on any given day in the state and depends largely on productivity on the prime breeding grounds farther north and good timing during the fall migration. Singing ground surveys are not conducted in Georgia, but were generally positive in the Lake States and New England. The persistent woodcock hunter should have some good outings next fall and winter.
Singing male woodcock numbers were down this year compared to last, but the breeding population has stabilized somewhat in the last 10 years. Heavy migration of woodcock out of the Lake States this fall could result in some good woodcock action where there is suitable habitat.
The northeastern portion of the state seems to produce the highest grouse numbers in recent years. There have been several occurrences of ice and wind damage which has resulted in good grouse habitat.
Last year’s mast survey indicated a bumper crop of beech nuts and an average crop of white oak acorns statewide, which resulted in an abundance of fall and winter food for grouse.
Woodcock hunting can be excellent on any given day in the state and depends largely on productivity on the prime breeding grounds farther north and good timing during the fall migration. Singing ground surveys are not conducted in Kentucky, but were generally positive in the Lake States and New England. The persistent woodcock hunter should have some good outings next fall and winter.
Spring weather has been colder, wetter, and more severe than average this year, which could impact chick survival.
Garrett County continues to hold the highest densities of grouse, but they can also be found in fair numbers as far east as Washington County. Hunters looking for public land opportunities should focus on past timber harvests in the region's network of State Forests or Wildlife Management Areas.
The 2009 woodcock singing ground survey indicates a continuing long and short-term decline in breeding woodcock. Nonetheless, hunters targeting the early season will find the best success in the western region of the state and to a lesser degree in pockets where good habitat exists elsewhere. Late season hunting is typically limited to the eastern region and portions of the southern region where woodcock migrate through and often spend much of the winter.
The woodcock singing ground survey suggested an increase in singing males this spring and a stable breeding woodcock population over the last decade. Woodcock hunting can be good on any given day, particularly during the peak of migration.
In terms of woodcock Minzey reported, “The 2009 survey produced an average of 8.4 peenting woodcock/route in the EUP. This is the highest number of peenting woodcock heard since 1999 and represents a 13% increase over 2008 levels.”
US Fish and Wildlife woodcock singing-ground counts in 2009 showed a 1.4% percent increase, or 4.08 heard per route surveyed, in singing males in Michigan.
Woodcock flush rates declined dramatically in 2008 with 0.9 woodcock flushed per hour by hunters compared to 2.4 woodcock per hour in 2007.Wexford, Allegan, Gladwin, Kalkaska and Mackinac Counties had the highest flush rates for woodcock.
Central Minnesota had 1.1 drums per stop, and the Southeast had 0.5 drums per stop. These results are similar to last year’s numbers.
Spring brood-rearing conditions were cool and wet, which is not the ideal weather for chick survival. However, there were no significant weather events that could be expected to elevate chick mortality.
Results from the US Fish and Wildlife Service woodcock singing ground survey showed an 11% increase from 2008 in the statewide woodcock population index. These results are somewhat surprising due to the severe snow storms that struck northern Minnesota in early April of both 2007 and 2008. These storms may not have had as dramatic an impact on local woodcock populations as was anticipated.
The grouse wing and tail survey conducted during the 2008 hunting season indicated a much improved adult to juvenile ratio, meaning productivity improved last year. Hunter submission and participation also increased significantly. Robinson hopes this will continue in concert with state efforts to manage grouse habitat. Hunters should expect to find birds in good numbers again this fall, at least similar or better than last year.
The woodcock singing ground survey showed a marked increase in breeding woodcock this spring. The woodcock survey indicated that the population has stabilized over the short and long-term in New Hampshire, suggesting that woodcock hunters will be rewarded for their efforts in the field this fall.
Burnett noted that the New Jersey Fish and Game Council has adopted a split season for ruffed grouse hunting this year. The north zone will begin the third Thursday in October and the south zone will begin November 7. Zones are delineated by State Hwy 70 and coincide with woodcock hunting zones. Grouse hunting throughout the state will end December 31, and the daily bag limit is two grouse.
Spring woodcock singing ground surveys indicated an increase in singing males over last year. Breeding woodcock numbers in the state have been stable over the last 10 years. Hunters should expect good woodcock hunting, particularly during the migration period.
Woodcock hunting is largely dependent on timing the fall migration of birds from the primary breeding grounds north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Birds tend to concentrate along the coast and may stay all winter. The persistent hunter may also find high concentrations of birds in the Piedmont and the mountains on any given day during the fall migration in suitable covers.
Hunters should scout early for concentrations of grouse in pockets of forest with good habitat, which exist primarily where ice storms and timber salvage have created prime habitat.
Reynolds also reported that woodcock hunting may be better if soil moisture remains good, but things are drying out fast. In the last year or two, conditions were very dry in Ohio during the peak migration of early November – and woodcock did not seem to be as abundant in traditional covers. The spring singing ground survey suggests that the number of singing males was nearly identical to last year. Ohio is still seeing long and short term declines, but numbers seem to be stabilizing. Birds coming out of the primary breeding range in the Lake States can mean very good woodcock hunting on any given day in late October and early November.
Drumming counts were also up at the Barrens Grouse Study Area on SGL 176. On the down side, cold, heavy rains in the first weeks of June most likely impacted chick survival, so no further upswing in grouse numbers is expected.
A multitude of options for grouse hunting on public lands in available in all parts of the state. Very large state forests, the Allegheny National Forest, many state game lands and even Corps of Engineer lands offer good grouse hunting.
Woodcock populations remain stable in the state. Spring singing ground surveys indicate similar numbers to last year. There has been little change in the singing ground survey since the mid-90’s. Woodcock enthusiasts should keep in mind that hunting is allowed on state parks, where some of the best old-field woodcock habitat can be found.
Tefft also reported increased attention to woodcock habitat management on state lands. Woodcock numbers seem relatively stable. Hunting is heavily dependent on migrating birds funneling out of northern New England and Canada and can be very good on any given day, depending on your timing.
Applegate also reported that woodcock breeding exists in pockets of appropriate habitat throughout the state and is probably more important to overall species production than is often appreciated. As usual, hunting success this fall will be partly determined by woodcock production further north as birds pass through during migration.
Woodcock numbers were up this spring according to singing ground surveys. The population has been stable in the state for the last decade. Favorite covers should produce good action this fall.
Hunters should do some scouting to find several good patches of habitat close together and expect to get plenty of exercise to find grouse. The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests offer spotty grouse hunting opportunities. Wildlife Management Areas tend to be more intensively managed for grouse.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s annual woodcock status report indicated singing male woodcock numbers were down sharply this spring. The number of singing male woodcock continues both a short and long-term downward trend across the state. Fall migration is probably heavier along the coast with some birds wintering there, and this may be a good place to find birds.
Grouse numbers are not expected to rebound this year, as a very wet May and June during the peak hatching and brood-rearing period, are expected to have impacted the brood population significantly. Preliminary reported on grouse broods suggest they are fewer and smaller. Hunters should scout for pockets of good bird numbers where chicks survived the heavy rains, but otherwise expect to work a little harder than last year to find birds.
The woodcock singing ground survey showed a slight decline in numbers, but the breeding population has been stable over the past decade. For the persistent woodcock enthusiast, hunting can be very good during the migration in places like the Canaan Valley and other fertile areas with good cover.
The central and northern regions showed improvements in drumming activity over last year with 14% and 6% increases respectively. Drum counts compared to last year in the southeast region showed a decrease of 58% while the southwest region showed a decline of 24%.
Drummer densities on the Sandhill Wildlife research census area in Wood County increased 21%, while drummers on the Stone Lake Experimental Area in Oneida County decreased 8% from 2008 levels. Dhuey stated that, “This is the fourth increase in the ruffed grouse index in the last 4 years. It would appear that Wisconsin is still on the upswing of the current grouse cycle.”
Spring brood rearing conditions have been favorable for ruffed grouse across the state, though there was a short cool, wet period across the north during the last week of May, just as the first broods were hatching. The first two weeks of June were much more favorable for broods with dry, warm weather.
US Fish and Wildlife Service woodcock singing ground surveys from the state were up 1.15% from 2008; 2.57 singing males were heard per survey route.
It is likely that both ruffed grouse and woodcock populations in northern and central Wisconsin this fall will be similar or slightly higher than last year.