One of the first things I heard after becoming president and CEO of the Ruffed Grouse Society was that we needed to do a better job of communicating our message. This came from board members, RGS members, staff members and from others in the conservation community. To significantly improve strategic communications and better spread awareness of our mission, RGS needed a core message and brand identity. This message needed to be conveyed clearly and consistently to members, potential members, to other supporters and to the general public – the same message to everyone.

Over the past year, we developed a strategic communications plan, and you will see our message spread through a variety of functions including our publications, marketing, operations, membership and staff.

Our communications plan is mission-based, meaning we focus on the underlying principles that have made RGS a successful conservation organization for over 50 years. The mission statement provides the foundation from which we developed our strategic messaging. The mission must say who we are, what we do and how we do it, so we have clarified the RGS mission statement to read as follows:

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forests for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

From the mission, we developed additional communication tools for spreading awareness of RGS initiatives. We created an RGS tagline that portrays our mission in a simple and focused way. The Ruffed Grouse Society is about:

Healthy Forests ~ Abundant Wildlife ~ Sporting Traditions

The tagline emphasizes the identity of RGS and succinctly communicates what is important to us. We create young forest habitat to preserve ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife, and in so doing, we honor and continue our outdoor and hunting heritage. Some might suggest that we downplay hunting, however these traditions help define the connection we have to our natural history and the obligation we have for ensuring it remains available to future generations.

In addition to the mission and tagline, we developed additional tools involving vision, purpose, and reciprocal values between RGS and our members. Our purpose statement explains the reason why RGS exists and shows the need for the work we do:

• Forest conservation is facing the important challenges of unhealthy forest management practices, habitat loss and declining wildlife populations. RGS exists to protect, create and enhance healthy forests, abundant wildlife and our sporting traditions through scientific management of woodlands and public education.

• Devoted to the sporting life, ruffed grouse and woodcock hunters are a special group with a passion for the unique challenge these birds present. From Alaska and the Canadian Provinces to the Gulf of Mexico, our members include hunters, non-hunters, woodland owners, industries and conservation professionals. Our events and activities focus on camaraderie, learning, sharing and supporting the goals of our organization.

• RGS members and staff embrace our duty to enhance forest habitat and wildlife. There is a sense of fulfillment with being involved in an organization that makes a difference in habitat and wildlife nationally and locally.

We want our messaging strategy to help us better communicate with current members while also effectively recruiting new members. Overall, I believe we fulfilled our goal of laying the groundwork for improving communications. The plan coordinates and integrates the core messages that reflect the RGS
organizational values and ensures our future communications are consistent and uniform across all RGS programs and services by all involved. With the RGS mission as our foundation, we have the necessary tools to bring our message to everyone in a clear, consistent and effective way.

 
   
 

As George Bird Evans so eloquently expressed, no single moment better defines a grouse hunter’s life than that from point to flush. The most intense of all encounters, a captivated hunter holds pointer who holds grouse – a true upland trilogy.

The hunter’s quivering hands and setter’s quivering flag stand in judgment of the bird’s quivering being. Suspense results from pure anticipation. Time stands still.

The beauty of the hunt, as Evans alluded, is that the bird’s advantage often leads to escape at flush. Bird hunter and gun dog are forced to try, try again. Because of their love for the game, they don’t complain. It’s not about a bird in hand to them. It’s the rush of the moment … from point to flush … that keeps them hunting.

That moment serves well as the title of my quarterly editor’s note. First, it describes what I love about the fall forest. Second, the title applies to my editorial duties for the Ruffed Grouse Society. The “point” is our love for habitat, wildlife and hunting. The “flush” is how we tell our story of creating healthy forests for abundant wildlife and preserving our sporting traditions.

In my short time at the helm, I’ve already been touched by great writing and even better storytelling. The point and flush come together, for me, when I get that spine-tingling feeling after reading a well-written, meaningful article. We are lucky to have such passionate contributors, members and proponents of our important mission.

Being my first sole endeavor for RGS, I’m excited about this summer issue. It melds the RGS tradition with my personal flair. My traditionalist mentality exudes from a passionate, young soul, and this will become evident in future issues.

This edition strikes deep into the meaning of why we value habitat and hunting so much. In particular, summer is a great time to show respect to our outdoor heritage, introduce RGS initiatives to new people and explore youth educational programs. Grouse hunting carries with it timeless traditions, those handed down by our forefathers, however, these traditions are at risk of being lost if we don’t promote the sport we love.

Summer starts with “Northwoods Annie Oakley”, a historical essay by Scott Winston, that eloquently tells the story of grouse hunting women in the 1950s and reminds us that it’s not only men who successfully hunt these birds. We move on to a piece by Steve Smith, “A Woodcock Conversation”, that humorously shows the vim and vigor of youthful confidence. Jay Hanson’s story about his father respectfully pays homage to 50 years of grouse hunting experience passed on to others. In his reflection on the Deep Portage Learning Center, Ted Lundrigan shows how introducing youth to grouse hunting can pay great dividends. RGS Coordinating Biologist Gary Zimmer thanks RGS members and volunteers for their work in his “Thoughts on Conservation.” Finally, our collection of hunter’s firsts and youth articles by Anthony Hauck and Fritz Heller show how we are passing our traditions to the next generation through education and experience.

Back to the point: Chris Chantland’s cover image says it all. At that special moment, the bird dog stands staunch on point, the peril of the grouse in check. What happens next is unknown, mysterious, completely fascinating, and fittingly, the portrait encompasses everything we are trying to accomplish with the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine.

From the cover on, open up our summer issue, sit back and enjoy the flush.

 
   
 
“Heard you shoot a few times back there. What ya doin?”

“I’m collecting woodcock – I’m not on your land, am I? The plat book says this is state ground.”

“Naw – my place borders this hunk, and I heard you bangin’ away over here so I drove down. Saw your Jeep and figured I’d wait for you to come out, and we’d have a chat.”

“Well, I’m done now. I got the birds I need for today.”

“So those are woodcock, are they?”

“Yeah. Woodcock. A male and two hens. Luckily, the hens are an adult and a juvenile. I think the male’s an adult, and that’s good because I got an immature male yesterday just across the county line north of here.”


“Son, are you aware that it’s July and the only season that’s open is for bass?”

"Yeah – but I’ve found there’s a lot less competition for a place to hunt in the summer … that was joke, mister.”

“What ain’t gonna be a joke is when I call the deputy to come write you a pad full of tickets.”

“The sheriff’s department and the DNR officer know I’m here. The school cleared it ahead of time.”

“School?”

“Yeah. I’m collecting woodcock as part of my graduate studies. And I’m doing it under a federal collecting permit that says I can use any means necessary. The university applies for the permit, and I use it. Here it is. See?”

“I ain’t ever heard of that college.”

“And my guess is they’ve never heard of you, sir.”

“So what do you do with these birds?”

“I necrosy them.”

“You shot those birds to get their knees?”

“I necro – a necropsy is the animal form of a human autopsy.”

“Like on NCIS, that little British guy?”

“Right.”

“He does those autopsies so he can tell how somebody got killed. Son, I’m pretty sure those birds are dead on account of you shot ‘em.” “I dissect them to look at their gonads, their sex organs. I’m doing a study to see if the glands change when the migratory instinct kicks in and the birds get ready to fly south. I’ll collect some then, too. For example, female woodcock migrate before the males. Since that’s sex-related, there may be some  physiological change that takes place in the hens before the males linked to the sex glands. I’m establishing the baselines with these birds and others I’ve collected this month, both adults and birds of the year, and I’ll collect some more through the summer and through the flights – that’s what the woodcock migration movement is called – flights.”

“Why?”

“Because they fly south. Fly – flight. You know.”

“I mean why are you doing this whole study thing?”

“To add to the body of knowledge about woodcock and perhaps migration theory itself.”

“What’r you gonna do with that information?”

“Me? Write my thesis. After I do, I’ll use it to help me get a job with Fish & Wildlife or maybe the DNR.”

“And what are they gonna do with it?”

“I have no idea. Scientists find things out; other people take what they find and apply it. I’m one of the finder-outers, the researchers.”

“What do you do with the birds when you’ve got done carvin’ ’em up?”

“I eat them. I’m a grad student, mister, and cash is in short supply, so nothing goes to waste.”

“You got no bird dog to help you out?”

“I do, a setter, but she’s rough on birds and I need them in good shape so I can get a good look inside, so I have to walk them up myself and do my own retrieving.”

“That why you’re shootin’ that little bitty gun, so it doesn’t ruin the birds?"

"What is that, anyway? "

“It’s a 28-gauge Fox. My late father’s  old gun.”

“It’s a beauty. …Who thought it up?”

“A fellow named Ansley H. Fox back in the late –”

“I mean who thought up this whole study thing of yours?”

“I did.”

“How long to do it, you figure?”

“At least two years, probably three.”

“You sure it isn’t so you could just go hunting in the summer?”

“I’m a scientist, sir. This is pure research, as I’ve explained.”

“Well . . . do you hunt for fun? I mean, did you grow up hunting?”

“Sure – that’s why I’m in the wildlife biology program.”

“When you hunt, what do you like huntin’ the most – pheasants, deer, gees-”

“Woodcock. I love to hunt woodcock.”

“ … I see … well … you have yourself a good day, son.”

“You, too, sir.” _

 
   
 

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Ruffed Grouse Society
451 McCormick Road
Coraopolis, PA 15108
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412-262-4044

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