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2014-15 Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log Results

During the 2014-15 ruffed grouse and American woodcock hunting seasons, 271 hunters recorded their daily hunting activities, including information such as the number of birds flushed, the number of hours hunted, the number of birds killed, and if a dog was used to hunt grouse and woodcock. The primary purpose of the log is to monitor the number of birds flushed per hour. Changes in the flush rate illustrate trends in the grouse and woodcock populations when viewed over a long period of time and will provide insight into statewide distributions for these popular game species as habitats change both locally and on a landscape scale.

You can view, print, or download the 2014-15 Grouse and Woodcock Log Report (PDF) (1 MB).

We thank all the hunters that participated in this survey during the 2014-15 seasons.

Results from the 2014-15 Season

During the 2014-15 season, participants reported data from almost 2,500 hunting trips across the state, from the lower Hudson Valley in the south, to the Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley in the north, and the Lake Plains and Allegheny Plateau in far western New York. They spent almost 6,900 hours afield and flushed 4,900 grouse (about 0.7 flushes/hour) and almost 2,500 woodcock (about 0.5 flushes/hour). Findings from the 2014-15 season include:

Grouse Hunting

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 25 hours afield during the 2014-15 season. They took about 9 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Grouse log participants averaged about 18 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2014-15 season and had to spend about one hour and 24 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged about 1.5 birds harvested for the season and had to invest over 17 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 12 grouse flushes resulted in a kill (an 8.1% success rate).
  • Just over 75% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September-November). In addition, about 80% of the grouse flushed and 75% of the grouse harvested occurred during this early part of the season, but the flush rate was similar between the early and late portions of the season.
  • Slightly more effort was expended by hunters on public lands, and the number of grouse flushed was slightly higher there; however, the flush rates on public and private lands were similar (about 0.7 flushes/hour).
  • Overall, there was far more effort expended in the southern grouse season zone than the northern season zone (over 70% of the total), but the flush rate was lower in the southern zone (about 0.67 flushes/hour vs. 0.80 flushes/hour).
  • Hunting effort was well distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 42% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (34% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 8% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 26% in northern New York (18% Adirondacks Tug Hill Ecozone, 5% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 3% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 31% in the southeastern part of the state (18% Catskills Delaware Hills, 13% Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Catskills-Delaware Hills ecozone (about 0.98 grouse flushed/hour), followed by the Adirondacks-Tug Hill and St. Lawrence Valley ecozones, respectively (0.86 and 0.83 birds flushed/hour). The rest of the ecozones were similar to or below the annual statewide average of 0.70 grouse flushed/hour).
  • Most hunters that participated in the survey used a dog to hunt grouse. In general, hunters that used a dog flushed and harvested more grouse and had a higher flush rate (0.78 grouse flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.59 grouse flushed/hour).

Woodcock Hunting

  • Analyses for woodcock data were restricted to 20 September through 30 November. This represents the period in which resident and migrating woodcock were in New York and accounted for 99% of all the woodcock observations during the survey. The results presented in this report are based on 1,873 trips and 5,282 hours afield by 252 hunters.
  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged almost 21 hours afield during the 2014 woodcock season. They took about 7 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Survey participants averaged about 10 woodcock flushed per hunter for the 2014 season and had to spend just over 2 hours hunting in order to flush one woodcock. In addition, hunters averaged 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest over 10 hours of hunting effort to harvest one woodcock. On average, one out of every 5 woodcock flushes resulted in a kill (a 20% success rate).
  • Hunting effort was evenly distributed over the 45-day season, with a peak in effort in early October. More birds were flushed during the third week of October than during any other week of the season, and this week coincided with the highest observed flush rate (0.83 birds flushed/hour). The overall flush rate from 20 September through 30 November was 0.53 birds/hour.
  • There was more hunting effort and woodcock flushed and killed on public land than on private land, but the flush rate was higher on private land (0.61 vs. 0.47 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • There was more hunting effort and woodcock flushed and killed in the southern zone than in the northern zone, but the flush rate was similar between the northern and southern zones (about 0.5 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Lake Plains Ecozone (0.86 woodcock flushed/hour), followed by the St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone (0.60 woodcock flushed/hour). Several other ecozones were close to the statewide average flush rate (0.53 birds flushed/hour), with the exception of the Champlain Valley and Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands ecozones, which were below the statewide average.
  • Most hunters that participated in the survey used a dog to hunt woodcock. Hunters that used a dog flushed and harvested more woodcock and had a higher flush rate (0.73 birds flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.14 birds flushed/hour).

Comparing 2014-15 to Previous Seasons

Ruffed Grouse

  • Over the past 11 seasons, over 1,200 hunters have participated in this survey. They have taken over 31,000 trips afield, spent almost 87,000 hours pursuing grouse, flushed over 84,000 birds, and harvested roughly 7,200 grouse. During this time period, the average flush rate was 1 grouse flushed/hour.
  • Summary statistics for hunter effort (trips/hunter, hours/hunter) during the 2014-15 season were similar to the previous season and were below the long-term average. Indices for grouse abundance (flushes/hunter, flushes/hour) were lower than 2013-14 and below the long-term average. The amount of time spent afield to harvest a grouse has increased the past five seasons from 14 hours in 2011-12 to over 17 hours in 2014-15.
  • Flush rates declined from 2013-14 to 2014-15 in four of seven ecozones. The flush rate was similar over the last two years in the Catskills-Delaware Hills and Mohawk Valle-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands ecozones, and increased slightly in the St. Lawrence Valley ecozone.
  • Over the past 11 seasons, trends in grouse populations statewide and in major ecozones have resembled a "bell-shaped curve" that peaked around 2009. It is unclear whether this is illustrative of the grouse population "cycles" that have been observed in other states. It is also unclear whether the increasing trend from 2011 through 2014 in the Adirondacks-Tug Hill, and 2012 through 2014 in the Catskills-Delaware Hills and St. Lawrence Valley, indicate a recovering grouse populations in those regions or are just a brief "up-tick" in a longer downward trend. Continued monitoring through this and other surveys will help clarify these observations.
  • The 2014-15 survey results emphasize a "focus area" for grouse in the central part of the state from the St. Lawrence Valley south through the Catskills. When data are analyzed across the 11 years of the survey, they highlight other areas outside of this core region that will also benefit from active habitat protection, management, or restoration. Improving habitat in or close to regions with high quality habitat has a better chance at improving grouse populations than habitat management in regions devoid of high quality grouse habitat. There are several Wildlife Management Units along the southern tier in DEC Regions 8 and 9 that have relatively good grouse populations that would benefit from habitat management efforts.

American Woodcock

  • The flush rate in 2014 was down from 2013, but close to the average from the previous four years.
  • It is interesting to note that during the last two seasons the highest flush rate for woodcock has been in the Lake Plains ecozone. In contrast, this is an area of the state that consistently has among the lowest flush rates for ruffed grouse. The migratory nature of woodcock means that this species can find isolated patches of early successional habitat such as young forests and shrublands, whereas ruffed grouse are more dependent upon a landscape with a preponderance of high-quality habitat. This results in there being relatively fewer grouse in the Lake Plains compared to a region like the Catskills-Delaware Hills ecozone where there is a higher proportion of the landscape that is in an early stage of succession.
  • In the spring "Singing-ground Survey" (SGS) coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the number of singing males per route (i.e., the "breeding index") in New York from 2010 to 2012 was 3.01, 2.76, and 2.86 males, respectively, so over this short time span the SGS conducted in the spring and the flush rate from the hunter's log were correlated. This relationship did not continue in 2013 as the singing males index was similar to the previous season (2.85), but the flush rate in the fall increased to 0.70 birds flushed/hour from 0.58 the previous year. This was likely due to good recruitment during summer 2013 as evidenced by the increase in the number of juveniles per adult in the fall 2013 harvest. From 2013 to 2014 there was a decrease in the breeding index, and this was reflected in the decline in the flush rate from 0.70 to 0.53 birds flushed/hour. The breeding index increased from 2014 to 2015, but it remains to be seen whether this will translate to an improved flush rate this fall.
  • Three of the last five years the peak of woodcock migration occurred during the last week of October, with the exceptions being 2011 and 2014 when it occurred the week of October 18th. In fall 2014 this could have been the result of the early onset of winter that pushed birds southward earlier than in previous years.