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2016-17 Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log Results

During the 2016-17 season, 239 participants reported data from almost 2,200 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 5,900 hours afield and flushed about 4,300 grouse (about 0.8 flushes/hour) and over 2,000 woodcock (about 0.6 flushes/hour).

View or print the complete 2016-17 Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log report (PDF) (806 kB).

Findings from the 2016-17 Season

Grouse Hunting

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 25 hours afield during the 2016-17 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 2016-17 season and had to spend about one hour and 24 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged about 1 bird harvested for the season and had to invest almost 20 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 15 grouse flushes resulted in a kill (a 6.9% success rate).
  • About 70% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September-November). In addition, about 72% of the grouse flushed and 69% 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 (December-February).
  • More effort was expended by hunters on public lands, and the number of grouse flushed was higher there; however, the flush rate was similar on public and private lands.
  • Overall, there was far more effort expended in the southern grouse season zone than the northern season zone (about 78% of the total), but the flush rate was higher in the northern zone (about 0.85 flushes/hour vs. 0.73 flushes/hour).
  • Hunting effort was well distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 43% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (36% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 7% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 22% in northern New York (16% Adirondacks Tug Hill Ecozone, 5% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 2% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 35% in the southeastern part of the state (21% Catskills Delaware Hills, 15% Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Champlain Valley ecozone (about 0.96 grouse flushed/hour), followed by the Adirondacks-Tug Hill ecozone (0.91 birds flushed/hour). The Catskill-Delaware Hills and Appalachian Hills and Plateau ecozones had similar flush rates (about 0.88 birds flushed/hour), and were slightly above the annual statewide average (0.76 birds flushed/hour). The rest of the ecozones were below the annual statewide average.
  • 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 (0.95 grouse flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.52 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 1,458 trips and 4,125 hours afield by 213 hunters.
  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged almost 19 hours afield during the 2016 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 2016 season and had to spend about 2 hours hunting in order to flush one woodcock. In addition, hunters averaged over 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest just under 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 during the second week of October. More birds were flushed and killed during the first week of November than during any other week of the season, but the highest flush rate occurred during the last week of October (0.99 birds flushed/hour). The overall flush rate from 20 September through 30 November was 0.57 birds/hour.
  • There was more hunting effort and woodcock flushed and killed on public land than on private land, but the flush rate was similar on public and on private lands (about 0.55 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • There was more hunting effort and woodcock flushed and killed in the southern zone than in the northern zone, and the flush rate was higher in the southern zone (about 0.61 vs. 0.44 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Catskills-Delaware Hills ecozone (0.98 woodcock flushed/hour), followed by the Lake Plains ecozone (0.72 woodcock flushed/hour). The Champlain Valley and St. Lawrence Valley ecozones were close to the statewide average flush rate (0.57 birds flushed/hour), and the remaining ecozones 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 (0.84 birds flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.09 birds flushed/hour).

Comparing 2016-17 to Previous Seasons

Ruffed Grouse
  • Over the past 13 seasons, over 1,300 hunters have participated in this survey. They have taken over 36,000 trips afield, spent over 100,000 hours pursuing grouse, flushed almost 95,000 birds, and harvested about 8,000 grouse. During this time period, the average flush rate was about 1 grouse flushed/hour.
  • Summary statistics for hunter effort (trips/hunter, hours/hunter) during the 2016-17 season were lower than the previous season and were below the long-term average. Similarly, indices for grouse abundance (flushes/hunter, flushes/hour) were lower than 2015-16 and below the long-term average. The amount of time spent afield to harvest a grouse increased from 2015-16 to 2016-17, but this is part of a long-term trend beginning in 2009-10.
  • Flush rates declined from 2015-16 to 2016-17 in four of seven ecozones. The flush rate was similar over the last two years in the Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands and Lake Plains ecozones, and increased in the Champlain Valley ecozone.
  • Over the past 13 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 this year or from 2011 through 2014 in the Adirondacks-Tug Hill and 2012 through 2014 in the Catskills-Delaware Hills and St. Lawrence Valley indicate 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 2016-17 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 13 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 2016 was down from 2015, but similar to the average from the previous five years.
  • It is interesting to note that over the past five seasons the highest average 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.
  • Five of the last seven 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 2016 we observed two peaks in woodcock flush rates: a smaller peak in early October as resident birds mixed with early arriving migrants, and a peak in late October during the height of migration.
  • In the spring, DEC staff conduct the "Singing-ground Survey" or SGS, (leaves DEC website) coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This survey provides a "breeding index" (the number of singing males per route) for the state and the Eastern Management Region and helps track changes in woodcock populations over time. Results of this survey indicate that woodcock populations in New York have been stable over the past 15 years. In general, the singing-ground survey also helps us predict what hunters can expect in the fall compared to the previous year (i.e., an increase or decrease in the flush rate). For example, we observed a decline in the breeding index from spring 2015 to spring 2016, and similarly observed a decline in the flush rate from fall 2015 to fall 2016.