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2007-08 Grouse Hunting Log Results

During the 2007-08 ruffed grouse hunting season, DEC conducted the fourth annual Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log. This survey asks hunters to record their daily grouse hunting activities including information such as the number of grouse flushed, the number of hours hunted, the number of grouse killed, and if a dog was used to hunt grouse. The primary purpose of the log is to monitor the number of birds flushed per hour. Changes in the flushing rate should illustrate trends in the grouse population when viewed over a long period of time and will provide insight into statewide distributions for this popular game species as habitats change both locally and on a landscape scale.

We extend a sincere thank you to all the hunters that participated in the Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log during the 2007-08 season. With only three years of data it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions about grouse distribution and abundance; however, the first three seasons were important steps in monitoring grouse populations. Over time, the efforts of participating hunters will help wildlife managers answer questions about the status and conservation of ruffed grouse in New York State.

Results from the 2007-08 Season

During the 2007-08 season, 297 hunters participated in the Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log. Grouse log participants reported data from over 3,300 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 over 9,400 hours afield and flushed over 10,200 grouse (about 1.1 flushes/hour). Some general findings from the 2007-08 season include:

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 32 hours afield during the 2007-08 season. They took about 11 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Grouse log participants averaged about 35 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2007-08 season and had to spend about 55 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged over 3 birds harvested for the season and had to invest just over 10 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 12 grouse flushes resulted in a kill.
  • About 67% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September - November; Table 1). In addition, over 75% of the grouse flushed and harvested occurred during this early part of the season. The flushing rate decreased from September through November, with a brief increase in January, followed by a decline in February (Table 5).
  • Effort expended and the number of ruffed grouse seen were similar on public and private lands (Table 2). During the previous 3 seasons the flushing rate was higher on private land than on public land; however, this year the flushing rate was similar on private and public lands (1.14 vs. 1.16 grouse flushed/hour, respectively).
  • Overall, there was far more effort expended in the southern grouse season zone (about 69% of the total), but the flushing rate was higher in the northern season zone (1.37 vs. 1.05 grouse flushed/hour; Table 3).
  • Hunting effort was well distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 40% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (35% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 5% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 30% in northern New York (14% Adirondacks-Tug Hill Ecozone, 12% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 4% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 30% in the southeastern part of the state (17% Catskills-Delaware Hills, 13% Mohawk Valley-Hudson-Valley-Taconic Highlands). The highest number of grouse were flushed and harvested in the Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, followed by the Adirondacks-Tug Hill, St. Lawrence Valley, and Catskill-Delaware Hills ecozones (Table 4; see Figure 1 for regions referred to here).
  • The flushing rate was highest in the St. Lawrence Valley and Adirondacks-Tug Hill ecozones (1.47 grouse flushed/hour in each), followed by the Appalachian Hills & Plateau (1.19 grouse flushed/hour) and the Catskills-Delaware Hills (1.13 grouse flushed/hour) ecozones (Table 4, Figure 1). Flushing rates in the Lake Plains, Champlain Valley, and Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands ecozones were below the statewide average of 1.14 grouse flushed/hour (Table 4, Figure 1).
  • Most hunters that participated in the survey used a dog to hunt grouse (Table 5). In general, hunters that used a dog flushed and harvested more grouse and had a higher flushing rate (1.30 grouse flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.83 grouse flushed/hour).

Comparing the 2006-07 and 2007-08 Seasons

  • Overall, hunters spent more hours afield during 2007-08 (9,404 vs. 8,515 hours), but they flushed and harvested a similar number of grouse (10,263 vs. 10,279 flushes and 922 vs. 870 birds harvested, respectively). The flush rate in 2007-08 was similar to the previous season (1.1 vs. 1.2 flushes/hr) and the amount of time spent afield to harvest a grouse hovered remained at roughly 10 hours. During 2007-08 hunters had a lower average number of grouse flushed per hunter for the season (35 vs. 38 flushes/hunter/season) than during 2006-07.
  • With the exception of an increase in the Adirondacks-Tug Hill Ecozone, flush rates were down across the State during the 2007-08 season (Figure 1). Similar to previous years, the number of grouse flushed per hour tended to be higher in northern New York (i.e., St. Lawrence Valley, Adirondacks-Tug Hill ecozones) than in the southern parts of the State (i.e., Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands Ecozones; Figure 1).
  • Declines in the flushing rates observed in the St. Lawrence Valley, Appalachian Hills and Plateau, and the Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley ecozones were insubstantial; however, there were larger declines observed in the Catskills-Delaware Hills, Champlain Valley, and Lake Plains ecozones (Figure 1). Annual variation in grouse abundance is likely a result of variation in weather, including spring temperature and rainfall and winter snow conditions. Ecozones with flush rates that are consistently below the statewide average likely suffer from poor habitat quantity and quality. In areas with a lack of the early successional habitats on which this species depends, grouse, their nests, and young are more vulnerable to predation and other limiting factors.
  • The Champlain Valley is the only ecozone where the flushing rate has declined over the four years of the survey. In all other ecozones the flushing rate has been similar (e.g., Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands) or has increased over the four-year period (e.g., Adirondacks-Tug Hill). The reasons for the decline in the flushing rate over the four year-period in the Champlain Valley are not known, but over such a short time frame it may be related to small sample sizes or environmental factors such as wet spring weather resulting in poor reproductive success.
Table 1. 2007-08 Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log data by month.
Month # of Trips % of Total # of Hours % of Total # Grouse Flushed % of Total # Grouse Harvested % of Total Flushing Rate +/- SEa,b (flushes/hour)
September 123 3.7 293 3.2 500 4.9 52 5.7 1.61 +/- 0.15
October 1,324 40.4 3,792 40.9 4,713 46.3 405 44.6 1.32 +/- 0.04
November 651 19.8 2,142 23.1 2,513 24.7 234 25.7 1.24 +/- 0.05
December 362 11.0 945 10.2 747 7.3 79 8.7 0.86 +/- 0.06
January 474 14.4 1,226 13.2 1,101 10.8 96 10.6 1.00 +/- 0.06
February 347 10.6 875 9.4 608 6.0 43 4.7 0.71 +/- 0.05

a SE = Standard Error
b Overall flushing rates are calculated as an average flushing rate for all hunting days, not a simple division of the total number of grouse flushed by the total number of hours hunted.

Table 2. 2007-08 Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log data by land. (public vs. private)
Public Land Private Land
# % # %
Number of Trips 1,557 47.8 1,699 52.2
Number of Hours 4,559 49.6 4,637 50.4
# Grouse Flushed 5,358 53.3 4,696 46.7
# Grouse Harvested 402 44.7 497 55.3
Flushing Rate +/- SEa,b (flushes/hour) 1.16 +/- 0.03 1.14 +/- 0.03

a SE = Standard Error
b Overall flushing rates are calculated as an average flushing rate for all hunting days, not a simple division of the total number of grouse flushed by the total number of hours hunted.

Table 3. 2007-08 Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log data by DEC grouse season zone (northern vs. southern).
Northern Zone Southern Zone
# % # %
Number of Trips 985 29.6 2,348 70.4
Number of Hours 2,888 30.7 6,516 69.3
# Grouse Flushed 3,887 37.9 6,376 62.1
# Grouse Harvested 391 42.4 531 57.6
Flushing Rate +/- SEa,b (flushes/hour) 1.37 +/- 0.04 1.05 +/- 0.03

a SE = Standard Error
b Overall flushing rates are calculated as an average flushing rate for all hunting days, not a simple division of the total number of grouse flushed by the total number of hours hunted.

Table 4. 2007-08 Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log data by ecozone.
Ecozonec # of Trips % of Total # of Hours % of Total # Grouse Flushed % of Total # Grouse Harvested % of Total Flushing Rate +/- SEa,b (flushes/hour)
Adirondacks - Tug Hill 419 12.6 1,327 14.1 1,832 17.9 176 19.1 1.47 +/- 0.07
Appalachian Hills & Plateau 1,261 37.8 3,305 35.1 3,654 35.6 317 34.4 1.19 +/- 0.04
Catskills - Delaware Hills 459 13.8 1,565 16.6 1,650 16.1 126 13.7 1.13 +/- 0.06
Champlain Valley 166 5.0 384 4.1 326 3.2 48 5.2 0.89 +/- 0.07
Lake Plains 179 5.4 435 4.6 346 3.4 23 2.5 0.82 +/- 0.07
Mohawk Valley - Hudson Valley - Taconic Highlands 459 13.8 1,229 13.1 752 7.3 66 7.2 0.67 +/- 0.05
St. Lawrence Valley 390 11.7 1,159 12.3 1,703 16.6 166 18.0 1.47 +/- 0.07

a SE = Standard Error
b Overall flushing rates are calculated as an average flushing rate for all hunting days, not a simple division of the total number of grouse flushed by the total number of hours hunted.
c Ecozones are an aggregation of Wildlife Management Units. The Costal Lowlands Ecozone (New York City and Long Island) does not have a ruffed grouse season, thus is not listed.

Table 5. 2007-08 Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log data by hunting method (with dog vs. without).
Hunted with Dog Hunted without Dog
# % # %
Number of Trips 2,155 66.5 1,085 33.5
Number of Hours 5,807 63.5 3,337 36.5
# Grouse Flushed 7,447 75.1 2,473 24.9
# Grouse Harvested 651 73.5 235 26.5
Flushing Rate +/- SEa,b (flushes/hour) 1.30 +/- 0.03 0.83 +/- 0.03

a SE = Standard Error
b Overall flushing rates are calculated as an average flushing rate for all hunting days, not a simple division of the total number of grouse flushed by the total number of hours hunted.

Grouse Hunting Log Flush Rates 2004-05 through 2007-08
Figure 1. Flushing rate (grouse flushed/hour) by ecozone based on Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log data for the 2004-05 through 2007-08 seasons. Ecozones are an aggregation of Wildlife Management Units. Abbreviations: Champlain Valley (CHVA), Adirondacks-Tug Hill (ADKS-TH), Catskills-Delaware Hills (CATS-DH), St. Lawrence Valley (SLV), Appalachian Hills & Plateau (APPH&PLT), Lake Plains (LKPL), Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands (MV-HV-TH). The Costal Lowlands Ecozone (New York City and Long Island) does not have a ruffed grouse hunting season.