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2009 Drumming Survey Results

During the spring 2009 wild turkey hunting season, DEC conducted the third annual Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey. This survey asks turkey hunters to record the number of grouse they hear drumming while afield. The primary purpose of the survey is to monitor the number of birds drumming per hour. Changes in the drumming 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 thank all the hunters that participated in the Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey during the 2009 season.

Results from the 2009 Season

During the 2009 season, 154 hunters participated in the Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey. Survey participants reported data from over 1,200 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 almost 4,800 hours afield and observed almost 1,200 grouse (about 0.3 birds/hour). Some general findings from the 2009 season include:

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 31 hours afield during the 2009 season. They took about 8 trips afield for the season and spent about 4 hours afield per trip (Table 1).
  • Survey participants averaged almost 8 grouse observed per hunter for the 2009 season and had to spend about 4 hours afield in order to observe one grouse drumming (Table 1).
  • Over 40% of hunting effort (and thus, survey effort) took place during the first week of the season (May 1-7; Table 2); however, the drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) peaked during the third week of the season (0.32 birds/hour during May 15-21; Table 2).
  • Overall, there was far more effort expended in the southern grouse season zone (about 87% of the total), but the drumming rate was higher in the northern season zone (0.43 vs. 0.27 grouse drumming/hour; Table 3).
  • Significantly more effort was expended, and more grouse were observed, on private land than public land; however, private and public land had similar drumming rates (0.30 birds/hour; Table 4).
  • Hunting effort was distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 42% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (15% DEC Region 8, 27% DEC Region 9), about 25% in central New York (DEC Region 7), about 21% in the southeastern portion of the State (8% DEC Region 3, 13% DEC Region 4), and almost 13% in northern New York (6% DEC Region 5, 7% DEC Region 6; Table 5). We observed the highest drumming rate in DEC Region 6 (0.51 grouse drumming/hour), but Regions 4, 5, and 7 were all above the annual statewide average of 0.29 grouse drumming/hour (0.31, 0.37, and 0.40 grouse drumming/hour, respectively; Table 5).
  • The drumming rate was highest in the St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone (0.73 grouse drumming/hour), followed by the Adirondacks-Tug Hill (0.55 grouse drumming/hour), Appalachian Hills & Plateau, (0.32 grouse drumming/hour), and Champlain Valley (0.31 grouse drumming/hour) ecozones (Table 6, Figures 1-2). Flush rates in the Catskills-Delaware Hills, Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands, and Lake Plains ecozones were below the annual statewide average of 0.29 grouse drumming/hour (Table 6, Figures 1-2).

Comparing 2009 to Previous Seasons

  • Overall, hunters spent more hours afield during 2009 than the previous year (4,793 vs. 4,049 hours), and they observed more grouse (1,177 vs. 695; Table 1). The drumming rate in 2009 was higher than the previous season (0.29 vs. 0.22 grouse drumming/hour) and the amount of time spent afield to observe one grouse decreased from over 4.5 hours to just over 4 hours (Table 1).
  • By every measure - number of grouse drumming, grouse/hunter, grouse/trip, drumming rate (grouse/hour) - turkey hunters observed more grouse than during either the 2007 or 2008 seasons (Table 1, Figure 1).
  • Drumming rates increased in all seven ecozones from 2008 to 2009, with the greatest increases observed in the Lake Plains and Champlain Valley ecozones where the drumming rate doubled (Figure 1). Similar to previous years, the number of grouse drumming 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; Figures 1-2).
  • Annual variation in grouse abundance is likely a result of variation in weather, including spring temperature and rainfall and winter snow conditions, and food availability during the summer and fall (e.g., hard and soft mast, insects). During late summer and early fall 2008 there was an abundance of food available to grouse due to above-average spring rainfall. This may have contributed to higher brood success than the previous year and resulted in more drumming males during spring 2009.
  • Drumming rates in WMU Aggregates for 2009 (Figure 2) followed the same general pattern as previous years where we observe a grouse "focus area" ranging from portions of the St. Lawrence Valley and western Adirondacks south through the Mohawk Valley, East Appalachian Plateau, and Catskill Mountains. 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.
Table 1. Summary statistics for the Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey, 2007-09.
Summary Statistics 2007 2008 2009
# Trips 1,050 1,055 1,215
# Trips/Participant 6.7 7.6 7.9
# Hours Afield 4,168 4,049 4,793
# Hours/Participant 26.7 29.3 31.1
# Hours/Trip 4.0 3.8 3.9
# Grouse Drumming 762 695 1,177
# Grouse Drumming/Participant 4.9 5.0 7.6
# Grouse Drumming/Trip 0.7 0.7 1.0
Drumming Rate
(grouse drumming/hour)
0.20 0.22 0.29
# Hours Afield to Observe
1 Grouse Drumming
5.0 4.6 4.1
Table 2. Survey effort, number of drumming grouse observed, and drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by season & week from the 2009 Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey.
Season/Week # Trips % of Total # Hours
Afield
% of Total # Grouse
Drumming
% of Total Drumming Rate
(grouse drumming/hour +/- SE)a
Youth Hunt
(April 25-26)
36 3.0 127 2.6 42 3.6 0.57 +/- 0.15
Regular Season
(May 1 - May 31)
1,179 97.0 4,666 97.4 1,135 96.4 0.29 +/- 0.02
May 1-7 520 44.2 2,116 45.4 513 45.2 0.28 +/- 0.03
May 8-14 256 21.8 1,004 21.6 264 23.3 0.31 +/- 0.04
May 15-21 192 16.3 710 15.2 195 17.2 0.32 +/- 0.06
May 22-31 209 17.8 828 17.8 163 14.4 0.23 +/- 0.03
Table 3. Survey effort, number of drumming grouse observed, and drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by season zone from the 2009 Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey.
Season Zoneb # Trips % of Total # Hours
Afield
% of Total # Grouse
Drumming
% of Total Drumming Rate
(grouse drumming/hour +/- SE)a
Northern Zone 160 13.2 500 10.4 191 16.2 0.43 +/- 0.06
Southern Zone 1,055 86.8 4,293 89.6 986 83.8 0.27 +/- 0.02
Table 4. Survey effort, number of drumming grouse observed, and drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by land type (public vs. private) from the 2009 Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey.
Land Type # Trips % of Total # Hours
Afield
% of Total # Grouse
Drumming
% of Total Drumming Rate
(grouse drumming/hour +/- SE)a
Public Land 241 20.5 948 20.6 240 21.1 0.30 +/- 0.03
Private Land 935 79.5 3,664 79.4 900 78.9 0.30 +/- 0.02
Table 5. Survey effort, number of drumming grouse observed, and drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by DEC Region from the 2009 Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey.
DEC Regionc # Trips % of Total # Hours
Afield
% of Total # Grouse
Drumming
% of Total Drumming Rate
(grouse drumming/hour +/- SE)a
Region 3 94 7.7 371 7.7 26 2.2 0.07 +/- 0.02
Region 4 158 13.0 607 12.7 174 14.8 0.31 +/- 0.04
Region 5 82 6.7 276 5.8 90 7.6 0.37 +/- 0.05
Region 6 99 8.1 319 6.7 142 12.1 0.51 +/- 0.08
Region 7 295 24.3 1,188 24.8 433 36.8 0.40 +/- 0.06
Region 8 177 14.6 726 15.1 133 11.3 0.23 +/- 0.06
Region 9 310 25.5 1,306 27.2 179 15.2 0.20 +/- 0.02

a Overall drumming rates are calculated as an average drumming rate for all days afield, not a simple division of the total number of grouse drumming by the total number of hours afield; SE = standard error.
b A map illustrating Northern and Southern Season Zones for grouse.
c A map illustrating DEC Regions.

Table 6. Survey effort, number of drumming grouse observed, and drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by Ecozone and Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregate from the 2009 Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey.
Ecozone/
WMU Aggregatea
ID # b # Trips % of Total # Hours
Afield
% of Total # Grouse
Drumming
% of Total Drumming Rate
(grouse drumming/hour +/- SE)c
St. Lawrence Valley (total) 21 1.7 57 1.2 47 4.0 0.73 +/- 0.23
East Ontario Plain 4 13 1.1 36 0.8 38 3.2 0.87 +/- 0.36
St. Lawrence Valley 1 8 0.7 21 0.4 9 0.8 0.49 +/- 0.11
Champlain Valley (total) 18 1.5 46 1.0 16 1.4 0.31 +/- 0.08
Champlain Valley
& Transition
2 18 1.5 46 1.0 16 1.4 0.31 +/- 0.08
Adirondacks-Tug Hill (total) 77 6.4 239 5.0 106 9.0 0.55 +/- 0.09
Tug Hill 6 12 1.0 26 0.5 14 1.2 0.48 +/- 0.18
Tug Hill Transition 7 43 3.5 155 3.2 60 5.1 0.52 +/- 0.13
Northern Adirondacks insufficient data d
Central Adirondacks 5 22 1.8 58 1.2 32 2.7 0.63 +/- 0.15
Lake Plains (total) 234 19.3 965 20.2 156 13.3

0.19 +/- 0.02

Oneida Lake Plains 10 108 8.9 450 9.4 117 9.9 0.31 +/- 0.04
Great Lakes Plain 8 82 6.7 357 7.5 17 1.4 0.05 +/- 0.02
Oswego Lowlands 9 44 3.6 158 3.3 22 1.9 0.13 +/- 0.05
Appalachian Hills & Plateau (total) 545 45.0 2,243 46.9 589 50.0 0.32 +/- 0.04
East Appalachian Plateau 16 141 11.6 572 12.0 294 25.0 0.56 +/- 0.12
Central Appalachian Plateau 15 53 4.4 223 4.7 56 4.8 0.29 +/- 0.06
North Appalachian Hills 13 150 12.3 596 12.5 96 8.2 0.20 +/- 0.07
West Appalachian Hills 14 201 16.5 852 17.8 143 12.1 0.26 +/- 0.03
Catskills-Delaware Hills (total) 126 10.4 512 10.7 120 10.2 0.25 +/- 0.03
Catskills 18 69 5.7 290 6.1 85 7.2 0.31 +/- 0.05
Otsego-Delaware Hills 17 25 2.1 110 2.3 30 2.5 0.35 +/- 0.07
Neversink-Mongaup Hills 21 32 2.6 112 2.3 5 0.4 0.03 +/- 0.02
Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-
Taconic Highlands
(total)
191 15.8 719 15.0 143 12.1 0.22 +/- 0.03
Mohawk Valley 11 70 5.8 247 5.2 72 6.1 0.35 +/- 0.05
Hudson Valley 19 68 5.6 244 5.1 34 2.9 0.10 +/- 0.03
North Taconic Highlands 12 33 2.7 135 2.8 31 2.6 0.25 +/- 0.04
South Taconic Highlands 20 10 0.8 45 0.9 6 0.5 0.16 +/- 0.08
New York City Transition 22 10 0.8 48 1.0 0 0.0 0.00 +/- 0.00
Statewide Totals 1,212 4,781 1,177 0.29 +/- 0.02

a WMU Aggregates are groupings of Wildlife Management Units. Ecozones are groupings of WMU Aggregates. The Coastal Lowlands Aggregate (NYC and Long Island) does not have a turkey season, thus is not listed.
b The Identification Numbers listed correspond to Figure 2.
c Overall drumming rates are calculated as an average drumming rate for all days afield, not a simple division of the total number of grouse drumming by the total number of hours afield; SE = standard error.
d There was an insufficient sample size in this WMU Aggregate. A minimum of 10 trips or 20 hours is needed for analysis.

Ruffed grouse drumming rate by ecozone, 2007-09

Figure 1. Drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by ecozone based on the Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey data, 2007-09. 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 spring turkey hunting season, thus the drumming survey was not conducted there.

Ruffed grouse drumming rate by WMU Aggregate 2009

Figure 2. Drumming rate (grouse drumming/hour) by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) aggregates from the Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey, 2009. Only aggregates with >10 observations/records or >20 hours were included in the analysis. The statewide drumming rate for 2009 was 0.29 grouse drumming/hour. The Northern Adirondacks Aggregate (3) had too few observations for analysis, and the Coastal Lowlands Aggregate (23) does not have a spring turkey hunting season, thus the drumming survey was not conducted there. For identification numbers and WMU Aggregate names, see Table 6.