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2010-11 Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log Results

During the 2010 ruffed grouse and American woodcock hunting seasons, DEC conducted the seventh 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. For the first time in 2010, hunters also recorded the number of woodcock they flushed while afield. Grouse and woodcock share many of the same habitats, so the information provided by hunters will help monitor populations of both of these great game birds.

You can view, print, or download the 2010-11 Grouse and Woodcock Log Report (PDF) (1.3 MB).

We thank all the hunters that participated in this survey during the 2010-11 season.

Results from the 2010-11 Season

During the 2010-11 season, 272 hunters participated in the Cooperator Ruffed Grouse & American Woodcock Hunting Log. Participants reported data from over 2,400 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 6,700 hours afield and flushed almost 5,800 grouse (about 0.9 flushes/hour) and almost 2,900 woodcock (about 0.6 flushes/hour). Some general findings from the 2010-11 season include:

Grouse Hunting

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 25 hours afield during the 2010-11 season. They took about 9 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Grouse log participants averaged about 21 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2010-11 season and had to spend about one hour and 12 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged about 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest over 13 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 11 grouse flushes resulted in a kill (a 9% success rate).
  • Almost 80% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September-November). In addition, over 80% of the grouse flushed and harvested occurred during this early part of the season. The flush rate was higher during the first half of the season (0.93 vs. 0.78), but varied by month with a peak in September (1.1 flushes/hour) and a gradual decline as the season progressed.
  • The effort expended by hunters was similar on public and private lands, as was the number of grouse killed; however, hunters flushed more birds on public lands and the flush rate was higher on public lands than on private lands (0.94 vs. 0.85 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), and for the first time since this survey has been conducted, the flush rate was higher in the southern zone than in the northern zone (0.91 vs. 0.85 grouse flushed/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 (36% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 6% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 26% in northern New York (15% Adirondacks Tug Hill Ecozone, 8% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 3% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 31% in the southeastern part of the state (20% Catskills Delaware Hills, 11% Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands). The highest number of grouse were flushed and harvested in the Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, followed by the Catskill Delaware Hills and Adirondacks Tug Hill ecozones.
  • The flush rate was highest in the Catskills Delaware Hills Ecozone (1.1 grouse flushed/hour), followed by the Appalachian Hills & Plateau (1.0 grouse flushed/hour) and Adirondacks-Tug Hill (0.9 grouse flushed/hour) ecozones. Flush rates in the St. Lawrence Valley, Champlain Valley, Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands, and Lake Plains ecozones were below the annual statewide average of 0.9 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 (1.1 grouse flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.7 grouse flushed/hour).

Woodcock Hunting

  • Analyses for woodcock data were restricted to 20 September through 21 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. These results are based on 1,757 trips and 5,096 hours afield by 259 hunters.
  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 20 hours afield during the 2010 woodcock season. They took about 7 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Survey participants averaged about 11 woodcock flushed per hunter for the 2010 season and had to spend about 1.5 hours hunting in order to flush one woodcock. In addition, hunters averaged about 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest almost 8 hours of hunting effort to harvest one woodcock. On average, one out of every 5.3 woodcock flushes resulted in a kill (a 19% success rate).
  • Hunting effort was evenly distributed over the 30-day season. More birds were flushed during the third week of October than during any other week of the season, but the flush rate was highest during the last week of October (0.88 birds flushed/hour). The overall flush rate from 20 September through 21 November was 0.59 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 (0.62 vs. 0.56 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 between the two zones was similar (about 0.6 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • The flush rate was highest in the St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone (0.92 woodcock flushed/hour), followed by the Champlain Valley (0.73 woodcock flushed/hour), Catskills-Delaware Hills (0.69 woodcock flushed/hour), Lake Plains (0.62 woodcock flushed/hour), and Appalachian Hills & Plateau (0.59 woodcock flushed/hour) ecozones. Flush rates in the Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands and Adirondacks-Tug Hill ecozones were below the annual statewide average of 0.59 woodcock flushed/hour.
  • 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 (0.14 birds flushed/hour).

Comparing the 2010-11 Season to Previous Seasons

  • Over the past seven seasons, 960 hunters have participated in this survey. They took over 20,600 trips afield, spent over 58,000 hours pursuing grouse, flushed over 61,600 birds, and harvested about 5,400 grouse.
  • Overall, hunters spent fewer hours afield, and flushed and killed fewer grouse during 2010-11 than during any previous season. The flush rate in 2010-11 was significantly lower than the previous season and was the lowest flush rate since 2004-05. The amount of time spent afield to harvest a grouse increased from about 9 hours in 2009-10 to over 13 hours in 2010-11. The grouse flushed and harvested per hunter during 2010-11 was the lowest since the survey has been conducted (21 flushes/hunter/season; 1.9 kills/hunter/season).
  • Summary statistics for effort (trips/hunter, hours/hunter) and indices for grouse abundance (flushes and kills/hunter, flushes and kills/hour) during the 2010-11 season were all below the five-year average.
  • Flush rates declined in every ecozone from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Declines ranged from 12% in the Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands ecozone (0.68 to 0.60 grouse flushed/hour) to 44% in the Adirondacks Tug Hill ecozone (1.59 to 0.89 grouse flushed/hour). The Catskills-Delaware Hills and Appalachian Hills & Plateau were the only ecozones with flush rates close to the long-term statewide average (1.1 grouse flushed/hour).
  • 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., soft and hard mast). 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.
  • After seven seasons, we can begin to assemble a picture of grouse distribution and abundance in New York State, and use this information to help target habitat management efforts to improve conditions for early successional species (Figure 3). Improving or restoring habitat in or close to regions with high quality habitat has a better chance at being successful than habitat management in regions devoid of high quality grouse habitat. In fact, conducting habitat improvement in regions with a lack of good habitat can have detrimental impacts on grouse populations by creating habitat "sinks" (islands of good habitat in a sea of poor habitat) that are insufficient for reproduction and survival.