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2011-12 Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log Results

During the 2011-12 ruffed grouse and American woodcock hunting seasons, 294 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 should 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 2011-12 Grouse and Woodcock Log Report (PDF) (1.3 MB).

We thank all the hunters that participated in this survey during the 2011-12 seasons.

Results from the 2011-12 Season

During the 2011-12 season, participants reported data from almost 3,200 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 over 8,600 hours afield and flushed almost 7,800 grouse (about 1 flush/hour) and close to 2,400 woodcock (about 0.5 flushes/hour). Some general findings from the 2011-12 season include:

Grouse Hunting

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 29 hours afield during the 2011-12 season. They took about 11 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Grouse log participants averaged about 26 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2011-12 season and had to spend about one hour and 6 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged about 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest over 14 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).
  • About 60% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September-November). In addition, almost 60% of the grouse flushed and 65% of the grouse harvested occurred during this early part of the season; however, the flush rate was higher during the second half of the season (1.06 vs. 0.91), and varied by month with a peak in December (1.2 flushes/hour).
  • Slightly more effort was expended by hunters on public lands, and the number of grouse flushed was slightly higher than on private lands; however, the flush rate was similar on public and private lands (0.96 vs. 0.98 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 second consecutive year the flush rate was higher in the southern zone than in the northern zone (1.04 vs. 0.72 grouse flushed/hour).
  • Hunting effort was well distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 47% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (41% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 6% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 25% in northern New York (13% Adirondacks Tug Hill Ecozone, 9% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 3% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 28% in the southeastern part of the state (16% Catskills Delaware Hills, 12% 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 and Appalachian Hills & Plateau ecozones (about 1.2 grouse flushed/hour). The rest of the ecozones were below the annual statewide average of 0.96 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

  • Spring singing-ground surveys for woodcock have indicated stable population numbers over the past 15 years in the "Eastern Management Region" (an area from Quebec and New Brunswick south along the Atlantic coast through Florida), thus the interagency Woodcock Harvest Strategy Working Group recommended that the season be expanded from 30 to 45 days. Beginning in fall 2011 the woodcock season in New York will run from October 1 through November 14 statewide.
  • Analyses for woodcock data were restricted to 20 September through 28 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 5,341 hours afield by 266 hunters.
  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 18 hours afield during the 2011 woodcock season. They took about 6 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Survey participants averaged about 8.5 woodcock flushed per hunter for the 2011 season and had to spend about 2 hours hunting in order to flush one woodcock. In addition, hunters averaged about 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest about 9 hours of hunting effort to harvest one woodcock. On average, one out of every 4.5 woodcock flushes resulted in a kill (a 22% success rate).
  • Hunting effort was evenly distributed over the 45-day season. More birds were flushed during the third week of October than during any other week of the season, and the flush rate was highest during the third week of October (0.72 birds flushed/hour). The overall flush rate from 20 September through 28 November was 0.49 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 private lands (0.49 vs. 0.50 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 (0.52 vs. 0.43 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Catskills-Delaware Hills Ecozone (0.65 woodcock flushed/hour), followed by the St. Lawrence Valley (0.56 woodcock flushed/hour) and Appalachian Hills & Plateau (0.50 woodcock flushed/hour) ecozones. Flush rates in the remaining ecozones were below the annual statewide average of 0.49 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 (0.69 birds flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.13 birds flushed/hour).

Comparing 2011-12 to Previous Seasons

Ruffed Grouse

  • Over the past eight seasons, 1,057 hunters have participated in this survey. They took almost 24,000 trips afield, spent about 66,700 hours pursuing grouse, flushed about 69,400 birds, and harvested about 6,000 grouse.
  • Summary statistics for hunter effort (trips/hunter, hours/hunter) during the 2011-12 season were higher than the previous season and were similar to the long-term average. Indices for grouse abundance (flushes and kills/hunter, flushes/hour) were higher than 2010-11, but were below the long-term average.
  • The amount of time spent afield to harvest a grouse increased from about 13 hours in 2010-11 to over 14 hours in 2011-12. The number of grouse flushed and harvested per hunter during 2011-12 were both higher than the previous season, but were below the long-term average.
  • The flush rate in 2011-12 was significantly higher than the previous season, but was below the long-term average (0.96 vs. 1.08 grouse flushed/hour).
  • Flush rates declined in four of seven ecozones from 2010-11 to 2011-12. Declines ranged from 11% in the Champlain Valley Ecozone (0.75 to 0.67 grouse flushed/hour) to 20% in the Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands Ecozone (0.60 to 0.48 grouse flushed/hour). The Lake Plains, Catskills-Delaware Hills, and Appalachian Hills & Plateau ecozones all saw increased flush rates from 2010-11 to 2011-12 that ranged from 15% to 17%. Only the Catskills-Delaware Hills and Appalachian Hills & Plateau ecozones were above the long-term statewide average (1.08 grouse flushed/hour).
  • The mild winter during 2011-12 influenced hunter effort and success. From the 2004 through 2010 seasons, about 16% of the harvest occurred in January and February, but during the 2011-12 season about 23% of the harvest occurred during these months. This was the first time since this survey has been conducted that the flush rate in January and February was higher than in October. It is likely that the mild winter conditions allowed hunters to access roads and coverts in January and February that would normally be off limits at that time of year.
  • 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 eight 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. 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.

American Woodcock

  • With the expansion of the woodcock season from 30 days in 2010 to 45 days in 2011, we observed a concomitant increase in hunter effort. The number of trips and hours per hunter increased from 2010 to 2011, but the number of hours per trip remained unchanged (2.9 hours/trip).
  • Indices for woodcock abundance (flushes and kills/hunter, flushes/hour) declined from 2010 to 2011, but the "success rate" (number of woodcock harvested per flush) increased slightly from 19% to 22%.
  • The timing of migration was similar between 2010 and 2011, with the peak in migration occurring slightly later in 2010 (week of October 25th) than in 2011 (week of October 18th).
  • Survey data indicated an early return of woodcock to New York that coincided with the mild winter and early start to spring. Survey participants reported woodcock sightings as early as the second week of February. It is important to note that these early migrants are "outliers", as the peak of migration is driven more by photoperiod (day length) than by temperature.