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2017-18 Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Log Results

During the 2017-18 ruffed grouse and American woodcock hunting seasons, 212 hunters recorded their daily hunting activities, including 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 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.

View or print the complete report for the 2017-18 season (PDF) (1.14 MB).

Results from the 2017-18 Season

During the 2017-18 season, participants reported data from almost 2,000 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 5,300 hours afield and flushed about 4,000 grouse (about 0.75 flushes/hour) and over 1,600 woodcock (about 0.5 flushes/hour). Findings from the 2017-18 season include:

Grouse Hunting

  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 25 hours afield during the 2017-18 season. They took about 9 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Grouse log participants averaged about 19 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2017-18 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 about 19 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 15 grouse flushes resulted in a kill (a 7% success rate).
  • About 70% of the effort expended by hunters occurred during the first half of the season (September-November). In addition, about 67% of the grouse flushed and 62% of the grouse harvested occurred during this early part of the season, but the flush rate was higher during the late portion of the season (0.72 grouse flushed/hour in Sept.-Nov vs. 0.90 grouse flushed/hour in Dec.-Feb.).
  • More effort was expended by hunters on public lands, and the number of grouse flushed was higher there; however, the flush rate was higher on private lands.
  • Overall, there was far more effort expended in the southern grouse season zone than the northern season zone (over 70% of the total), but the flush rate was similar between the northern and southern zones.
  • Hunting effort was well distributed across major geographic regions of New York State. About 37% of the hunting effort took place in western New York (31% Appalachian Hills & Plateau Ecozone, 6% Lake Plains Ecozone), about 28% in northern New York (20% Adirondacks Tug Hill Ecozone, 6% St. Lawrence Valley Ecozone, 2% Champlain Valley Ecozone), and about 36% in the southeastern part of the state (23% Catskills Delaware Hills, 13% Mohawk Valley Hudson Valley Taconic Highlands).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Catskills-Delaware Hills ecozone (about 0.99 grouse flushed/hour), followed by the Appalachian Hills & Plateau ecozone (0.92 birds flushed/hour). The Adirondacks-Tug Hill ecozone had a flush rate slightly above the annual statewide average (0.88 vs. 0.77 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 (0.93 grouse flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.50 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 1,357 trips and 3,768 hours afield by 191 hunters.
  • Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 20 hours afield during the 2017 woodcock season. They took about 7 trips afield for the season and spent about 3 hours afield per trip.
  • Survey participants averaged about 8 woodcock flushed per hunter for the 2017 season and had to spend about 2 hours hunting in order to flush one woodcock. In addition, hunters averaged 2 birds harvested for the season and had to invest over 10 hours of hunting effort to harvest one woodcock. On average, one out of every 4 woodcock flushes resulted in a kill (a 23% success rate).
  • Hunting effort was evenly distributed over the 45-day season, with a peak in effort during the third week of October. More birds were flushed and killed during the third week of October than during any other week of the season, and this week also coincided with the highest flush rate (0.66 birds flushed/hour). The overall flush rate from 20 September through 30 November was 0.48 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 0.50 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 0.50 woodcock flushed/hour).
  • The flush rate was highest in the Lake Plains ecozone (0.83 woodcock flushed/hour), followed by the St. Lawrence Valley ecozone (0.60 woodcock flushed/hour). The Champlain Valley, Catskill-Delaware Hills, and Adirondacks-Tug Hill ecozones were close to the statewide average flush rate (0.50 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 (0.68 birds flushed/hour) than hunters that did not use a dog (0.09 birds flushed/hour).

Comparing 2017-18 to Previous Seasons

Ruffed Grouse
  • Over the past 14 seasons, almost 1,400 hunters have participated in this survey. They have taken over 38,000 trips afield, spent over 105,000 hours pursuing grouse, flushed almost 99,000 birds, and harvested over 8,000 grouse. During this time period, the average flush rate was about 0.97 grouse flushed/hour.
  • Summary statistics for hunter effort (trips/hunter, hours/hunter) during the 2017-18 season were similar to the previous season, but were below the long-term average. Similarly, indices for grouse abundance (flushes/hunter, flushes/hour) were similar to the previous year, but below the long-term average.
  • Flush rates in most ecozones were similar between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, with the exception of the Champlain Valley which saw a decline in the flush rate between years.
  • For the first decade of this survey effort, trends in grouse populations statewide and in major ecozones 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. Despite a spike observed in the flush rate in 2015-16, flush rates have been relatively flat for the past 6 seasons (since 2012-13).
  • The 2017-18 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 14 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 statewide flush rate in 2017 was down from 2016 and was the lowest flush rate observed since 2011. From 2016 to 2017, there was a modest increase in the flush rate in three ecozones (Adirondacks-Tug Hill, St. Lawrence Valley, Lake Plains) and a slight decrease in another three ecozones (Appalachian Hills & Plateau, Champlain Valley, Mohawk Valley-Hudson Valley-Taconic Highlands), but there was a significant decline in the flush rate in the Catskills-Delaware Hills ecozone.
  • 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 eight years the peak of woodcock migration occurred during the last week of October, with the exceptions being 2011, 2014, and 2017 when it occurred the week of October 18th. In fall 2017 we observed two peaks in woodcock flush rates: a peak in late September as resident birds mixed with early arriving migrants, and a peak in mid-late October during the height of migration.
  • In the spring (April-May), DEC staff conduct the "Singing-ground Survey" (SGS) 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.
  • The decline in the woodcock flush rate from fall 2016 to fall 2017 may be attributed to a blizzard in March 2017 that negatively impacted migrating birds passing through New York prior to the breeding season. The breeding index for New York from the SGS was similar between spring 2016 and spring 2017 which would suggest that survival of resident breeding birds and nest and chick success was good, but insufficient to offset losses of migrant birds or poor recruitment north of New York.