I’ve finally had the chance to get out in PA over the last couple weeks. One thing I wanted to determine for myself was the reports of low grouse numbers. Unfortunately I tend to concur with them. I wouldn’t say it’s a doomsday drop, but I would say it does seem to be a significant drop. In my home field arena, I’m fairly certain I have not seen a bird from this year’s hatch- they’ve all been big, leary birds. I’m at a 20 grouse count over about 16 hours of woods time in Pennsylvania, and that includes 4 road birds while out traveling. So yeah, a bird an hour average in grouse cover stinks. What’s bright side? Heck, I don’t know… perhaps next year we’ll get an easy winter for grouse and favorable nesting weather too? That’s about it, they’re certainly not getting much of any help from anyone from the state on a statewide level. DCNR doesn’t do much of anything in this department, as far as what I could find handily to illustrate this, according to their website, in 2010 they worked on about 2,000 acres for “early successional” and none of that included cutting. (Less than 1/20th of 1% percent.) That’s what the grouse in PA have to deal with, combine that with a lousy, wet spring and it’s no wonder why a few weeks of weather can have such a dramatic impact on numbers.
One thing to consider is joining the Ruffed Grouse Society. If you’ve been involved in the past but haven’t been involved or active since 2013, take another look, good things are happening at both headquarters and states with active chapters. Their help is the best bet at getting things moving forward in a positive way for ruffed grouse in Pennsylvania. If you pursue grouse with any regularity (or woodcock, deer, etc), you owe it to the birds to be involved.
I’ve spent half my time in the PA woods on public ground, the bird numbers actually being better than my private grouse haunts. This past weekend I spent an overnight at camp to get a full day in. It was a slow day. The highlight was provided by Annie working a running bird out of an “endless” laurel brook bottom into a small clump of hemlock (10×10′?) with a open logging road on the other side… pinned bird. Dad was along and on the road to be in the perfect spot for the flush and downed it. Annie has been the most productive dog so far, Blaze being the second.