With September 15th just around the corner, we’ve been taking a look at some of the forecast data provided by both Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Wildlife Division, as well as the summary provided annually by the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS).
And now, the forecast. According to MDNR Upland Game Bird Specialist
and Program Leader Al Stewart, grouse drumming surveys were conducted
during the months of April and May of this year. Data collected from
the same 2012 sampling areas found a 10 percent decline in the number of
drums heard on a year-to-year basis. As was the case in prior years,
the highest number of drumming counts was found in the upper peninsula,
followed by the northern lower, then southern lower. With the exception
of some areas of the upper peninsula, the statistical differences
between 2012 and 2013 did not appear to be significant.
According to Stewart, 2013 grouse populations will likely have a
slight decline from 2012 levels, following their cyclical peak which was
believed to have been reached in 2011. Despite the late arrival of
spring this year, breeding conditions for both grouse and woodcock are
believed to have been favorable. These conditions have the potential to
result in a statewide harvest of 240,000 grouse and 74,000 woodcock
during the 2013 seasons.
Just as a reminder, although the ruffed grouse season begins with the small game season on September 15th, opening day for woodcock hunting is set for September 21st.
Department of Natural Resources Upland Game Bird Specialist and
Program Leader Al Stewart reports, ruffed grouse drumming counts were
conducted statewide along 95 survey routes during April and May 2013.
Using data from 87 routes run in both 2012 and 2013, statewide there was
a 10.3 percent decrease in the average number of drums heard per route
between 2012 (11.8) and 2013 (10.6). Highest drumming counts were in
Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula; 14.5), followed by Zone 2 (northern Lower
Peninsula; 9.4) and Zone 3 (southern Lower Peninsula; 6.4).
Analysis at the regional scale indicated there was nearly a
significant difference (n=26; t=2.0, P=0.4) in the number of drums heard
per route in Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula) between 2012 (17.4) and 2013
(14.9). There was no significant change (n=52; t=2, P=0.4) in the
average number of drums heard per route in Zone 2 (Northern Lower
Peninsula) between 2012 (9.9) and 2013 (9.1). In Zone 3, there were
eight routes conducted in both 2012 and 2013. Due to the low sample
size, statistical analysis at the Zone 3 regional scale is not
Grouse/woodcock hunter cooperators hunting the first four days of
ruffed grouse season reported an average of 1.7 grouse per hour in 2012
compared to 2.0 grouse per hour in 2011. Hunters opinions about the
2012 ruffed grouse population were mixed; 27 percent of the respondents
thought grouse populations were up or slightly up from 2011 in the
areas they hunted, with 41 percent reporting the population is the same
and 32 percent reported they were down or slightly down. For the full
season, the average number of ruffed grouse flushed per hour by
cooperators in 2012 (1.66) was slightly lower than the number of birds
flushed per hour in 2011 (1.91). The average number of woodcock flushed
per hour statewide by cooperators was slightly higher between 2012
(1.57) and 2011 (1.2).
Stewart concludes, “Based on current survey data, I expect the grouse
population this fall will be on a slight decline following the peak of
the cycle in 2011. The 2013 fall ruffed grouse and woodcock numbers
could be similar if not a little bit lower statewide compared to 2012.
With favorable annual production, hunters could take approximately
240,000 grouse and 74,000 woodcock in 2013.
Although spring arrived two
weeks later than normal; the warm, average weather conditions this year
may have a positive impact on brood survival. If we have favorable
production this spring, I anticipate fall ruffed grouse and woodcock
numbers could be similar to or only down slightly from last year. Due to
normal rainfall and lack of early summer frosts, I expect soft mast
production to be very good this fall compared to 2012.”
The ruffed grouse season begins on September 15, statewide.* In
2013, the opening date for woodcock hunting will be September 21.* The
USFWS framework for Michigan allows for the woodcock hunting season to
open no earlier than the Saturday closest to September 22 and to run for
no more than 45 days.
Are you looking for new places to hunt grouse and woodcock? Stewart
invites hunters to explore the 10-million acres of public land in
Michigan. You can plan your next hunting adventure online with Mi-HUNT.
This DNR hunting tool allows people to search for grouse and woodcock
habitat on public hunting lands. “Bird hunters have found this tool to
be very helpful for viewing different forest types, topography,
satellite imagery and road layers…all from the comfort of their own
home”, said Stewart. “There’s even a tutorial designed for grouse
hunters.” To learn more about this free interactive mapping
application, visit www.michigan.gov/mihunt for details.
More Ruffed Grouse Hunting Forecasts