did anyone kill a grouse over a point in Ky this year? truth please

carnivore

12 pointer
Nov 17, 2007
10,788
Ky
I shot one male grouse over point this year. I could have shot a couple more but passed because they might have been part of a breeding pair in a hollow. The most I ever moved in a day was four and flew three a couple of times but most times the number was zero.I have six English Setters and usually give each pair of two an outing per week and my wife says sometimes more. These are full day hunts. I have probably hunted over 100 different hollows or coverts this year and have seen only a very few produce a grouse or point.
I talked with Frank Jezioro recently and he said the situation is the same in West Virginia. Frank was the former director of their DNR and is aan advisor to Senator Joe Manchin. He also writes for the Pointing Dog Journal. We have talked about the possibility of securing funds from the Great American Outdoors Act for research into causes. Everyone has their own theories and I have mine as well and there may not be a cure but it would be nice to find the cause. I have also had the worst quail year of my life and hunted good cover where the quail have disappeared. I used to be the County Agent in Scott County and at one time had about 150 coveys to hunt but no more. Turkeys while still out there have dropped just as much when you consider what there numbers had been.I tried to organize an Upland Summit last year sponsored by the Kentucky River Ruffed Grouse Society and had some great resources lined up but the pandemic hit.
I am tired of hearing the habitat angle as I have more coverts to hunt now than I have had in 53 years. Something else is going on and everyone needs to acknowledge it. I know forests are maturing overall but grouse hunting in Appalachia has always been fragmented and I constantly seek new areas. Just today I found four new hollows which were great grouse habitat and close to area I have found birds in the past but nothing materialized. I will not quit as I love the dogs and the woods too much. We also have interest from Ohio where they are reaching out to their Senator for support and I have someone reaching out to Congressman Rogers for support in Kentucky as well.
If you could help in any way my email address is [email protected]. It would help to reach out to Chris Garland of Ky Dept of Fish and Wildlife to show support as well. I know this lengthy but I am passionate about trying to help. We can never have too much habitat but this is way beyond habitat. By the way, if you know one, thank a logger as they are doing much for habitat restoration in Kentucky. I know of one area where there is almost 8000 acres of successional forest but the number of birds here is almost zero as well. Everyone's help is desperately needed now.
I personally don't hunt grouse but I'm appalled at the lack of response by the KDFWR and their in-ability to perform timely research or effectively combat the extinction of a game species from our state. This can happen to other species as well, so i see it relevant to all hunters.

As for the grouse. Realistically, is it too late at this point? The habitat cause seems lame to me and as you say there is still prime habitat void of grouse. I suppose it is more fractured than it used to be and birds are essentially penned into certain areas. But as you say there has to be something else. Strategic logging could certainly change this but the populations are so low at this point I'm not sure you could tell if it was effective.

I personally believe the raptor population has exploded and is having a huge impact. DDT kept hawk and owl numbers low (too low) in the heyday of small game hunting. I believe this to be the largest cause coupled with habitat issues.

Disease seems unlikely (to me) and typically wont decimate a population. Fractured habitat and segregated populations should reduce the impact of disease as well. There are certainly examples of disease causing extinction (in this case extirpation) but its rare. The American chestnut comes to mind.

On a side note Lucky dog (if you are who i think you are) i believe you took me and your boy Brett fishing on elkhorn creek over 20 years ago. I caught a monster smallmouth that sat in your freezer for some time, hell it might still be in there lol. If it was you thanks again for taking two young knuckleheads fishing. I applied what you guys taught me and waded stoner creek (and a few others) for several years after that. I never caught as many as you guys did but usually caught enough for a nice fried redeye supper and always enjoyed my time alone fishing creeks.
 
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Bee

10 pointer
Mar 14, 2005
1,682
Lucky/ Carnivore, if you go back in the annals of the board myself and many others saw early effects of the grouse loss maybe fifteen yeas ago and pleaded for the biologists to get serious about the grouse decline. We kept that up for years on here. Eventually I got some calls from the KY biologists, and they really didn't have the money or resources to do anything comprehensive. Grouse hunting is a non revenue sport for the state.unlike deer turkey elk it didn't draw non residents

IMO No question grouse decline is a lot more than decline or loss of second growth as there is a massive amount of private land timber cutting and mining reclamation still aging out for great to good vegetation habitat.
There are continuing debates on some of the focused bird hunting internet forums about causation. The Phrase I have used for years is "Death by a Thousand Cuts" and it is now seen often in peoples posts and comments. Predation, footed and winged. Disease, West Nile and others perhaps. Food /space competition from turkeys. Human Development impeding fall disbursal movements and this Corridor separation creating pockets with limited habitat . Human intrusion through gas well roads, four wheeler trails everywhere, highways,. Some climate changes have played in to it too ( and Im not a fan of many the climate change theories) but what birds are left usually are found in the highest possible elevations in many southern areas of the former population.etc etc.

I have no single answer and Ive sort of studied these critters for more than half a century as an observer . As a young adult I actually helped the Ky grouse biologist in the early 60s trap grouse (and box and ship them) from Black Mountain in Harlan County to trade to other states for deer and turkey to import to Ky. Whole southern mountain grouse slow extinction breaks my heart.
 
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carnivore

12 pointer
Nov 17, 2007
10,788
Ky
Lucky/ Carnivore, if you go back in the annals of the board myself and many others saw early effects of the grouse loss maybe fifteen yeas ago and pleaded for the biologists to get serious about the grouse decline. We kept that up for years on here. Eventually I got some calls from the KY biologists, and they really didn't have the mosey or resources to do anything comprenhensive. Grouse hunting is a non revenue sport for the state.

IMO No question grouse decline is a lot more than decline or loss of second growth as there is a massive amount of private land timber cutting and mining reclamation still aging out for great to good vegetation habitat.
There are continuing debates on some of the focused bird hunting internet forums about causation. The Phrase I have used for years is "Death by a Thousand Cuts" and it is now seen often in peoples posts and comments. Predation, footed and winged. Disease, West Nile and others perhaps. Food /space competition from turkeys. Human Development impeding fall disbursal movements and this Corridor separation creating pockets with limited habitat . Human intrusion through gas well roads, four wheeler trails everywhere, highways,. Some climate changes have played in to it too ( and Im not a fan of many the climate change theories) but what birds are left usually are found in the highest possible elevations in many southern areas of the former population.etc etc.

I have no single answer and Ive sort of studied these critters for more than half a century as an observer . As a young adult I actually helped the Ky grouse biologist in the early 60s trap grouse (and box and ship them) from Black Mountain in Harlan County to trade to other states for deer and turkey to import to Ky. Whole southern mountain grouse slow extinction breaks my heart.
I followed along over the years but (outside of my condolences) never had much to contribute. Sad story, but still hope to see something turn around.
At minimum, i hope other states with healthy populations learn from what happened here, and can prevent the same from happening there. Perhaps they would find value in this information and help fund research (independent of the KDFWR) assuming grouse hunting is profitable for them.
Also i apologize Bee, if i took this thread for a detour but i think its worth noting non-grouse hunters should be concerned. Turkey, Elk, rabbit, squirrel, fish, and even deer populations are vulnerable to future environmental changes and mismanagement as well.
 
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ribsplitter

Cyber-Hunter
Jan 19, 2004
3,351
Greenup, ky, USA.
I'm glad that I got to enjoy the sport of hunting appalachian ruffed grouse. It's sad that younger generations won't have a clue about one of the most challenging games around. As stated above by Bee, kdfwr was warned by many grouse hunters with more knowledge of the species, gained by boot leather, than a lifetime of books can teach. The warnings started in the early 2000's with a drastic drop around the fringe of their territory and 7-8 years later hitting the big mountain ranges in the core of their home range. Thinking of the arrogant responses I received from kdfwr biologists at the time still pisses me of to no end. The only hope I see is if another agency can figure out what has happened and possibly help the species. Putting faith in kdfwr to manage wildlife is definitely a losing proposition.
 

luvtohunt

10 pointer
Sep 1, 2011
1,947
Eubank, Ky
Haven't seen a grouse since I moved to Pulaski County 16 years ago. Prior to that lived and hunted in Knott county. Jumped 1 or 2 a year there rabbit hunting in my teenage years. Killed a few back then but none since. Still hunt a lot in this area deer, rabbit, and turkey as well as spend a lot of time on the water fishing and haven't heard a single bird drum or flushed a bird for that matter. Covered some decent habitat too chasing cotton tails.
 

Munson

12 pointer
Dec 24, 2011
3,032
Natural Bridge
Something I wander about is the new tick species that have took over the last 10yrs or so it seems like. If they contract west Nile from skeeters what's to say they can't contract one of several diseases ticks carry??
Idk just spitballing here trying to think of something that relates to the timeline of their decline. Do they have deer/seed ticks up north in the heart of grouse country?
 

Bee

10 pointer
Mar 14, 2005
1,682
munson--had to believe but there are, to my observation, a lot more deer ticks and seed ticks in the north than i recall seeing here in southern appalachia. fwiw
 

bgkyarcher

12 pointer
Aug 23, 2011
19,702
BG
I've turkey hunted in Perry/Breathitt counties for 2-4 days in 2016, 17, 18. I saw or heard grouse drumming at least once each of those trips. All in the Flint Ridge area..... Those are the only grouse I've ever seen/heard.
 

bgkyarcher

12 pointer
Aug 23, 2011
19,702
BG
I live in far western KY so no grouse. We haven’t flushed a covey of quail in probably 15 years. We used to at least flush one a year rabbit hunting.

We really started having ticks bad in the early 90s.
Quail disappearance coincided with the turkey population appearance...............
 

HappyHunter

10 pointer
Sep 11, 2003
1,057
Louisville
Wasn’t there some research in PA or WV pointing to west Nile as a culprit in chick mortality?

I used to chase them in DBNF about twice a year. We used to hunt in the Hoosier National Forest years ago and flushed quite a few. IN doesn’t even have a season anymore. Damn shame.
 

Lucky Dog

Spike
Feb 2, 2017
57
It was my last day to grouse hunt for the year and was bittersweet as I havested a grouse over point. It was a point with one of my old dogs that may have been his last point and my young female. Beautiful point, classic flush and while I try to let them fly to breed this was just too good an opportunity. For the past 3 years I have generally let them go but this was in a spot where I moved three earlier. I do not know if leaving them helps as much as I would like to think. Three years ago I left 5 birds in an area and 4 in another area and the next two years I find nothing.
I believe that ticks might be a problem as I don't believe the lone star tick is widespread up north. If you have ever been covered in their larvae(turkey mites)you should be thankful as they are like chiggers on steroids and take forever to get relief. If these infected young chicks I could see a real problem. Deer ticks are unbelievable in the winter as I and my dogs have the welts to show from them. I started noticing this rise in the early 2000's about the same time as West Nile erupted. Crow numbers appear to be on the upswing.
As I stated quail numbers and turkey numbers are on just as steep a decline. Thus the need for research to see if common links exist. We need support as I mentioned earlier for this to happen so contact Senators, Representatives Fish and Wildlife staff. RGS personnel to express your beliefs in this research approach. It is about the only hope outside on intervention from our Maker for something good to happen. You can't grow corn without seed and seed is needed for grouse, quail, and turkey as well as other ground nesting birds.
I write a weekly outdoor column for a couple of papers and plan for an upcoming article on the state of upland birds in Appalachia. You can email me if you would like a copy when it is finished and would be something good to circulate to all concerned.
On a positive note my dogs had a god day with two more what I thought to be grouse points and points on several woodcock passing through. I am amazed at how good my young female does given that she has had less wild bird contact than any of my previous seventeen English Setters.
 


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