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.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.
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.