Grouse hunters that saw the good old days.....

Discussion in 'Small Game Hunting' started by msu_hunter, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. msu_hunter

    msu_hunter 6 pointer

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    I've been Grouse hunting for about four years now so not a lot of experience with the times when there were a few birds, anyway i was wondering do you guys think that maybe Grouse numbers are returning to a historical average? I mean in the 30's and 40's everything in eastern ky was clear cut to make way for family farms and afterwards everything started to grow out. Not to mention creating great bird habitat so i guess my question is this. In the early 2000's and ninety's 80's etc. can you all remember if there was more widespread habitat that overlapped throughout the Grouses home range in ky. I know there's great habitat left in places, i've hunted it and killed birds but it seems like its isolated pockets and not interconnected to create pathways for new birds to move in and repopulate an area. Just wandering if the bird numbers are returning to what they where 100-200 years ago in the appalachian range.
     
  2. hitch

    hitch 10 pointer

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    I'm not that old <40 but habitat is not an issue around here, we have more acreage of successional growth than at anytime in my life. this year our bird numbers have plummeted to basically none other than a couple of spots out of hundreds of spots.
     
  3. msu_hunter

    msu_hunter 6 pointer

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    I've heard that a bunch Hitch, I guess due to my lack of experience i don't understand what the habitat was like when 8-10 birds per day pointed were common. To my unexperianced eye it seems that the cover is patchy at best. So Hitch i'm interested to hear what your theory is on the decline? Genuinely interested.
     
  4. BirdBuster

    BirdBuster 6 pointer

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    Started hunting in the mid 80's. Cover was everywhere. You had logging and auger mining. That created lots and lots of habitat. Today you have little to no logging. Strip mining with way bigger equipment. Taking mountain tops off and pushing them over into the hollows covering up grouse habitat. There are still some good covers left. Some are bigger than others but that still leaves them isolated. Lots of ground between them that are nothing but detrimental to grouse. So we are left with very few good covers. Why are they becoming vacant of grouse? Being isolated could be a cause, bad hatch weather could be a cause, and predators could be a cause. My opinion is, All plus 1. I think the bigger problem is a disease or parasite or both. Just my thoughts, some may agree.
     
  5. hitch

    hitch 10 pointer

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    I started when I was in high school and back then the cover was pretty spotty, however we found birds in anything that was even slightly thick and moving a dozen birds a day was common. That was in the late 80's- early 90's.

    I started back after them about ten years ago, and at that time there was cover but nothing like we have right now. Back then we moved 10 birds per day on avg and killed an avg of 2 birds per day. Starting a few years ago the numbers dipped again, but stayed steady around 6-8 flushes per day, and we started limiting the birds we took from any one cover to only one in an effort to leave seed stocks.

    Last year we still had plenty of solid days, but many places they seemed to dry up, and this year almost every where the birds numbers are almost non existent. Sure we have had a couple of solid days with 8+ birds but I can count those on one hand. As I said there has never been as much cover as there is now where we hunt, I hunted a cut Tuesday that is at least 2000 acres that is 8 years old, north facing, and grouse heaven. Adjacent to it is another 1000 acres or so of 3 year old cut, and next to that is a fresh cut. That pattern can be repeated a hundred times over.

    I do not believe it is turkeys, hunting pressure, ATV's, elk, deer, or any of those factors. I am starting to feel that the several harsh winters in a row have really taken a toll, and poorly timed spring fronts may have also played a major role. Last year during turkey season I hunted in the snow in late April which is very likely the culprit. The sad thing is are the bird numbers so low that no matter what they won't ever recover?

    I am fairly analytical when it comes to this stuff and am constantly trying to understand which factors could be the cause, every hunt we discuss at length what in the h3ll is going on seeing how the habitat is there.

    I'd love some answers but I have exactly 0% confidence in any of the state biologists on solving this, and as soon as I hear habitat being the issue I shut out whoever is speaking, because clearly that is not the issue, at least not in a 60 mile radius of where I live. I also do not believe that the DNR can do anything to help/hurt the situation.
     
  6. trust me

    trust me Troubled Loner

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    I've got aerial fly-over photographs of my county that were produced in 1954, big wall-sized photographs that were tiled together from many individual photos. I've also got a satellite photograph that covers much of the county that was produced in 1977. Of course, we all have Google Earth to provide today's view of the countryside.

    Lay that 54 map and the 77 map side by side, and you'll see what happened. In 54, nearly every hollow was big and wide, cleared right up to the top bench, kept in either pasture or crops. If it was too steep to plow with a mule, they got up there and grubbed it out with a hoe. Little mom and pop 50 acre farms were the rule, and there was a cabin in the head of every hollow.

    The 77 photo shows the change to little narrow hollows, nothing visible but the creek and the road, because the hillsides were brushed over. Mom and Pop got old and quit tending the hillsides, the kids went north to find work, and it all turned into grouse cover. My friend's grandfather told of a quail hunt back in the early 60's that turned into a grouse hunt. 4 hunters bagged 26 grouse in a single day over two dogs. Bird populations had exploded. When I came of age in the 70's, it was still great. My dad could get up 12-15 individual birds in a day, sometimes many more. I went to school and got married and raised kids and got out of the birddog business for many years, but when I got back into it about 2002, it was still great. In 2003-04 season, my little group of 5 hunters and 4 dogs killed 115 birds in a single season. The birds we saw boggled my mind then, and it still does today.

    Those old fields that were briars and saplings when I was a kid in the 70's are now growing trees that are 15-20 inches in diameter. All the brush is gone, big timber rules. Logging is going great but they're not clearing whole hillsides, just taking selected hardwood trees and occasionally clearing a few acres of a poplar patch. Every little bit helps, but it's not the conditions that our forefathers saw 40-50 years ago. Segmented habitat is the rule in my county today. It's what I have to deal with and it's what I look for. It's all private property and I'm not going to walk up to a landowner and tell him he needs to spend thousands of his own money to clearcut a hillside when it won't bring him a return on his dollar. It's what the wildlife needs, but that is not the primary consideration.

    So, to answer your question msu hunter, I think that you are right, grouse populations are returning to what they were 100 years ago due to loss of successional habitat that was created by the drop in farming in the Post WW II Appalachia world.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  7. GSP

    GSP 14 Pointer Staff Member

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    Montrose
    Sad to say......I think you are correct. I also believe the birds were hit hard around 5 or so years ago by a virus or disease. It seems everyone noticed the 4-5 bird days you describe go to a 0-1 day in one single year.
     
  8. grouseguy

    grouseguy 12 pointer

    I agree with the other "gray beards" here. We all lived through the past 50 years and have seen the changes. I don't buy into a one single reason/event and believe that it is a combination of many factors, and I'll throw another one into the mix. We have always been at the southern tip of the grouse range, and even in the best years didn't have the populations of the more northern states and Canada. Some choose to believe otherwise, but to my mind, Global Warming is proven science and even a degree or two of change in average temps could move the grouse range northwards, which would effect the edges of the population range the most.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 13, 2015
  9. hitch

    hitch 10 pointer

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    Global warming is crack pot science with made up "facts" to support it, thus they keep changing its name to try and make it trendy. I can buy into pretty much any theory, but yours doesn't hold water. If it did the brook trout streams in the Smokies would be too warm, and I'd have armadillos in my yard instead of skunks.

    Maybe if we all drove a Prius to the woods we could save the grouse. Sheesh....
     
  10. trust me

    trust me Troubled Loner

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    Jerkwater, KY
    Saw one dead on the road in Lee Co. last year. Stopped and looked at it. Possum on the half shell, sure enough. The Island has been seeing them for years now. Lots of southern range critters are moving north. Birds and mammals both.
     
  11. BirdBuster

    BirdBuster 6 pointer

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    Apr 4, 2010
    Hitch,
    We have had armadillos killed on roads in Ky for several years now. They have been killed as far east/south as Whitley Co.

     
  12. hitch

    hitch 10 pointer

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    News to me on the Dillos I drive about 50,000 miles a year and haven't seen one.

    I still don't buy into the global warming garbage for any thing that's happening in the world right now,except our pres saying it's worse than ISIS and Al Qaeda
     
  13. grouseguy

    grouseguy 12 pointer

    You know, I've read your half baked proclamations about grouse and habitat for a few years now, and KNEW you were FOS, but let you ramble on telling everyone here how you knew so much more about grouse, grouse dogs and grouse habitat than anyone else. NOW, you're on board that there really is a problem, but have gotten your panties in a wad because someone suggested a contributing factor that you disagree with and turn it into a political attack.

    Leave the politics down in the Community Forum. We get along here in Small Game because we leave politics and religion our of this forum even though many of us have very different beliefs on those subjects. So, if your beliefs cause you to deny the obvious, then start a thread in Community about "crack pot science and made up facts" and I'll be more than happy to engage you on your knowledge, or lack thereof, but keep this "stuff" out of Small Game.
     
  14. JonDunn

    JonDunn 10 pointer

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    Up the holler
    Agree, leave the politics out of small game. This is the only place I can enjoy on the forum anymore.

    I believe its a culprit of multiple factors, with an unknown floating around in there somewhere.
     
  15. hitch

    hitch 10 pointer

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    When you bring up Global Warming you automatically turn it into a political discussion. End of story, and if you don't understand that, then I am sorry. I despise talking politics, more than anything you can possibly imagine, but when it is shoved in my face on a hunting topic I can't help but respond.

    I don't know what makes me FOS, but add it to the list of things I don't understand. I've been pretty clear that we were isolated from any issues until this year, but we certainly are experiencing the lowest numbers I've ever experienced.
     

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