Grouse Population

Discussion in 'Small Game Hunting' started by hitch, Dec 21, 2013.

  1. The coyotes eat among other things, the eggs of all the ground nesting birds, including the Grouse. No eggs = no birds. It don't take too many seasons to wipe them out that way. Night hunting of coyotes is now legal in KY. Take advantage of it. Load those nice bird guns with coyote loads and bring a big spot light. But if you are doing it in Greenup, Co. watch out for Mtn. Lions. We used to spot them along the Industrial Pkwy and alone US23 near the Portsmouth bridge. I saw a track as recent as 3yrs ago.

  2. riverboss

    riverboss 12 pointer

    Jan 26, 2009
    northern ky
    Yea they turned the mountain lions loose to eat all the coyotes! I would be care full hunting at night those things eat everything including bigfoot.
  3. Sialia67

    Sialia67 6 pointer

    Sep 4, 2008
    Rowan County
    Coyotes eat eggs but I have not seen any evidence yet to incriminate them in the decline of grouse. During the 6 years of the Appalachian grouse study 1996-2002, a full 66% of grouse nests hatched successfully. That is pretty darn good for a large ground-nesting bird. For 2 of those 6 years, video cameras were placed on 25 nests in one of the West Virginia study sites. Just 6 of those 25 nests were lost to predation. Raccoons were responsible for 3 of the 6 nest losses or 50%. A bear, weasel, and black rat snake took out the remaining 3 nests. No turkeys and no coyotes showed up at the nests.

    The boom and bust of grouse populations is not new. A 13-year 1930-40's grouse study provides some good insight. The study was initiated due to a troubling decline in grouse all over New England. Some considered them to be all but extinct. One hunter quoted in the book said, "The great numbers and variety of hawks in Maryland feeding on them (grouse) prevents them from increasing fast." A survey was conducted in Massachusetts following a huge decline in grouse after 1907. Here are some of the shared opinions:

    severe winter of 1906-07
    unusual abundance of foxes and goshawks
    the cold wet spring of 1907
    the extreme dryness of the following July and August
    a disease epidemic
    internal parasites
    an infestation of parasitic ticks
    pot hunting in the closed season
    resumption of migratory instincts
  4. ribsplitter

    ribsplitter Cyber-Hunter

    Jan 19, 2004
    Greenup, ky, USA.
    I personally as a sportsmen thank you for your hard work to help small game in Ky. Has the department followed up on any information learned from the AGS ? It seems to me things somehow get lost in translation between our biologists and commission. I'm just curious about your opinion if anything was learned from AGS that could be used to help.
  5. birdshooter

    birdshooter 6 pointer

    Jan 22, 2012
    Greenup Ky
    I wonder where the small game would be if the same resources were used and generated as they are on DEER ELK and Turkeys. I would love to see the break down in the budget that truly is used on small game and deer elk and turkey (excluding the great peabody study).
  6. trust me

    trust me Troubled Loner

    Nov 27, 2004
    Jerkwater, KY
    If we ever get to the bottom of the problem, I think we'll find it's a combination of factors. Like others I have all kinds of habitat around me but the bird numbers have bottomed out this year. We've had boom and bust years before, but it's not enough to just say "it's lack of habitat." There's more to it.

    I'll continue to run the dogs but I'm not sure I'll shoot a single bird this season.
  7. Bee

    Bee 10 pointer

    Mar 14, 2005
    One of the reasons l live here in the region is to grouse hunt. Having spent more than five decades behind some nice setters and "always" having birds (in some varying huntable numbers from year to year) l would have to say the current situation is perhaps the most disappointing long term outcome l could ever imagine from a game management perspective. Would not want to be the biologists or managers who literally are watching a species disappear from its native habitat on their watch.
  8. hitch

    hitch 10 pointer

    Jan 16, 2008
    On the way home Sunday I mentioned I might just pass on taking any birds this year unless something changes dramatically.

    Like Bee said, I'd hate to be the DNR that literally watched a game species vanish while we did nothing except promote glorified cattle (elk) and other non native species.

    I'll be after them again tomorrow, maybe Santa brought them back on his travels
  9. CSS archer

    CSS archer BBBC Members

    Dec 13, 2001
    Central KY
    There is certainly more to it than any one factor. The habitat has to be the biggest limiting factor. It's no longer politically correct to clearcut, high grading and shelterwood cutting will create some habitat, but it also creates raptor perches that allow significant avian mortality.

    I hunted grouse hard for 20 years, I saw objectively, habitats go from great to poor in a span of 10-15 years. They are already on the decline when they become "huntable", meaning if a man came move through there and point a shotgun and kill a grouse at 20 or so yards, it's already too open and predators will be nailing grouse.

    It's easy to get spoiled going north and hunting where the aspens get cut on a 15-20 year rotation, here in KY we are on a 80 or so year timber rotation, which mostly gets high graded when the market is right, never creating large acreages of habitat necessary to allow multiple hens to raise broods successfully.

    Most of the public lands in grouse country are owned by Daniel Boone National Forest and the Corps of Engineers, the anti-timber harvesting activists have done more to hurt the grouse population than anything. Several pulp mills in eastern KY would help significantly. KDFWR definitely needs to cut timber on the WMA's they own and manage where possible. Things are working in that direction.

    I don't think turkeys impact grouse at all, if they do IMO it would have to be because of a parasite. If turkeys are using the cover, it's too big to be good grouse cover. I do think if a flock has moved though just before you are hunting, the grouse in that area are spooky or flushed away, as turkey make a lot of noise, like man does, and false points are common.

    Habitat Improvement, from the role of field biologists, is totally geared towards small game, has been for over 20 years. It takes large blocks of quality habitat to produce good numbers of quail and grouse, and a couple of successive bad weather brood seasons is incredibly devastating. I understand the situation, it's a shame that you get to the point of feeling guilty when you do bag a quail or grouse.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
  10. CSS archer

    CSS archer BBBC Members

    Dec 13, 2001
    Central KY
    As it relates to coyotes, I don't think they are as negative for ground nesting birds as many may think. The decline of trapping has greatly increased the raccoon population in the grouse woods, these guys are egg seekers to the max. Sure a coyote will eat a nest on occasion but they kill and eat raccoons, possums, skunks and feral cats too, so the coyote may be more beneficial than negative considering that.

    There are no easy answers, and no one has "the" answer, it has multiple facets. Predator control will absolutely help, but if the habitat is not abundant and the right age and weather conditions don't allow for good brood survival, grouse numbers are definitely severely impacted. Grouse will disperse up to 15 miles from where they hatch to find good habitat, if it is too mature their fate is not...

    They have the ability to bounce back quickly, if conditions are right.
  11. GrouseAssasin

    GrouseAssasin 12 pointer

    Aug 1, 2009
    Jackson, ky
    This is why I gave up grouse hunting when my dog died. I knew because of work I wouldn't be able to take off a couple weeks and head north for several more years so I didn't bother getting a new pup. I dont feel like theres enough birds around here to really train one on. When I first got into it you could get into 5-10 birds a day if you really tried. The last year I hunted hard before my dog got too old I felt like I'd really accomplished something if I got one point a day. I love the challenge and if we had plenty birds my beagles would be looking for new homes to make room for another pair of llewellins. As CSS mentioned the last couple grouse and quail I killed over my dogs I actually felt a twinge of guilt.
  12. brettfrancis1

    brettfrancis1 6 pointer

    Oct 26, 2006
    Danville, KY
    Last year I didn't post my totals on here from the season. We had some pretty good hunts. I didn't post my numbers because they sounded too good to be true. This year I've been out a couple times in East KY and flown nothing. Only woodcock. Our totals in MI this fall were awesome though.
  13. agr_hunter

    agr_hunter 6 pointer

    Nov 30, 2005
    Over the Hill
    Flown two in October on a WMA, not bad for the only grouse hunt I have done. I have had some success with quail this year but when I killed a female my heart sank. I love to hunt with the dogs but I also want to advance the population. Hard to do both.
  14. Bee

    Bee 10 pointer

    Mar 14, 2005
    There are many factors in play in the grouse disappearance, as other have mentioned, and we have reviewed them in detail it seems for the last few years.

    Not to be disrespectful of others views, but no doubt turkeys impact grouse. poor soft and or hard mast year flock of turkeys goes through prime grouse habitat and eats everything in a day that would sustain a grouse for an entire winter. grouse forced to less desirable habitat, has tough winter , more exposed to predation, loses strength and weight.or enough of weight required to produce egg and raise clutch in next breeding season. repeat annually or every other year over decade as turkey flock increases exponentially. Grouse population dwindles, base of grouse population loses headcount required to repopulate . not too complicated. Turkeys are living in what any biologist would consider prime grouse habitat in appalachia. every day.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
  15. paint brush

    paint brush Spike

    Jan 9, 2012
    I killed several birds last year in a large block of clear -cut that is about ten years old. There were birds there at the end of the season. I'm going to hunt it again soon and will report back on what I find.

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