The early season reports from ruffed grouse and American woodcock cooperators allow biologists to quickly assess hunter success and local field conditions across the state of Michigan at the beginning of the grouse season. This report is a summary of their responses for September 15 – 18, 2008.
Cooperators returned 95 useable surveys. They hunted 493 hours in 43 counties during the survey period. Individual counties having at least 10 hours of hunting with the highest flush rate for grouse were Marquette, Gladwin, Ontonagon, Grand Traverse, and Crawford. Although the woodcock season was not open during the survey period, cooperators were asked to also count woodcock flushes. Individual counties having at least 10 hours of hunting with the highest flush rates of woodcock were Wexford, Allegan, Gladwin, Kalkaska and Mackinac.
About 44% of the respondents thought grouse populations were up or slightly up from last year in the areas they hunted, with 32% reporting populations about the same as the previous year. About 29% of the respondents thought woodcock populations were up or slightly up from last year. However, 32% thought woodcock numbers were the same and 38% thought that the numbers were down.
Ruffed grouse have approximately ten-year cycles in abundance over much of Canada, Alaska and the Great Lakes states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. Many theories have been proposed to explain these cycles including diseases, weather, forest fires, sunspots, starvation, crowding, predators, genetic changes and chance. It appears that we may be at the midway point of the ten-year cycle. However, hunters should note that increased or decreased abundance of animals at a regional scale does not ensure the same trend locally. The best grouse and woodcock hunting opportunities will be in areas of young early forest successional habitat.
Several hunters commented on the 2-3 days of very wet conditions in many areas of Michigan prior to the opener of the grouse season. Hunters also commented on good food availability for grouse. Some hunters said that they would prefer that grouse season open later in the season when there is less foliage. Some hunters suggested that grouse and woodcock season open on the same day.
Written By: Mike Girolami, President of WorkWear1, www.workwear1.com, a Local Distributor of Carhartt Clothing, Redford MI