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Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: In the thick stuff
Re: Help me out here.
The reason the flush rates derived from the Ruffed Grouse Cooperator's survey are viewed as inaccurate is because most cooperators are dedicated grouse hunters who will find and hunt the best grouse habitat available. The numbers they report don't accurately reflect the overall grouse population in Pennsylvania. In fact if you compare survey results over the past 45 years, the numbers have bounced up and down in different years (possibly based on the success of that year's hatch), but the results from the last few years match the long term average. If you use only the numbers from this survey, it would lead you to believe the overall grouse population of the last 40 years is basically unchanged.
Another method used for showing population trends is the PA breeding bird atlas. The atlas divides the state into about 4900 blocks of about 9 square miles, then counts the number of blocks with at least one bird found during the breeding season for that species. In the first survey ('83-'89) grouse were recorded in 2782 blocks while the second survey ('04-'08') they were found in only 1869 blocks. While not a total population count, the places grouse were found is down about 30% over the past 30 years.
And yet another poputation index is the Christmas Bird Count Survey. It counts all birds found within a 15 mile circle, and is adjusted by how many hours were spent by volunteers in each circle. The results of that survey show grouse numbers are down about 50% in the last 30 years.
My personal observations match what the survey's above are showing. I no longer find grouse on the edges of the local farms or in the neighborhood woodlots. I'll drive a lot of miles and spend a whole lot of time trying to find the best place to hunt them. The good news is that I believe I will see as many or more grouse this year (my 40th hunting them) as we did when my Dad first started me out on this life long obsession.