Back To Top
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: With the ruffled grouses
You'll get no argument from me that grouse numbers are down, but why? Most have been willing to blindly follow our biologist into thinking its the mosquito and WNV that is the major problem and if that went away numbers would soar again. And if we closed the late season, numbers would rebound. And 99% of the hunters as well as GC personnel fell into that scam. Well guess what, WNV was at a 10 year low this year and brood numbers were well below last year, the highest WNV year recorded in Pa. So throw that theory out the window. Is WNV a small contributing factor, probably is. But here are bigger factors:
1. Were at 1/3 of ESH to where we should be and that will never be recovered......never. We might get up to 10%, but that us still far below the level of 17% where the GL forester said we should be.
2. The deer herds were left at unsustainable levels for far too many years, destroying the seed bank of the valuable shrub layer grouse need. That can never be replaced.
3. Deer levels are out of control again and destroying habitat and that low level shrub layer that grouse need for food and protection and our useless commissioners wont do anything about it as deer hunters are more valued that grouse hunters and bringing back grouse numbers.
4. Logging practices - years ago everyone went in and clearcut an area, that lead to a varied habitat growing from trees to the shrub layer. Now they are into shelterwood cuts to grow specific trees. Many trees are left standing to use their shade to suppress undesirable trees; undesirable to whom? Again it can also work to suppress that shrub layer.
5. In an effort to grow desired trees they will go in, pre and/or post harvest and spray off that shrub/food source. Grouse dont eat dirt, and dont feed on buds until the snow covers up the salads they prefer. I dont care how great the stem density is, if the ground us bare, there is no food, no shelter, and no grouse.
All the above the GC can control on their own property, and they can help control deer numbers on other public lands. And if you think deer arent a major problem, visit Clear Creek SF outside of Brockway where they are fencing in a majority of their cuts to see what is growing inside vs outside.
With all the above listed problems, and the GC keying soley on WNV, i dont expect to see a rebound in the 10-12 good years i have left to chase after grouse. In fact i wouldn't be surprised if we lose the December season in the next couple years. Plans are being made for Michigan next year and the coming years until i retire when I'll spend multiple weeks out of state. And i have enough covers in Pa to keep me happy until my legs finally tell me its time to quit.
Obviously my vocal opinion has reached up high in the GC as i was only given 1 blood stick last year, and unless something came in the last week(i only get to the PO once a week) i wont be getting and blood sticks or the newsletter this year.
Plenty of scouting and good habitat makes for a great hunt.