Should Wisconsin close the 2018 Ruffed Grouse hunting season early? At the end of this post is a link to the WDNR public input survey about this early closure. I urge a no vote on the early grouse season closure.
Regarding the Closing of WI grouse season early. Nov 30, 2018:
This is a copy of my email exchange with a Wisconsin Dept. Natural Resource biologist.
CE – Biologically, does it make sense to shorten the season? The studies I have read over the years conclude that 80% of upland birds (includes turkeys) are dead within two years whether they are hunted or not?
Answer: From a biological standpoint, there is not much support in the literature for shortening the ruffed grouse season. These are short-lived birds with an annual mortality of 50-70%, so we as hunters are harvesting surplus birds which would likely die of other causes prior to the breeding season. As an example, if you have 100 chicks in a given year, only about 18 would make it to the first breeding season, and of those 18 survivors, only 8 would make it to their second year. So 92 out of 100 birds will die within their first two years, whether that is from a hunter, predator, disease, starvation, getting hit by a car, or any other source of mortality. Hunting has been shown to generally not impact those survival rates. There is some limited research which suggests late season harvest can have negative impacts on a population the closer you get to the breeding season.
CE – And if someone wanted to reduce the harvest it seems to me cutting the bag limit would be more effective.
Limiting bag limit generally does not provide benefits to the population according to the research, partly for the reasons I previously mentioned, but also because we know very few hunters typically harvest a full bag of grouse.
CE – Reading the press reports made it sound like you and your department had nothing to do with the decision.
This motion was ultimately recommended by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress to the Natural Resources Board independent of the department.
CE – Land use in some of the northern prime grouse habitat has been changing rapidly in the last five years. Many of the places we once hunted grouse have been plowed into corn or bean fields; plus the maturing of timber stands; these are more likely the cause of the decrease in grouse and woodcock. Whereas in these same areas the turkey population is on the rise big time.
Habitat and land use is certainly an issue for grouse throughout their range. Here in WI, the effects of forest aging on grouse have been especially prominent in southwestern WI. The driftless area used to host the best grouse hunting in the state, but as the timber industry in the south vanished and the land was parceled out and active management declined, our southwestern grouse population plummeted. Habitat can definitely explain long-term declines we’ve seen in many places throughout the grouse range.
The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS)
Appreciates the attention the Conservation Congress, NRB, and DNR are giving to this issue. While there was a decline in ruffed grouse drumming activity from 2017 to 2018 (despite the next anticipated peak cycle peak expected to occur around 2019-2021), such a decline during the increasing phase of a grouse population cycle is not unprecedented. Further, drumming increased in other parts of the state, and drumming was stable or increased on 22 of the 43 northern region survey routes. Finally, the number of ruffed grouse drums observed per survey stop in the northern forest region in 2018 were still within the historic range of variability on this survey.
Given the level of information available, RGS does not support the proposed emergency rule instating closure on November 30. RGS would support season changes if data suggested a pressing conservation need. We do not believe that is clearly the present case.
Public comments on the proposed early closure will be accepted now through 11:59 pm on September 12, 2018, via an Online Survey, Please see the video for background information relating to the proposed early closure.