Grouse Hunting Should Be Similar to Last Year in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania Ruffed GrouseHARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission expects ruffed grouse hunting to be good – at least as good as last year – for the nearly 100,000 hunters who annually pursue these challenging game birds.

The opening day of the state’s three-part grouse season is Saturday, Oct. 18, and runs through Nov. 29. The season reopens Dec. 15 to 23, and then again from Dec. 26 to Jan. 24. Participating hunters must have a valid Pennsylvania hunting license and follow the regulations that govern this rugged sport of brush-busting and mountain-scampering.

“Last year, hunters saw fewer grouse than they had the previous year,” said Bill Palmer, Game Commission grouse biologist. “We were forecasting an improvement in flushing rates, but it didn’t. The flushing rate was down slightly, but it still was the second best rate posted by hunters since 2002. We expect grouse numbers to stay relatively the same and that should translate into good hunting.”

Palmer noted, however, that the problem apparently wasn’t just a “Pennsylvania thing.”

“Nearly all of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states had declining flushing rates last season,” Palmer said.

Last year, grouse flushing rates dropped in all but one of the state’s six geographic regions. Those regional rates averaged out to a statewide flushing rate of 1.25 grouse per hour. The 2007 rate was below the previous year’s rate by a slight margin. It was the second best rate posted in six years by the participants of the Game Commission’s “Grouse Cooperator Survey,” which uses information recorded in hunting logs by volunteers.

The state’s Northwest region posted the best flushing rate with 1.81 grouse per hour (1.76 in 2006). The Northcentral Region followed with a rate of 1.44 (1.65 in 2006). In the Southcentral, the rate was 1.16 (1.22); Southwest, 1.05 (1.21); Northeast, 1.04 (1.30); and Southeast, 0.73 (0.79).

Many Game Commission employees reported encountering grouse in their travels afield this past summer in a game and furbearer forecast they complete annually for the agency. Interested hunters and trappers can see these updates on-line at the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Dozens of reports – from every county in the Commonwealth – are available. Just click on the “Field Officer Game Forecasts” link found the homepage.

The average annual flushing rate for the more than 40 years the grouse cooperator study has existed is 1.41 grouse per hour. The 2006 rate was 1.25. In 2004, the rate was 0.95. The state’s best year for flushing grouse occurred in 1995, when hunters established a 1.74 birds per hour rate.

The number of Pennsylvania grouse hunters dropped eight percent to about 96,400 in the last license year. They averaged less than a grouse apiece last year, when the total grouse harvest was about 82,000 birds.

The statewide grouse flushing rate is developed through information provided by grouse hunting cooperators, who keep a log of their hunting activities. In 2007, 347 hunters participated in the program. Hunters who take part in this important program are updated on yearly results through an annual newsletter.

Hunters interested in participating in the Game Commission’s annual Grouse Cooperator Survey are asked to write the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, ATTN: Grouse Cooperator Survey, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.

Grouse hunters are reminded to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined at all times; limit hunting parties to no more than six individuals; and plug shotguns to three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined).

In addition, grouse hunters are reminded that grouse hunting is permitted on a 2,800-acre tract of State Game Land 176 in Centre County, where the agency has conducting a long-term study to determine the impact of intensive habitat improvement efforts on the grouse population.