A Grouse Hunter’s Chance to Help Out
Hunters spend a lot of time outdoors. This is not too significant in and of itself, lots of people like to get outside. But the level of engagement hunters exhibit is far more than the average hiker or canoeist. This makes them ideal field assistants for researchers in need of data collection.
Ten years ago the New York State DEC launched it’s Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log. I remember receiving one in the mail. It seemed simple enough and I was already an avid grouse hunter so it seemed like a no-brainer to participate. All that was required was to fill in the provided form with the date, county, and WMU in which hunting was done, then provide simple data regarding public/private land, hunting with/without a dog, the number of hours hunted and the number of grouse flushed/killed. At the end of the season I tucked the Log in the postage-paid envelope it came with and sent it off to Albany. Several months later I got a fresh log for the upcoming season along with a compilation of data, including number of hunters, number of trips, hours per trip, and flush/harvest figures. I have filled out a Log every season since.
The Log has expanded slightly since it was established. It now includes columns for woodcock as well as grouse. Other than that it remains essentially the same. One of the things I’ve always liked about participating is the data sheet I receive each summer. It’s reassuring to see how my performance stacks up to the group total. For example, the three-year average flush rate from 2010 to 2013 was .86 birds per hour, right around my average. So when I hear hunters talk about all the times they flush birds left and right, odds are they don’t do that very often. But some of the stats are downright dismal. The number of hours hunted per bird harvested is 14.7, nearly the equivalent of two full work days. And the percentage of birds flushed that were harvested is only 8.8. I find it admirable of myself and all the other bird hunters that we are so dedicated to our passion, stalking up hillsides and slogging through swamps to, in all likelihood, not shoot a grouse. But the next time someone expounds on the sporting ethics of hunting with guns of 20 gauge or lighter, I think I’ll reach for my 12 instead.