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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Gentlemen,

Learning from childhood the ethics and traditions of Grouse & Woodcock hunting we were taught to understand game management in Gods forest. The respect for Gods gifts to us as back woods mountain people was understood from an early age, we never shot more than we could eat for the meals that day, we never over hunted a Grouse or Woodcock covert, no matter how many birds our dogs found. We never shot birds rousting in trees or running on the ground. My Grandfather insisted on the dogs setting up each and every bird that was gunned.

Seldom even today do I shoot at a wild flush, for I know he is watching from above. His rules of fair chase were never violated in our family, he had learned them from his Father and Grandfather, who he respected greatly. While others hunted in different ways our family traditions never changed. GBE did a good job of introducing our upland shooting life to much of America thru his well written books, some called him stuck up, my Grandfather taught us GBE only scratch the surface of our traditional way of life. We were taught to always conserve and guard Gods gifts, never to take more than 2 birds from any Grouse covert, the same with Woodcock. My Grandfather taught that it's not how many birds you gun that is important, it's how you gun the birds that matters, always leaving the Covert intact to reproduce. He had a great deal of respect for the men and ladies in the RGS, my father joined in the early 60's himself. and I followed shortly after.

Our family is very big on developing our own Grouse and Woodcock coverts, we were taught to respect other hunters coverts and stay out of them. Today we actually have unethical people selling Grouse covert locations to Grouse hunters, that say they have no time, to develop their own covert locations. This in itself tells you a lot about the ethics of some of our modern Grouse hunters, and even more about the ethics of those selling such coveted information. Selling GPS locations is not just unethical, it borders on criminal too our family tradition. Sport hunting is an honorable way to harvest birds and game, each person should develop his own coverts, it is a major part of conservation to take the time to develop covert locations and never over hunt them.

In our family tradition we have always hunted with a companion dog or dogs, in reality the dog work is 80% of the reason we bird hunt. Taking the time to train a good dog, or have the dog train you, as the case maybe is a major part of Grouse & Woodcock hunting. Learning that the dog is the hunter and you the human are just alone to pull the trigger when needed, is definitely a learned experience. Some Grouse hunters never develop far enough to understand this part of Grouse & Woodcock hunting. Fair chase is another big part of our family tradition, if you miss a shot on a Grouse and the dog resets the bird, you only get to shoot at that follow up find, if you miss the bird in the follow up flush, the bird gets his freedom, we hunt in a different direction. Leaving the bird who has earned his freedom alone. If you have never seen a beautiful Ryman Setter Orange or Blue Belton dog drift his way down a snow covered hill side, and lock up on Grouse point, you have missed what Grouse hunting is really all about. We have owned many different breeds of gun dogs in our family, each to his own liking. My brother loves GSP dogs and has had a few incredible ones. I have owned/trained lots of different breeds of gun dogs, and keep coming back to Ryman Setters, Gordon Setters and Small Munsterlanders, each hunts in their own special way, as a companion Grouse dog, an experience each bird hunter should live to have experienced.

In our family tradition it is unethical to hunt with a gun holding more than 2 shells, even if the gun is engineered to hold more than 2 shells. My Grandfather and Father were big on SXS double guns, I am the same way, my brother because of his eye problems loves his O/U double guns, especially his Browning 28 gauge guns. Having inherited most of our families L.C. Smith double guns, I use them all, for different kinds of bird hunting each season.
We definitely do a lot of teasing about which guns should be used, all in good fun. Safety is a big part of our hunting tradition, no alcohol until after the guns are cleaned and put away, I still enforce my Fathers rules at Grouse Camp even today. There is much to learn about ethical Grouse & Woodcock hunting, these are only part of what we teach, to our family it all matters greatly.

all the best,

Pine Creek/Dave
L.C. Smith Man

Pine Creek Ryman Daisy admiring one of her many many Grouse taken in the Pa mountains.
 
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I enjoyed the reading, i hunt bunnies with hounds and we never take more than we have spoken for, we get seniors asking for some, or 6 whichever comes first. The only exception is the boxing day hunt where we take whatever the hounds put up. The hounds only run 6hrs max and the best day was 9 so not too bad
 

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Nice post, Dave. I only started upland hunting 2 years ago, having been badgered into it by a friend that I shoot clays with. I am fortunate in that this friend and the few others that I go out with all adhere to your rules of the hunt. It seems right and somewhat traditional.
 

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David's dislike of covert "selling" has long been voiced on a number of message boards....second only perhaps to unpaid Public access to Pennsylvania Gamelands or folks playing their non-hunting method field trial "games".
I suspect this first dislike gained traction in the upper great lakes as some foresters put together information relative to timber cuts and age classes....info not exactly secret, by the way, but certainly collected in a more easily digested format....ie America 101.
Have ruffed grouse numbers been reduced by the business....no, imo, as that region has blessings that maps will not impact, as but one reason. Plus, the nature of woodcock precludes any population impact for them at all.

Can notice bring negative issues?
Sure...see Northern NH after message board surfers flooded the area a good while back, to see a bit of that. Or, other areas of the country with other birds....not so oddly, message boards do far more harm than maps of individual coverts.
One must often search out several WIHAs, for example...an acceptable trade-off, imo.

I have never used those maps as early successional is not difficult to find up north, IF that is the ruffed grouse cover one prefers to hunt....some folks do see it as a shortcut tho, I agree.
Additionally, covert age is comparably short....especially as covert extent can be nearly endless, apart from the Appalachians, of course.
Finding "new" is simply the never-ending life of a ruffed grouse hunter...or most hunters, for that matter today.
I am not sure how the "famous" ruffed grouse guides/Camps factor in to dislike as they essentially sell covert locations in the process of making a living. Not all cover is private...tho that can be the company line.
Go-Pay-Learn-Go can work.

While I disagree with most of David's narrow definition of what defines tradition and his 'stories', I do completely agree regarding not following up flushes beyond once.
Especially in a true late season and especially outside the UGLs, re-flushing Bonasa U depletes energy at a time when food is of lowest nutritional value and volume(clearly an issue re reproduction)....plus, moving birds out of their home range opens them more to predators and pushes them into areas apart from where they chose to be....ie food and cover.
To put it simply...one does not have to shoot a ruffed grouse, to kill it.
Be judicious in one's keenness.....in the lower 48, few grouse hunters are starving today.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Gentlemen,

My traditional Grouse hunting values and Multi's are not that far apart, however the Ruffed Grouse is not a meek weak bird, if that was the case these beautiful wild birds would have completely perished from the earth long ago.
His view of simply moving a Grouse in the winter months endangering the Grouse is simply not true, a Grouse seldom moves more than a mile away from where it was born, unless the habitat food base changes in some drastic manner.

Many people thought GBE was a stuck up sportsman and elites if you will, because he wrote about our Pa traditional upland way of life. When GBE was young he was mostly a Quail hunter, in the Uniontown area of Pa. It took him a while to understand our Pa upland shooting life, his father GBE Sr, and his Fathers Grouse hunting friends, instilled in GBE the love of Grouse hunting, especially with GBE Sr's Ryman Setter dogs. I often wonder what GBE would have thought about selling his Grouse Covert information. You can bet he would have been unhappy with the unethical businesses doing it. My narrow definition of traditional Grouse hunting did not originate with me, or just my family, it in fact was a way of life here in our Pa mountains, long before I was born. Most of our traditional way of life has to due with respect for Gods gifts to us mountain people, in our family there was a right and wrong way of doing things. I do realize if a sportsman grew up in a different environment, their views on life and hunting maybe completely different than mine. I know I am a throw back to my Grandfathers way of life, even with my modern education and training, I was very very lucky to have been raised in the manner that afford me the life style I have.

all the best,

Pine Creek/Dave
L.C. Smith Man

Memories to last a life time.
 

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I'm sure we share some points of view, David.

Ruffed grouse are a comparably weak bird....so noted due to the inability to effectively work outside of the wild environment.
Not being able to be raised in captivity on a meaningful scale, for example or not playing well in a few areas with a lot of human activity in the woods for another....no raisable Preserve-friendly pheasant or quail, hun or chukar here.
There is also a difference in the tame-ish grouse seen in western areas and other areas of the range....one size never fits all ruffed grouse.
Not accepting activity tho is not much of an issue in the UGLs or areas where we humans have seasons ourselves...farther south, it matters and especially so as deer and turkey hunting has boomed human activity in the woods.
The grouse's good luck was immense acreage controlled by a business that created early successional as a byproduct....ie coal and timber. Each factor boomed the bird well beyond normal levels....in some areas.
But, change has too often happened...today...to the bird's homeland.

What would Evans think of selling his grouse covert info?....well, on Public accessed land, they would not be his coverts so, I expect he would be saddened but not much else.
What I suspect would gag him is the explosion of Leasing, by deer and turkey hunters, of former open to the Public timber or coal lands.
Lands he once freely walked...today, unless he joined a hunting club, that ground would be off limits. A single outfit in WV controlled 80K a few years ago....some in the vincinity of Canaan where Evans walked.
Look at the change within Canaan Valley....timeshares, leaf peepers from Washington DC only 4 hours away....Canaan has changed well past Evans hunting The Gates.
Leasing is simply big business and much of once Public accessed land thru old agreements are now kaput, what with the ownership changes in the form of TIGs, etc.
Timbering is also not as stable a business, everywhere and re hardwoods, as once it was,....mills closing or shrinking, markets fluctuating.
Beyond that, your GBE stories are apochryphal.

As to winter....location matters and a home range, in say the Apps....never amounted to a food aisle 'round every bend. In late season, in times when soft and/or hard mast failed found the birds concentrated. Flush them too far and food can be an issue and the flash of wings thru the winter woods is a call to raptors.
That, is just Life and reality for the bird...not everywhere is aspen budding a possibility.
Bonasa U(or whichever letter you apply) are not all blessed with true winter and snow or elevation and months of cold as factors limiting we hunters...of all types.

Enjoy your 'mountain' lifestyle compadre, you are lucky in some ways....but, many of use are more concerned with a Life rather than a lifestyle.

*edited for spellin'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Multi,
I have to admit I am not fond of big hunting clubs that lease large amounts of property to keep people from hunting, especially local sportsman. Its one of the reasons Potter County has a law that helps keep land open to hunting.
If the land owner leases his land and the land is posted, the land owner must pay city school taxes on every acre of his posted land. We had some NY people lease large tracts of forest land a few years back, and tried to have the Clean & Green act declared unconstitutional, they lost at the Pa Supreme Court level, and had to pay a fortune in local taxes to the school districts were the land was located. Still it does not eliminate the problem completely, and we have more club leased land now than we ever had before. I do not mind if these clubs post the land they lease legally, I do mind when they encroach on the State Forest or State Game lands next to their leased property. I reported an incident where these club people had expanded their lease on to SGL and were telling people they could not hunt. The PGC land management crew came out and marked the bounty by GPS, clear up over the mountain and the club was very unhappy with the resulting boundaries. Mostly these clubs lease the land for Deer hunting, however they do not want other hunters moving the Deer off the leased land, by doing other hunting. What they try to do is keep people from hunting any where near the leased land, by intimidating the local hunters. Most Potter County native born people do not intimidate very readily, and most know the SGL & SFL lands pretty well. This leads to some dangerous situations in the woods, that I try very hard to avoid.

all the best,

Pine Creek/Dave
L.C. Smith Man
 

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Don't worry about "shooting out" a woodcock covert, the habitat will age out long before that happens. Woodcock are migratory and they will fill out a so called empty covert. If this were not the case then newly created habitat would not see any birds establish it as home and anyone willing to see and think knows that is not the case. I've been participating in spring woodcock counts since the 1970s and banding since the early 1990s and my experiences are that woodcock numbers are declining but it is far more to do with habitat aging out than hunting.

Grouse are a bit different. They aren't migratory but the fall shuffle can see the birds a fair distance depending on the amount of good cover and hunting pressure. I have decent grouse cover behind my home but the bird numbers have steadily declined due to the property becoming landlocked from other covers which has the birds' reproductive capability decreasing every year. Unless I decide to go and shoot them out, I expect the birds to disappear within 10 years and probably even less.

Where hunting has the largest affect on grouse is shooting the resident bird from good cover after the fall shuffle has completed. In this region that is about mid-November. Birds shot in good covers tend to be additive to the mortality rates and the cover is unlikely to be utilized until the following fall. I learned this from Gordon Guillion many years ago and it seemed to tally with my anecdotal experiences dating back to childhood. For that reason I don't shoot grouse after deer season starts which is the first Saturday in November in traditional covers. I will and do shoot grouse when found in poor cover, as found when out pheasant hunting, as they are unlikely to survive the winter. I can't recall one being older than that year's hatch in such habitat.

With grouse numbers being good in the areas I hunt (why bother hunting an area with poor numbers?) I don't follow up flushes unless it is on the way to my next destination. Unless one is pursuing the birds right up to dark, the grouse will return to their preferred cover in a few hours. It is where they are most familiar and feel the safest so that is where they will strive to be. When flushed, the birds know where they are going to go and that is to someplace they will feel safe which would be a place they are at least passably familiar with.

As for "selling" covert locations, I have no problems with it. That information is free from so many sources that someone so lazy they won't look up the same info is also unlikely to venture to said grounds. And, if they do, are too lazy to hunt it thoroughly or even knowledgeably. I'd much rather compete with them than they guys who search satellite photos, query logging companies, and actually spend time putting eyes on the ground as the latter actually know what they are doing and how to do it.

My concern regarding grouse and woodcock is overall aging and fracturing of habitats. Those are far more damaging than any amount of hunting as they are long lasting. With the decreasing demand for pulp, forests have been growing older and with that less carrying capacity. Those who hunt the same coverts year after year will see this and, if they aren't savvy, will blame the decrease in birds on everything but the habitat as they just don't see it.

Besides my home, I have almost 2 sections of property in northern Minnesota that I have been managing the forest for up to 50 years. That property is much more productive for grouse, woodcock, deer, moose, and about everything else due to the various age classes of the woods. This land borders state and Federal land which has not been managed nearly as aggressively and it shows by fewer species utilizing early succession forests.

My upbringing was a bit different. Hunting was not a pastime in which one felt happy just to be outdoors. That was our everyday life. Instead, it was a "leisure activity" to break the normal routine but that time was still valuable and one was expected to show something usable for the effort. That $8 license may not seem much to some people but it was cash that we sometimes struggled to come up with.

I've owned and read the so called "classics" and appreciate their sentiments. As I became more successful in life than my forebears, my preferences have drifted towards those of the classics. But I have not forgotten my past and do not disparage either those times nor those today who live by those standards. At times I step back to those days and marvel how difficult it was and still is to take a grouse with a 22 rimfire. One will not put a hurt on the grouse population so armed, probably why there are no "rules" written down in some hallowed tome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
UglyDog,

Good knowledgable post, GG & Bill Palmer were two of the most knowledgeable Grouse biologists in history.
I have to admit the cost of our hunting licenses here in Pa were a bit more than yours out west. We always purchased a license and hunted legally. Thru the years we helped with the RGS/PGC Grouse studies here in Pa. Because Grouse were so plentiful here in Pa from my Great-grandfathers era up until the late 70's our way of life revolved around Grouse & Woodcock hunting, along with Fly Fishing for trout in the summer time, we never really viewed this as wasted time. The game and birds we hunted were added to our weekly food base along with the fish we caught, and it saved a great deal of food cost money. Although habitat loss is the biggest problem with our Grouse population, our flying predator problem is a close 2nd. I do believe if we could put flying predators on the same par as other game birds, our Grouse population here in Pa would increase greatly in about 5 years, especially if the habitat was also managed correctly.

I enjoyed your post.

all the best,

Pine Creek/Dave
L.C. Smith Man

Turkey on my brothers back deck here in Pa.
 
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