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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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