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Prescribed Burns and Appalachian Grouse


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For the predator non believers:   Let me review quickly what I believe  is the history of ruffed grouse in southern app for last 150 years .  Grouse were NOT plentiful way back there in virgin fo

I have been patient for now the better part of a lifetime. Fire wont cut it in the east.  Never has. Reality is the mountains were homes , farms, timberlands before the forests were created. The edge

9000+ acre fire in my area ive seen 0 benefit after 3-4 years. Clear/ regeneration cutting is the only method I have seen any real change from. It must start there. 

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IMO you can burn or you can timber Federal land, but you need some brood stock to build a population and I am not sure those birds are there.  This isn't Field of Dreams where if you build it they will come.  I almost think in some ways they should just build great Woodcock habitat, because if you build it, they will come.  In other words try to concentrate your management where there is a water source and softer ground.  If there are any Grouse around they will certainly use that habitat as well.

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13 hours ago, tut said:

IMO you can burn or you can timber Federal land, but you need some brood stock to build a population and I am not sure those birds are there.  This isn't Field of Dreams where if you build it they will come. 

I believe it is. I find birds wherever there is suitable habitat. They are surviving at a scattered level. They could thrive if given suitable brood habitat on an ongoing basis. 
 

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I just copied this from Pat Berry’s linked article. Great piece. However this is simply not true south of New England and we need to hold someones feet to the fire for it and fall in line behind them. 
 

Public land hunting is often synonymous with ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting here in North America. We are incredibly fortunate to have free and easy access to a multitude of public lands rooted in the foundation of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Established on the recognition that wildlife and wildlife-based recreation are an inherent public resource, this system ensures that wildlife and habitat will be managed and used for the benefit of the people.

Wherever you hunt the king of the forest or pursue the prince of timber, ample public land hunting opportunities are always available. 

Public Land, Public Grouse

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mister grouse

 

8 minutes ago, vabirddog said:

(quoting pat berry)---Wherever you hunt the king of the forest or pursue the prince of timber, ample public land hunting opportunities are always availablePublic Land, Public Grouse

  IMO Absloutley 100 % NOT  true in the South as Vabirddog said above.  If it were not for private land continuous hardwood timber harvesting  and the reclaimed  mining areas in the southern App  there likely would be far less of a grouse population than the meager amount which exists today.  IMO

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39 minutes ago, vabirddog said:

I believe it is. I find birds wherever there is suitable habitat. They are surviving at a scattered level. They could thrive if given suitable brood habitat on an ongoing basis. 
 

 

I think that is a big maybe and I certainly hope you are right.  FWIW, I've hunted Clear Cuts in the mountains of Va after a couple of days of light snow and have seen nary a track and I'm talking cover that in theory looks as good as it gets.  Thick and nasty with good food sources located within.  Birds may indeed may have moved out, but where did they go?  Everything else within Xsquare miles is ultra mature hardwoods, with no food and no thermal cover, or in other words a desert as far as ruffed grouse are concerned.  

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16 hours ago, tut said:

IMO you can burn or you can timber Federal land, but you need some brood stock to build a population and I am not sure those birds are there.  This isn't Field of Dreams where if you build it they will come. 

I am going to have to disagree with you here as well. Think gas lines, power lines, private property, gypsy moth damage, out of control wildfires, steep hillsides, reclaimed mines, etc,. In the grand scheme of things, we have no idea of the actual grouse population in any given area of decent size. I think there are birds to repopulate many areas on the GWNF but they have to have more/better habitat in the first place to even have a chance.  

 

I actually have a similar story too but in WV. A buddy and I spent 3 days camped in the WV high county two winters ago. We hunted some prime cover in the snow and for 2 days we didn't move a single grouse. Cut several tracks, but not a single bird seen. Talk about discouraging. We went back and had grouse camp there the following year and killed 8 birds in 3 days. Exact same covers and several of the walks were the exact same paths. 

 

Another - I was in Western VA this year camping in March. Never heard so many grouse drumming before in my life. I was shocked at how far away I could hear the drumming (we pursued several) and how frequent they drummed. Heard the first at 8:35 in the morning and they drummed off and on until close to dusk. I  went back and ran dogs there few weeks ago and didn't fly a single bird. If I didn't hear all the drumming from the spring then I may have been misled into thinking the area was void of birds too. But its not - we just didn't find them that day.

 

I have some training covers that are within 40 minutes or so of my house. I am in these covers fairly often and have some other buddies that are also in and around the area throughout the year. This is one of the benefits of living in one of Virginias better grouse counties IMO. I feel like I have a somewhat decent idea of the population here, but sometimes i'll still go weeks without moving a bird on my runs. 

 

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On 10/5/2020 at 8:19 PM, UplandVirginia said:

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking on google earth and gis to locate young forest habitat in VA and WV. Most of the prescribed burn sections do not look any different from the old growth in most National Forest land from google earth. 
 

Anyone have any thoughts on whether or not those burns are worth exploring with the canopies looking like they do? 

I agree that not all burns look the same on GE and can be very deceiving.  I pulled both of the following pics from the GWNF. The first shows a burn vs mature vs a cut. I have driven by this burn before and the habitat looks great. I have never run a dog through it and it was so gnarly I am not sure if human could get through it either. That's another benefit of clear cutting over prescribe fires are the trails it leaves. These trails typically offer great access for hunters, but also the food in the roads is crucial. I know there are grouse in this area, but I don't know about this burn specifically.

 

The second burn is probably the same one mentioned above from some of the other guys. It did not do chit for the grouse or cover. Just burned everything on the forest floor without opening canopy much at all. There were some hot spots through out that appear better than others, but over all I would not waste my time exploring it. Actually is about 20 min from my house and I have never run a dog through it. 

 

I think your best  bet would be to target specific cuts. Maybe find cuts that are close to some of the fires your looking at? 

 

Anyways hope this helps. Shoot me a PM with some of the specific fires you are eye balling and I might be able to give you more specifics on them if I am familiar and I'll fill you in on both of the ones shown below.   

 

 

burns.png

burns2.png

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Cooter Brown
1 hour ago, GraceinVA said:

I am going to have to disagree with you here as well. Think gas lines, power lines, private property, gypsy moth damage, out of control wildfires, steep hillsides, reclaimed mines, etc,. In the grand scheme of things, we have no idea of the actual grouse population in any given area of decent size. I think there are birds to repopulate many areas on the GWNF but they have to have more/better habitat in the first place to even have a chance.  

 

I actually have a similar story too but in WV. A buddy and I spent 3 days camped in the WV high county two winters ago. We hunted some prime cover in the snow and for 2 days we didn't move a single grouse. Cut several tracks, but not a single bird seen. Talk about discouraging. We went back and had grouse camp there the following year and killed 8 birds in 3 days. Exact same covers and several of the walks were the exact same paths. 

 

Another - I was in Western VA this year camping in March. Never heard so many grouse drumming before in my life. I was shocked at how far away I could hear the drumming (we pursued several) and how frequent they drummed. Heard the first at 8:35 in the morning and they drummed off and on until close to dusk. I  went back and ran dogs there few weeks ago and didn't fly a single bird. If I didn't hear all the drumming from the spring then I may have been misled into thinking the area was void of birds too. But its not - we just didn't find them that day.

 

I have some training covers that are within 40 minutes or so of my house. I am in these covers fairly often and have some other buddies that are also in and around the area throughout the year. This is one of the benefits of living in one of Virginias better grouse counties IMO. I feel like I have a somewhat decent idea of the population here, but sometimes i'll still go weeks without moving a bird on my runs. 

 

 

 

19 hours ago, tut said:

IMO you can burn or you can timber Federal land, but you need some brood stock to build a population and I am not sure those birds are there.  This isn't Field of Dreams where if you build it they will come.  I almost think in some ways they should just build great Woodcock habitat, because if you build it, they will come.  In other words try to concentrate your management where there is a water source and softer ground.  If there are any Grouse around they will certainly use that habitat as well.

My experience in the southern Apps leads me to agree with tut.  The fragmentation of habitat and the discrete nature of areas of disturbance with good nesting, brood/feeding cover, etc. is a huge part of the problem, maybe the biggest one at this point.

 

A cover/cut can have everything it needs, but if it's not in the dispersal range of grouse in other covers it's not going to have grouse.  Unfortunately that describes a huge percentage of the Forests I hunt, even places where cutting is going on.  In many places there are so few birds that I wonder if there is any pressure to disperse anyway, even in marginal cover.

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2 hours ago, Cooter Brown said:

 

 

My experience in the southern Apps leads me to agree with tut.  The fragmentation of habitat and the discrete nature of areas of disturbance with good nesting, brood/feeding cover, etc. is a huge part of the problem, maybe the biggest one at this point.

 

A cover/cut can have everything it needs, but if it's not in the dispersal range of grouse in other covers it's not going to have grouse.  Unfortunately that describes a huge percentage of the Forests I hunt, even places where cutting is going on.  In many places there are so few birds that I wonder if there is any pressure to disperse anyway, even in marginal cover.

 

  What it sounds like you all are seeing/saying/having, is that you may have what are called "Island" populations.  This means a certain area hold birds but nothing surrounding it.  This is caused by several factors but is driven by overall habitat...  all the food, water, various cover types.  Yea, ya got birds there but as breeding is controlled by the constraints of the "island" your genetics are going to go down.  We have seen this in quail and to some extent pheasants.

 

The desired habitats have to be extended. All of the components.....  Once that is done and there are enough birds to cause them to move out beyond the fringes of what they formally knew your population will/should/may increase.  I am out of sync with what are currently considered maximum density on Grouse so excuse me for not presenting those numbers as they would effect the outer movement of the birds as they seek new territory.

 

JMHO 

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Cooter Brown
38 minutes ago, Huntschool said:

 

  What it sounds like you all are seeing/saying/having, is that you may have what are called "Island" populations.  This means a certain area hold birds but nothing surrounding it.  This is caused by several factors but is driven by overall habitat...  all the food, water, various cover types.  Yea, ya got birds there but as breeding is controlled by the constraints of the "island" your genetics are going to go down.  We have seen this in quail and to some extent pheasants.

 

The desired habitats have to be extended. All of the components.....  Once that is done and there are enough birds to cause them to move out beyond the fringes of what they formally knew your population will/should/may increase.  I am out of sync with what are currently considered maximum density on Grouse so excuse me for not presenting those numbers as they would effect the outer movement of the birds as they seek new territory.

 

JMHO 

That's a fair assessment.  Essentially what happens is that a nice piece of habitat will be surrounded by a lot of very mature forest with clean understory.  And that piece of habitat is too far from other good habitat that might hold birds for the birds to make the move.

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5 hours ago, Cooter Brown said:

A cover/cut can have everything it needs, but if it's not in the dispersal range of grouse in other covers it's not going to have grouse.  Unfortunately that describes a huge percentage of the Forests I hunt, even places where cutting is going on.  In many places there are so few birds that I wonder if there is any pressure to disperse anyway, even in marginal cover.

Yea that sucks. 
 

My experience (opinion?) is based on Western VA and WV only. I don’t know anything about GA and really don’t have experience with any other regions of the Southern Apps. Don’t typically respond to these threads anymore because of that. The OP and I are pretty close in proximity. We don’t have it “good”, but sounds like we could have a lot worse. 

 

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Cooter Brown
9 minutes ago, GraceinVA said:

Yea that sucks. 
 

My experience (opinion?) is based on Western VA and WV only. I don’t know anything about GA and really don’t have experience with any other regions of the Southern Apps. Don’t typically respond to these threads anymore because of that. The OP and I are pretty close in proximity. We don’t have it “good”, but sounds like we could have a lot worse. 

 

You should definitely contribute to the threads.  The differences between regions can tell us something.  The effectiveness and philosophy of the personnel on each district in each Forest is critically important.

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11 hours ago, vabirddog said:

I believe it is. I find birds wherever there is suitable habitat. They are surviving at a scattered level. They could thrive if given suitable brood habitat on an ongoing basis. 
 

This

 

It’s important for us to remember the difference between “surviving” and “thriving”. No one is talking about thriving. But like vabirddog says they are just “surviving at scattered level”. For some regions or states that “scatteredness” may be a miles apart, while others sound like it could be hundreds of miles. 
 

I just read on RGS website a male can go 1.8 to 4.5 miles while females have been known to go 15 miles from their brood site. Obvious that is dependent on SO many things but that is still a pretty good distance. That would connect some good stuff in my haunts. Do it year after year after year for another 10-20 years and maybe?? 
 

Stupid huh. We all know that chit ain’t happening. 

7AA79188-3E9B-4B44-B7B5-8A3D33E5BC5F.jpeg

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26 minutes ago, Cooter Brown said:

The differences between regions can tell us something.  The effectiveness and philosophy of the personnel on each district in each Forest is critically important.

This. Especially the second part. 
 

I dunno about anyone else but I am excited about Ordiway working for WV now. I think she has a good head start and some workable knowledge of the area. But  I hope to hell she doesn’t go after the late season. 

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