Grouse flush rates were above average in Pennsylvania based on the strength of good hunting in the northern counties. This is the third consecutive year for a good report. All three southern regions were below the long term average, while the northern regions were all above the long term average, those averages based on a study from 1985 to the present.
Each year the Pennsylvania Game Commission issues a report to cooperators in a grouse and woodcock hunting survey. This report is based on data supplied by the cooperators, and from other sources.
Last year cooperators flushed 1.40 grouse per hour, which is nearly the same as the previous two years. Good statewide figures are completely on the strength of northern regions, as flush rates declined in southern regions.
The best hunting by a wide margin is in the Northcentral Region and in the Northwest Region.
The northwest Region flush rate of 1.90 per hour is an improvement of 1 percent from the year before and is 16% above the long tern average.
The northcentral Region flush rate of 1.82 per hour is an improvement of 2 percent and is 21 percent above the long term average.
All of the other four regions were below the long tern average, 4 percent lower in the Northeast Region, 40 percent lower in the Southwest Region, 36% lower in the Southcentral Region, and 49 percent lower in the Southeast Region.
I was fortunate to have a good understanding of the changes which have taken place over more than a century because Ray Bimber, who was born in the 19th Century, took me on my first hunting experiences. We spent a lot of time sitting on fallen trees or convenient boulders while he related tales of hunting in bygone years. He told me that there were many more farms 100 years ago in Warren County. It was the same through much of Pennsylvania and other eastern states.
Disappearing now, there were numerous stone fences in Pennsylvania winding through the local forests, but what I remember seeing most was split rail fences. Those fences were made with American chestnut. They are almost all gone today not because they rotted, but because people recycled the valuable old chestnut for other purposes. Just the loss of the American chestnut changed forever upland game populations.
Farming was very difficult on the rocky hilltops of Pennsylvania. Very few of the old farms remain. When I was a kid there were many still in a state of early regeneration, and that kind of habitat was ideal for grouse, woodcock, and rabbits. It was not have been unusual for us to flush a couple dozen grouse, jump numerous rabbits, and if we hunted in the right places flush several woodcock in a morning.
The last great grouse hunting I remember was in the early 1970s, soon after
I got out of the Army. Little did I realize then that an era of small game hunting was quickly winding down.
Today the best places for grouse hunting that I am aware of are areas where timber was recently harvested. This is the reason the better flush rates in northern regions.
Foresters and surveyors who participated in the Summer Grouse Sighting Survey reported seeing 25 percent more grouse this year than last year, so Ian Gregg, Game Bird Section Supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, is predicting improved grouse hunting this fall.
Of course overall grouse numbers do not even approach what they were when there was much more good grouse habitat. But worrying about the 'good old days' is a lame excuse for sitting at home on your fat behind. If you find the right places in the northern counties, this might be the best year for grouse hunting in the past several years.
The outlook for woodcock hunting is not as bright. Woodcock habitat loss has been severe and this trend is not likely to change. So bad is it that only about 7,000 people hunted woodcock last year in Pennsylvania.
The average flush rate was 1.01 percent for cooperator woodcock hunters, uncomfortably low when it is considered that cooperators tend to be more serious woodcock hunters.
Warren County received 100 pheasants, 40 cocks and 60 hens, for the youth pheasant hunt this fall. Preseason stocking consisted of 250 cocks. For the first on-season stocking we get 340 birds, 120 cocks and 220 hens. The second in-season stocking is 120 cocks. There will be no late season stocking in this county.