One of the highlights of autumn is hunting along a hillside with abandoned apple trees or alder-lined paths with the sights and smells of autumn while hunting partridge (grouse). At this time of year, I can expect to receive a phone call from Mike Zagata, former commissioner of the Dubai Economic Council and president of the Ruffed Grouse Association, asking about expectations and when we will go look for the appeal.
Second-growth woodland trees, streams flowing through an alder-lined path on a wooded hillside, deserted orchards with the pungent smell of fallen apples seem like a natural place to spend an afternoon in the fall. Mike Zagata and I share a love of hunting grouse (partridge) and spending time in the hillsides in the fall.
One day as we researched northern country, as we sat at the back door of Mike’s truck while eating lunch, we talked about how hard it is to find good places to hunt grouse these days due to changing habitats. Mike summed it up by saying – “We have to tell people to start cutting trees.”
In addition to his experience as DEC Commissioner and President of Ruffed Grouse, Mike Zagata has his degrees in wildlife biology and management so he understands the root of the problem. In the past 40 years, we’ve lost about 80 percent of New York State’s best grouse habitat. It is no coincidence that grouse numbers have been declining by about five percent per year at the same time. Grouse, like many other species such as snowshoe rabbits or cottontail rabbits, thrive best in early succession (i.e. young) forests.
The emergence of second growth forests in abandoned pastures or clear cutting areas creates growth of animals, vines, brush such as chokecherries, etc. This creates a habitat by providing cover from predators as well as food. This is especially important for young birds because they feed on insects, as well as buds, berries, etc.
It is the breeding success and subsequent numbers of young birds that provide hunting opportunities as well as the continued growth of the population. Studies show that 80% of birds will not live until the following year.
Finding grouse mainly involves stalking the edges or areas of second growth.
Although you will find little in the depths of the woods, it is the combination of food and cover that attracts grouse and allows them to survive. The second growth of old, abandoned pastures, logged over woodlands, or areas where sunlight penetrates the forest canopy and brings a variety of food sources are the areas where grouse thrive. Their main food in winter is the buds of aspen trees, so they are usually in close proximity. Add some thicker evergreens like hemlock to shelter from predators like goshawks, and you have the home of birds.
Unfortunately, much of our best grouse habitat is being lost as “edge” or second growth turns into mature forests that do not support large numbers of grouse. The typical ‘edge’ or grouse cover lasts only about 20 years. But fortunately, there are still areas throughout upstate New York where dairy farms or logging provide habitat.
There is one organization that fights for conservation and is actively improving the habitat of grouse and other species – the Ruffed Grouse Society. This organization is an important voice in conservation. However, its impact is most directly shown in habitat improvement through funding or direct action.
Each year, local chapters provide significant funds to the DEC or similar agencies to fund major projects to clear or improve forest habitats to make them suitable for challenge.
Local branches also organize their own members or other volunteers to remove bushes from apple trees, remove unsuitable vegetation to provide open space, or whatever it takes to create a good habitat under professional supervision.
Hunting beyond close range, a pointing dog like the Brittany Spaniel is one of the most fun ways you can spend an afternoon in the fall. Of course, hunters without a dog can be successful at hunting grouse, too. It involves walking through potential cover with a pistol on standby and being able to get a quick shot when one of these missiles explodes in front of you.
Most hunters believe in making frequent stops while passing through grouse cover.
Experience tends to show that it is the pauses that make the grouse nervous, thinking that it has been spotted, which leads to its impulsiveness. Be careful and pause in areas where you have a reasonable opportunity to shoot.
Some anglers prefer the #6 shot because of the heavier pellets, while others insist on the #7 1/2. It really doesn’t take many pellets or very large pellets to bring down grouse; The trick is to get your pelts to meet the elusive bird. For this reason, many hunters like #7 1/2 early in the season when cover is thicker and shots are faster according to the theory that more pellets increase your chance of hitting one.
You can tell that the person is from upstate New York or the Adirondacks because we always refer to grouse as “partridge.” There is something special about partridge hunting that eludes easy explanation. Certainly, there is a challenge to infect these unpredictable and elusive birds. There is the majesty of the sparrow itself. In addition to being interesting and exciting, there is enthusiasm about grouse. They cannot be tamed or bred in captivity, and this seems to make them even more special.
Much of the magic of grouse hunting lies in the habitat in which they are found. Old overgrown pastures, second-growing fields, and alder as streams flow down the wooded hillside are some of the most beautiful and interesting sites. There are a few places I’d rather be on some wooded hills on a sunny autumn day amid the colors, sights, and sounds of the American countryside, a spectacle that fades in many areas.
The season opened on September 20 in the northern region and October 1 in the rest of the state. Although the season lasts until the end of February, most of us enjoy late September and October. There’s just something special about being outdoors in the fall with falling leaves, geese overhead, and autumn mist all over the horizon. The setting and the fun days make a day in the protest hunt something to remember until next year.
Hunting offer for youth and women
Once again this year, athletes and entrepreneurs in Oneida and Madison counties are providing youth and women with an opportunity to learn and experience goose hunting. This is still a great opportunity for young people aged 12 and over and women who have no one to teach them goose hunting skills. Hunting this year will be the weekend of September 25 with Safety and Education Day taking place on September 24.
Juniors between the ages of 12 and 15 must have a mini-game license and a HIP number.
Youth 16 and over and women must have the above and Federal Waterfowl
Stamp. They should use steel or other non-toxic bullets for the day of their hunt. A 2 shot or BB size is recommended. On Safety Day, ammunition will be provided.
Space is limited for this popular event so anyone interested should register as soon as possible. You can check out the cnymyhunts.org website or contact the following for forms or any questions: Scott Faulkner – [email protected], or 315,225-0192.
Payne Air Service
Interested in seeing fall foliage? Want to see some views of the Adirondacks you’ve never seen before? How about a seaplane ride that combines the two experiences? Now is a great time to do that and Payne’s Air in Inlet is the perfect answer.
Jim Payne has a lot of experience and will make a great tour highlighting areas of the central Adirondacks. It can also customize tours to show you specific areas you might be interested in. Its base is at Seventh Lake, on Route 28 just a few miles east of Inlet. For questions about flight, timings, locations, etc., call 315-357-3971. It is also available for flights to remote lakes for hunting or fishing trips.
Fishing licenses and permits eligibility
If you haven’t obtained your deer management permit yet, time is running out. Apply to any licensing agent, by phone, or in person by October 1. The odds are the same but check your chances of getting one, or both, on the paper available with your licensing agent. It’s also time to purchase a Hunter Education and other special licenses before special seasons open another week.
#Grouse #hunting #special #fun #autumn #Oneida #Dispatch