Lets here some good dog stories as well.
Can we attach pictures in this forum now?
I'm no wildlife biologist but I have seen grouse numbers just vaporize from what always was perfect habitat and at the top of the cycle booming grouse populations. . And they've never recovered. Meanwhile go west a bit into the bigger forests and the grouse numbers are much better. Winter,predators,everything should be the same.......the only difference IMHO I see is the turkeys. The grouse seemed to recover up in the UP also this year . Now bobcats could explain that alone (Michigan lets any small game tag harvest two....Wisconsin is almost shut down completely). But it seems to me turkeys are probably a bigger issue. Now whether that would be from predation or from a parasite or disease who knows? What I would like to see is some logic used in our WDNR ......more turkey tags and a shorter grouse season with a smaller bag. Let's start thinking outside the box and get back to managing for hunting opportunities not overprotecting predators at the expense of small game hunting. I have not been able to get a turkey tag in over ten years yet we seem to be overrun with them. I can take five grouse a day for four months.....and I havnt seen or flushed five grouse a year in many years.
I can agree on the predators out there. More cats, coyotes, and wolves than ever before. There are very few fisher out there. Not seen a weasel yet this year. Or, mink for that matter. A few owls, but rare to see a hawk. Doubt eagles, or osprey do much.
Dont see turkey as a problem up here though. Just not that many of them. Never seen a flock of 50 around here. Really can't say I have ever seen more than 15-20. That being in the fall, early winter. Come spring 5 or 6 is a lot. Until the young are hatched.
Also very rare to hear of anyone taking a limit of grouse in recent years.
With the fisher, crow, and raven numbers down. Something else more than the wet weather this year is going on beyond predators, and weather.
I hunt the UP and we heard lots of drumming early come the season few flushes we have great habitat and tje birds seemed to be on the upswing the last couple of years ,seemed we were at the low end of the cycle it was super wet up there and upon hearing of WNV that would make sense . I remember when it first hit around the chicago area there wasn't a crow to be found . Just my two cents and we have turkeys up there doesn't seem to affect them. As far as unlimited numbers don't know about anyone else but we count them in flushes not shot .
I'm no believer in global warming..........read Henry Schoolcrafts book on living with the Lake Superior Chippewa. The Chippewas made maple syrup at the exact same time as we still do...................that's proof from the 1830s, proof that would be a drastic indicator of a degree or two change. As far as the grouse population what I'm meaning on how we need to change the way we think is.........why when I see hundreds or maybe even thousands of turkeys every year I cannot get a tag year after year. When I see a few maybe 3-4 grouse a year we have a 4 month season with almost no limits ? It's a huge problem IMHO . Add in the fact that turkeys most likely prey upon grouse and it's even more disturbing . The grouse did seem to bounce back a smidge in the UP this year where bobcats are hunted and turkeys were nonexistent. It's time our WDNR biologists start using their heads and considering that for every species they overprotect another suffers the consequences.
Lets consider the turkey issue. In the long history of Wiscosin even before it became a state turkeys have little to no history in the northern half of the state. In my reading diaries of the early explorers in the 1600s no turkeys are evident until they travel to the southern areas of what is now Milwaukee and the far southern counties along the Illinois border. It was likely too cold and snowy for turkeys to survive further north.
Even 30 years ago turkeys were rare or nonexistant north of hwy8. climate change has now allowed the turkey to thrive in the most northern counties. And that same climate change has brought less snow cover, more frequent rains and sleet in the winter months. The snow itself has a whole different character than 30-40 yrs ago. Less deep, less insulating, more dense with moisture, harder, crustier. All that i wojuld say is less helpful to the survival of the ruffed grouse since it takes more effort to bury itself and stay warm, more effort to find food. Then consider that even in recent years february and march have very little snow and the woods is effectively a large skating rink. The grouse likely doesnt eat anything if all his food is encrusted with 1/2 inch of ice. Where does a grouse find shelter from the cold and predators when this happens? It doesnt find shelter. It becomes weak from cold and lack of food. Then its vulnerable to disease, starvation and predation. I think the turkey population is just another symptom of what is happening in the northern forest and not the direct impact on grouse populations. Anyone doing the spring turkey hunt can examine crops and see what theyre eating. I never heard anyone claiming they find grouse chicks in there.
No limits and a long season on grouse along with very very limited turkey hunts is a huge problem. It's obvious turkeys play a large part in keeping our grouse populations down. Why our so called professional biologists can't see that is mystifying. It's high time our wildlife biologists start using their heads about game management in Wisconsin. The same old same old is just not going to work with the perfect storm of predators ,disease ,parasites and turkeys ( which could be all three to a grouse).