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Thread: Question on early season grouse, please respond

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    Member sameyer's Avatar
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    Default Question on early season grouse, please respond

    Earlier this year there was a fair amount of discussion about the early taking of grouse along the road system, basically that the young birds were being killed off at the start of the season, leaving few for those coming along later in the year when the birds are full grown.
    I was fairly unsympathetic to the road hunters and took the position of “get off the road” there is plenty of birds. At the same time, for selfish reasons, (getting my setters out hunting as early as possible) I did not want the season to open later in the year. I don’t take more than one bird out of a covey early in the year so I was able to rationalize the little impact I may have.
    Having had some time to mull this over in my mind, and as often happens, I have had some different thoughts. As I have stated in the past, we may have differences but we are all hunters and at no time in history do we need hunters as badly to maintain this life we so enjoy. So if that means new hunters (not necessarily kids) getting out along the road system and having success, which brings them into the fold, then that is a good thing. In order to promote those kind of successes it seems like it would be beneficial to lessen the impact on the road system early in the season.
    With that, I am considering putting to the F&G Advisory Committee I am on, a proposal to change the regulations. The regulations for Spruce grouse within the road system would change to read: August 10th – September 10th , 2 Spruce grouse per day, four in possession. September 10th – March 31st, five Spruce grouse per day, ten in possession. Part of the problem would be identifying what “road system” means. A mile from the road, five miles from the road; open to suggestions? What I do not want to do is impact Alaskans who reside in remote areas and utilize Spruce grouse as a staple food source. On the other hand, I have been out in the field virtually every day since season started and in my travels I have witnessed groups who are systematically going into areas and killing off the birds and it has had an impact. But it is legal under the present regulations.
    I have not included ptarmigan as the difficulty to reach their habitat precludes any real impact no matter what time of year, at least in south central Alaska.
    I would appreciate an honest opinion and would like to hear other suggestions. I do not want to simply poll this as the more information that can be compiled the better the chances of making a positive change. And besides, it is good to hear from other upland hunters and how they feel.

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    I understand the desire to get out with your dogs and the desire by others to take a bird or two while hunting big game.

    I believe the regulation change should read "2 grouse per day - 4 in possession" and not just limit the bird species to only "spruce" grouse. Sharpies tend to be more a flock bird in all cases and ruffed grouse family groups as with spruce grouse tend to break up later in the season. Your season dates seem appropriate. Run those by the area biologists in Kenai, Mat-Su, Glennallen, etc. You might be surprised what they think. It will be interesting to hear other suggestions.

    It takes getting out in the field like you are (and I used to) several times a week from August through November to see the impact that repeated road hunting has on the numbers of birds adjacent to the road system.

    The idea that there is an endless supply of grouse willing and able to "fill in the habitat" as birds are taken along the road corridor is pure fallacy. Trying to compare what happens in this system with other states is comparing apples with carrots.

    Family groups of grouse or flocks (several family groups??) of ptarmigan are gone when the group or flock is shot out. MAYBE more birds will move in to an area early in the season but not likely until after the family groups (broods) break up during the natural fall dispersal. During dispersal (the crazy flights of yore?) young birds look for their own home range or change territories for other reasons. In the Hay Days of grouse numbers back east large flocks of grouse dispersed all over the country side in reportedly fairly large numbers. The habitat in those days was prime consisting of small farms, family farms, abandoned farms, old burns - some of them were huge - the kind of complete habitat fragmentation where ruffed grouse thrive. No so anymore. Its the habitat....

    Take prime, road side, well fragmented habitat, shoot off as many grouse out of family groups as one can (it's legal so it's ok) and expect other grouse from family groups that havent broke up yet to just fill in the vacant spots? Not hardly. Dispersal later in September - October from areas of poorer habitat will mean fewer grouse more thinnly distributed over their entire range.

    Spruce grouse would hopefully be a more ready supply because they like a less disturbed habitat. BUT there is still the issue of family group (brood) dispersal.

    Ptarmigan are more prone to over harvest than forest grouse (not less). The average bird dog hunter (or lets take one with several dogs AND a market gunner mentality) won't begin to harvest as many ptarmigan as those on a snowmobile at key times of the year (packed snow) - jump the flock, and keep chasing the singles. The incidental take then is quite high and many people target ptarmigan with snowmobiles as a means and method.

    Reducing the bag limit and more enforcement is the only way to improve the situation. If there is not more enforcement, I don't care what you do with the bag limit. Shortening the season will only limit you and I.

    Without more enforcement those that don't care, won't care.

    I like your season suggestions and your self imposed limits. You are a conservationist.

    I'm tired of the sign-shooting, litter bugging (pick up your targets for **** sake!), game hogging, wanna-bees that will shoot the last bird or litter the last vacant lot just to get THEIRS....

    Your care for the actual bush, off-road life style, is quite appropriate IMO.

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    I would thin of it more appropriate to only be able to shoot 2 grouse a day on the road system for the whole season. because most of the flocks I see only have 3-6 birds in it and if you take, say 4 of your five birds, you just pretty much whipped out the group.

    as for the road system, I think it should be any state BUILT (not maintained) road. including all emergence access roads and such. and it should be 1 mile I think, cause that will limit the take on the beginning of 4 wheeler trails, there fore, giving the grouse a chance to recuperate along the roads.
    Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

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    You're talking about a very small fraction of 1% of the bird population that is being affected by road hunting. If there are enough birds to support 5/day and 10/possession, then that should be the regulation. When we're talking about spruce grouse, it's probably true that hunting causes local populations to disappear... they do die when shot, after all. But to think that there aren't plenty of other birds out in the woods is hooey. I would assume that first-year mortality is fairly high in grouse, so as long as enough make it through the winter to lay eggs again, it is of little consequence how many young of the year birds are shot 10 yards from the gravel.

    Ptarmigan fly around randomly and don't necessarily key on road edges, and ruffed grouse are hard to find and hit, even if they are near the road... so this is basically only going to affect spruce grouse hunting. Do we really need another regulation to deal with spruce grouse?
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    Last fall we had a new guy move into our rural subdivision. By September he had harvested 20+ grouse just from the subdivision area. He knocked the local population down to near zero and even this fall the population has not rebounded fully.
    Hopefully the lack of birds this year will drive home the point to him about sustainable harvest.

    I'll go for the hail mary:

    Make it illegal to harvest a grouse with a firearm within 1/4 mile of a roadway. Paved or gravel but must be a public and platted road. Then leave the season and bag limits as they are. If you want to shoot birds from a road right of way, you have to use a bow. Cut down on the redneck "grouse patrol" and the shooting towards rural homes. Do I sound biased?

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    For real??? I would argue that an exclusionary clause for "subsistance grouse hunting" in remote areas is uneeded and unenforceable...where's the line on the map that determines what is remote and what isn't? Same argument for defining "the road system". The last thing we need to do is make the regulations even more convoluted and confusing than they already are...all in the interest of attracting more hunters? I'm not sure how that works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    You're talking about a very small fraction of 1% of the bird population that is being affected by road hunting. If there are enough birds to support 5/day and 10/possession, then that should be the regulation. When we're talking about spruce grouse, it's probably true that hunting causes local populations to disappear... they do die when shot, after all. But to think that there aren't plenty of other birds out in the woods is hooey. I would assume that first-year mortality is fairly high in grouse, so as long as enough make it through the winter to lay eggs again, it is of little consequence how many young of the year birds are shot 10 yards from the gravel.

    Ptarmigan fly around randomly and don't necessarily key on road edges, and ruffed grouse are hard to find and hit, even if they are near the road... so this is basically only going to affect spruce grouse hunting. Do we really need another regulation to deal with spruce grouse?
    No one, At least that I am aware of, said there are not plenty of grouse. You missed the point, noted.

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    Member sameyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frostbitten View Post
    For real??? I would argue that an exclusionary clause for "subsistance grouse hunting" in remote areas is uneeded and unenforceable...where's the line on the map that determines what is remote and what isn't? Same argument for defining "the road system". The last thing we need to do is make the regulations even more convoluted and confusing than they already are...all in the interest of attracting more hunters? I'm not sure how that works.
    Well since I never mentioned "subsistence grouse hunting," I wouldn't comment on that. And yes, defining the "road system" is problematic, why the question was asked. Regulations are convoluted and confusing if you do not take the time to actually read them, a problem that is never going to go away. Attracting new hunters is perhaps the double edged sword that we are not sure what to do with. More hunters means more competition but it also means a base of support that we can ill afford to allow to dwindle. Reality is, this makes absolutly no difference to me and what I take home at the end of the day. But like it or not, the Alaska take, take, take mentaility won't last forever. Enforcement is always going to be an issue, basically regulations apply to those willing to abideby them, once in a while the rest get caught, no different than any other regulation out there. Every comment is good, all provide insite that, with enough thought and foresight may see a better future for hunters in this state.

  9. #9
    Member sameyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaskan Woodsman View Post
    I understand the desire to get out with your dogs and the desire by others to take a bird or two while hunting big game.

    I believe the regulation change should read "2 grouse per day - 4 in possession" and not just limit the bird species to only "spruce" grouse. Sharpies tend to be more a flock bird in all cases and ruffed grouse family groups as with spruce grouse tend to break up later in the season. Your season dates seem appropriate. Run those by the area biologists in Kenai, Mat-Su, Glennallen, etc. You might be surprised what they think. It will be interesting to hear other suggestions.

    It takes getting out in the field like you are (and I used to) several times a week from August through November to see the impact that repeated road hunting has on the numbers of birds adjacent to the road system.

    The idea that there is an endless supply of grouse willing and able to "fill in the habitat" as birds are taken along the road corridor is pure fallacy. Trying to compare what happens in this system with other states is comparing apples with carrots.

    Family groups of grouse or flocks (several family groups??) of ptarmigan are gone when the group or flock is shot out. MAYBE more birds will move in to an area early in the season but not likely until after the family groups (broods) break up during the natural fall dispersal. During dispersal (the crazy flights of yore?) young birds look for their own home range or change territories for other reasons. In the Hay Days of grouse numbers back east large flocks of grouse dispersed all over the country side in reportedly fairly large numbers. The habitat in those days was prime consisting of small farms, family farms, abandoned farms, old burns - some of them were huge - the kind of complete habitat fragmentation where ruffed grouse thrive. No so anymore. Its the habitat....

    Take prime, road side, well fragmented habitat, shoot off as many grouse out of family groups as one can (it's legal so it's ok) and expect other grouse from family groups that havent broke up yet to just fill in the vacant spots? Not hardly. Dispersal later in September - October from areas of poorer habitat will mean fewer grouse more thinnly distributed over their entire range.

    Spruce grouse would hopefully be a more ready supply because they like a less disturbed habitat. BUT there is still the issue of family group (brood) dispersal.

    Ptarmigan are more prone to over harvest than forest grouse (not less). The average bird dog hunter (or lets take one with several dogs AND a market gunner mentality) won't begin to harvest as many ptarmigan as those on a snowmobile at key times of the year (packed snow) - jump the flock, and keep chasing the singles. The incidental take then is quite high and many people target ptarmigan with snowmobiles as a means and method.

    Reducing the bag limit and more enforcement is the only way to improve the situation. If there is not more enforcement, I don't care what you do with the bag limit. Shortening the season will only limit you and I.

    Without more enforcement those that don't care, won't care.

    I like your season suggestions and your self imposed limits. You are a conservationist.

    I'm tired of the sign-shooting, litter bugging (pick up your targets for **** sake!), game hogging, wanna-bees that will shoot the last bird or litter the last vacant lot just to get THEIRS....

    Your care for the actual bush, off-road life style, is quite appropriate IMO.
    Thank you for your well thought out comments. This is exactly why I put this out there, lots of folks with lots of time in the field can contribute to the line of reason presented and in the end, perhaps come up with some workable changes that will enhance our hunting into the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkwarthog View Post
    Last fall we had a new guy move into our rural subdivision. By September he had harvested 20+ grouse just from the subdivision area. He knocked the local population down to near zero and even this fall the population has not rebounded fully.
    Hopefully the lack of birds this year will drive home the point to him about sustainable harvest.

    I'll go for the hail mary:

    Make it illegal to harvest a grouse with a firearm within 1/4 mile of a roadway. Paved or gravel but must be a public and platted road. Then leave the season and bag limits as they are. If you want to shoot birds from a road right of way, you have to use a bow. Cut down on the redneck "grouse patrol" and the shooting towards rural homes. Do I sound biased?
    Biased isn't always a bad thing. I would absolutely support a 1/4 mile rule and you are right, would solve most of the troubles we have. Do you think it could ever pass?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FurFishGame View Post
    I would thin of it more appropriate to only be able to shoot 2 grouse a day on the road system for the whole season. because most of the flocks I see only have 3-6 birds in it and if you take, say 4 of your five birds, you just pretty much whipped out the group.

    as for the road system, I think it should be any state BUILT (not maintained) road. including all emergence access roads and such. and it should be 1 mile I think, cause that will limit the take on the beginning of 4 wheeler trails, there fore, giving the grouse a chance to recuperate along the roads.
    No doubt you are right, taking out the majority of a covey does essentially take out the group, the singles encountered are often left over from just such an event. I would not have any problem with 2 a day on the road system, just seems like in order to get some positive change you have to go also meet in the middle to some degree. THank you for posting.

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    Well, I was planning on staying out of this one, but I guess I have to say a few things. But just a few points to consider.

    I'm as much, or more a champion of grouse and ptarmigan as anyone in Alaska. I've studied these birds and worked hard in championing their cause for some 41 years now. One might think I did it all for selfish reasons because I am indeed a frequent predator of grouse and ptarmigan, but it's not that easy. I really do care about them and practice what I think is a proper form of conservation of these fine gamebirds and their habitat, but I also kill them and eat them - regularly.

    I've engaged in this sort of debate many times over the decades, and I've learned something from others most of the time. I'm constantly looking within to make sure I'm on the right course, doing the right thing. The only time I ever lobbied to change a daily limit was when ADF&G was planning on closing spring ptarmigan hunting in unit 20 (the Fairbanks road system) because of heavy hunting pressure on birds about to enter the breeding season. Some hunters were routinely taking large limits of birds at this delicate and crucial time of year and it was bound to adversely affect the population dynamics. Desperate to not lose the opportunity to hunt my dogs during those long and warming spring days in the high country I suggested limiting the take, that in so doing only those who were passionate about hunting birds would go to all the effort to strap on snowshoes and sweat off winter weight in pursuit of just a few birds. The spring season remains open but the daily limit dropped to 5 birds per day, and I'm a happy camper. But I didn't really feel comfortable in taking that stance.

    But I do think we need to do something to raise hunters' awareness of potential problems and somehow convince them to limit their take and not be so concerned about taking a limit. Not an easy task for most would say "if the law allows taking 20 ptarmigan a day then I'm gonna do it!" Truth is, that hunter will take as many birds as he pleases regardless of the law.

    This is a tough topic to discuss over the internet and might be better done around a table somewhere.

    I'm afraid I cannot, and will not, support a 2 bird daily limit, or no shooting within a 1/4 mile of a road. I have many reasons for coming to this position. Too many and too complex to spell out here on the net.

    If your underlying cause is to get more people involved in hunting, and you don't want them going out and blasting grouse along the roads and out of a truck window, or speeding about the high country on some crotch rocket and ground sluicing one ptarmigan after another as they chivvy them around the countryside at 100 milles an hour, then I think you are going about it in the wrong way. I'd suggest finding a way to contact folks interested in learning to hunt and to become a conservationist along the way. As often as possible I introduce such new hunters to bird hunting, and hunting ethics. With all of us doing this sort of thing we will make a difference. It has enriched my life and I personally feel a need to pass on what I know and how I do it, to others.


    That's the short of it from my end.


    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim McCann View Post
    I'd suggest finding a way to contact folks interested in learning to hunt and to become a conservationist along the way. As often as possible I introduce such new hunters to bird hunting, and hunting ethics. With all of us doing this sort of thing we will make a difference. It has enriched my life and I personally feel a need to pass on what I know and how I do it, to others.
    Suggesting that Sameyer take people hunting and become a conservationist is a little bit late - I have a difficult time thinking of someone who has personally done more for less credit. Let me know if you would like the list - he would never make it out.

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    Member MaximumPenetration's Avatar
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    You guys realize if the law becomes 1/4 mile off the road, troopers will no longer be able to entrap people with the bird mount in the middle of the road. They'll never go for this!
    An unarmed man is subject, an armed man is a citizen.

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    "I've engaged in this sort of debate many times over the decades, and I've learned something from others most of the time. I'm constantly looking within to make sure I'm on the right course, doing the right thing. The only time I ever lobbied to change a daily limit was when ADF&G was planning on closing spring ptarmigan hunting in unit 20 (the Fairbanks road system) because of heavy hunting pressure on birds about to enter the breeding season. Some hunters were routinely taking large limits of birds at this delicate and crucial time of year and it was bound to adversely affect the population dynamics. Desperate to not lose the opportunity to hunt my dogs during those long and warming spring days in the high country I suggested limiting the take, that in so doing only those who were passionate about hunting birds would go to all the effort to strap on snowshoes and sweat off winter weight in pursuit of just a few birds. The spring season remains open but the daily limit dropped to 5 birds per day, and I'm a happy camper. But I didn't really feel comfortable in taking that stance.

    But I do think we need to do something to raise hunters' awareness of potential problems and somehow convince them to limit their take and not be so concerned about taking a limit. Not an easy task for most would say "if the law allows taking 20 ptarmigan a day then I'm gonna do it!" Truth is, that hunter will take as many birds as he pleases regardless of the law."


    Precisely why this was posted, no one person has all, or perhaps any of the answers. And this may be something that may be area and situationla specific. There is little doubt that the bird hunting/populations are much better in the interior than in south central and access is much more difficult for bird hunters on the Kenai Peninsula. When I came to the Kenai in 1971, goat season started on August 10th, closed on December 31st, limit was two goats. Dall sheep was open hunting, 3/4 curl was legal. Moose season opened on August 20th and closed on September 20th, then again November 1st to November 20th. We always waited for what back then seemed like the inevitable Halloween snowfall. I remember driving the roads back then, there were few people out and even fewer bird hunters, a drive past spruce grouse might flush them, might not, but you could look in your rearview mirror and watch them land in your path behind you. The point being of course, is times change and there is no question it has changed here.

    My own hunting is not at issue here, I take plenty of birds but I am a dedicated hunter who hunts as much for the dogs and the outing as anything but I am concerned for the future of upland hunting here. Which is why these questions are posed on this forum. It is a way to get a very large cross-section of hunter's experience, comments, and concerns in one place and it also puts out information that others may not be aware of it.

    I will say as to the law and people taking what they want, this is true of all laws, and yet we still have them and for the most part they work. Decent folks obey laws, the rest never will and we all know that.


    I appreciate all of the comments and look forward to other's thoughts on this issue.
    Last edited by sameyer; 10-31-2011 at 08:36. Reason: forgot something

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaximumPenetration View Post
    You guys realize if the law becomes 1/4 mile off the road, troopers will no longer be able to entrap people with the bird mount in the middle of the road. They'll never go for this!
    Now that is some funny *&^%!

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    While there are probably plenty of exceptions that you can point out for me, I have to think small game laws are written with the population of the species in mind and not the presence of a road - hence the difference in bag limits between Unit 7 and Unit 20. Besides, there is already a regulation dealing with roads and it is clear - don't shoot on or across the road. To me, a reduction in the bag limit during any portion of the season suggests a population in need of greater than normal protection... like in the instance Mr. McCann described. Drawing a buffer along the road system limits opportunity for everyone - not only the "road hunters," but also people who like to go often but not far (like me). Honestly, there's plenty of reason to stay near the road anyway, since you know the grouse and hares are going to be keying on the edge habitat - even if they are not on the road proper, they're probably not too far back into the woods.
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by sameyer View Post
    I would absolutely support a 1/4 mile rule.
    I was under the impression that you supported road hunting as an educational tool for beginner hunters.

    So I am curious, when recommending a smaller bag limit do you support road hunting or not?

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    Member sameyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    While there are probably plenty of exceptions that you can point out for me, I have to think small game laws are written with the population of the species in mind and not the presence of a road - hence the difference in bag limits between Unit 7 and Unit 20. Besides, there is already a regulation dealing with roads and it is clear - don't shoot on or across the road. To me, a reduction in the bag limit during any portion of the season suggests a population in need of greater than normal protection... like in the instance Mr. McCann described. Drawing a buffer along the road system limits opportunity for everyone - not only the "road hunters," but also people who like to go often but not far (like me). Honestly, there's plenty of reason to stay near the road anyway, since you know the grouse and hares are going to be keying on the edge habitat - even if they are not on the road proper, they're probably not too far back into the woods.
    Thanks for your response. I absolutely agree that regulations are for the totality of a species, with some geographical significance. Which may be the case here. I do not think and never stated that spruce grouse as a population are in danger here.
    There was a time here when hunting near roads and trails, as in working parallel to them 50 yards or so in was a very productive method and like you I used it a lot. That has changed here and areas that are productive in that regard have become fewer and fewer. Now it is more like a mile or so off the road before one starts getting into many birds and as you well know, you have to cover a lot of ground to find those pockets. Its tough hunting that I enjoy very much but it is not something you are going to do with your 8 year-old neighbor or someone who has never hunted before. Another post made a smart@$^ comment about my supporting road hunting. Which is of course not true but the reality is, I would bet that 90% or more hunters were exposed to hunting by driving (that would include snowmachines/ATVs), to areas that had close access to the game. Exactly why the otherwise, closed to hunting, Skilak Wildlife Viewing area is open to youth hunters for weekends in November and December. I have never advocated “road hunting” but do advocate reasonable access and reasonable chance of success for youth and new hunters, and I’ll even say the average once or twice a year hunter.

    Any time one looks at change or even suggests it might be needed there is going to be objections and more important, lots of experience that can contribute to that change. Based on my own experience, which is just as extensive in the area I hunt as anyone on this forum, I see some things that should be looked at.
    Now that there is a dedicated small game biologist in Palmer, who by the way is an avid bird hunter, perhaps some of the questions we have about birds will get answered. I mean that in the broad sense. I and many of the people on this forum could write volumes of what they have observed in their arena, but that does not make any one of them absolute to the totality of what is really going on. Last year a fellow I know shot a couple of ruffs down here and he was astonished to find their crops had spruce needles in them. When he told me I was not astonished at all having found them in ruffs on many occasions. I guess the point being is I think it is valuable for hunters to talk about this stuff and compare notes, no one has all the answers especially when your experience is primarily confined to one area. I would hope to hear more and appreciate all who take the time to respond in any meaningful way. I understand that just because I could live with a two bird limit doesn’t mean anyone else does or should.
    It would be refreshing to have a discussion on this forum that did not include so much self-serving chest thumping and instead, have an objective look and comment accordingly. Thanks again for the comments.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tailwind View Post
    I was under the impression that you supported road hunting as an educational tool for beginner hunters.

    So I am curious, when recommending a smaller bag limit do you support road hunting or not?
    I'll assume you are being a smart*&% when you suggest I support road hunting. The issue with beginning hunters or youth or even the once or twice a year hunter is having a reasonable chance at success. If you take your 8 year old neighbor hunting you probably don't want to climb 2000 feet or walk two miles through the woods to find an opportunity to be successful. I may be wrong about that, I can only go by what I have personally seen and read on the subject; opportunities for success equals continued interest and continued interest hopefully develops into a true love for the life of the hunter where the successes in terms of bag limit are second to the experience. Its a process it seems virtually every hunter goes through.

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