ruffed grouse cycle?
I'd be interested in folks' thoughts on the extent to which the ruffed grouse population in Southcentral rises and falls in a cycle. In Wisconsin, where I grew up and still hunt grouse, the 10-year cycle is fairly distinct. It's hard to draw black and white rules, but in WI, the bottom years of the cycle will produce 10-20% of the flushes seen in the peak years. Sometimes it feels as if the birds are extinct and will never return. Yet, they do and it really is incredible to see how quickly they can rebound.
I started hunting SC in 2005 and had surprisingly good success that first year. The #s have dropped way off with each year worse than the one before. My reports are similar to others here with alot of miles for very few flushes.
I've read that 2005 is viewed as a peak year. Interested in views on this and what some of the old timers remember from the 2005 era going backwards.
Well, it's believed that your Southcentral ruffs haven't really developed a cycle yet. I find that hard to imagine. But the interior region is pretty much like anywhere else with a 7 to 10 year cycle. We've been at the bottom and should be climbing back out in the next couple of years. Trouble is, our high cycle years lately have not been as high as in decades past. I'll try and find my records on this new computer, but I believe it was 1998 when we had a really high year, but nothing reaching that level since. We have a major problem with an overly mature forest, but logging is still alive here in some portions of the interior and we have more than a fair share of wildfire each summer, so we are building some ruffed grouse habitat. Just not enough of it. Thankfully, there are always pocket areas of grouse that don't seem to have gotten the e-mail informing them to die off, and good hunting is always available out there somewhere. But it hurts when during a low in the cycle when someone takes an entire brood from an area early in the season. You probably won't see ruffs in that area again for a long time.