Effects of Hunting on Ruffed Grouse Populations in Small Woodlots in Ashe and Alleghany Counties, North Carolina

Nine woodlots were selected in Ashe and Alleghany counties, North Carolina, to study grouse populations from 1969 to 1972 relative to the effects of hunting pressure in habitat characteristic of small woodlots. The nine study areas were divided equally into the categories of control, regulated and unregulated hunting areas. Pre-hunting season and post-hunting season population levels were estimated by flushing censuses. Numbers of flushes and kills during bi-weekly hunting on the three regulated areas were recorded. Bi-weekly bird dog hunting on the regulated hunting areas yielded hunter hours per kill of 31.5,28.0 and 63.0+ respectively for the 1969-1971 hunting seasons. Personal contacts with landowners and sportsmen were used to estimate the kill on the unregulated hunting areas. The three year average recruitment rates from post-season to following pre-season periods on control, regulated and unregulated hunting areas were 57.5 percent, 68.8 percent and 37.5 percent respectively. The results of the three year study indicate that hunting pressure has no detectable adverse effect on ruffed grouse populations in small woodlots from fall to fall. This conclusion is supported by the high number of hunter hours per kill which demonstrates a low vulnerability of grouse to hunting pressure. Observed avoidance movement patterns of grouse in response to flushing and gunning pressure and high population recruitment rates also indicate the ability of grouse to cope with heavy hunting pressures.

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