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Hunters provide valuable information as citizen scientists

August 23, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

As hunting season rapidly approaches, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is asking hunters to gather information they see on a variety of game species.

The DEC is calling for bow hunters to participate in its annual Bow Hunter Sighting Log, which has been ongoing in certain areas for more than 20 years and statewide since 1998.

Using the data that hunters turn in, the DEC has been able to keep track of various wildlife populations over the years. The data helps determine population levels in each of the various Wildlife Management Units.

Last year, almost 4,000 bow hunters participated, logging about 186,000 hours in the field. During that time, the hunters reported seeing more than 120,000 deer, almost 48,000 turkeys and thousands of ruffed grouse, coyote, fox and raccoons.

Those who use a vertical bow or crossbow to hunt can participate in the bow hunter sighting log survey by emailing name, address, back tag number and hunting county.

Bow hunters aren't the only ones who can help determine the amount of wildlife that is present in the Adirondacks.

Due to the aging of Adirondack forests, woodcock and grouse populations have been declining. These game bird species prefer younger forests with more cover, and the DEC has found that the number of grouse and woodcocks has been going down steadily since the 1960s.

Last year, 239 hunters reported their sightings from more than 2,000 hunting trips. The trip reports provide more information than just the fact that someone saw a grouse at a particular spot. Much like spots analytics, the DEC has taken the information provided by these hunter-scientists and turned it into statistics that give a much deeper look into how the hunting season goes for the average hunter.

According to the DEC, in the 2016-2017 hunting season, it took the average grouse hunter just shy of an hour and a half to flush a single bird. Hunters typically took nine hunting trips averaging three hours each to flush a total of 18 grouse during the season.

Despite the time dedicated to hunting ruffed grouse, the average hunter only successfully shot one grouse last year and had to spend about 20 hours in the field to get that bird. DEC determined that hunters had less than a seven percent success rate, killing just one out of every 15 birds flushed.

Hunters in the North Country were a little better off than average, although northern New York only accounted for 22 percent of hunting statewide.

DEC, based on the hunter logs, determined that the Champlain Valley eco-zone had the highest flush rate for grouse, producing 0.96 grouse per hour hunted. The second highest flush rate in the state was the Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau region, with hunter flushing 0.91 grouse per hour.

For woodcock, 213 hunters took a total of more than 1,400 trips. Although fewer people hunted woodcock last year, they had far better success than their fellow grouse hunters (although, presumably many of these hunters are going for both grouse and woodcock).

Woodcock hunters managed to have a 20 percent success rate while hunting, and had to put in fewer hours to flush the small, long-beaked bird out of hiding.

On average, woodcock hunters made seven hunting trips, and had to invest just about 10 hours to bag one bird. This is about half the amount of time put into getting a grouse.

Most woodcock were flushed during the last week of October last year, which is on par with previous years' data, although there were two outlier years where the highest flush rate occurred the second-to-last week of October.

One similarity between hunting the different species is that most hunters use dogs to flush the birds. When hunting grouse, the hunters who used dogs flushed 0.95 birds per hour while non-dog users flushed just over 0.5 grouse each hour.

Dog-using woodcock hunters fared far better than their non-canine counterparts, flushing 0.84 birds per hour, while non-dog hunters flushed a measly 0.09 woodcock per hour.

The forms to participate in the ruffed grouse and woodcock hunter survey can be printed from the DEC website at



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