Let us hope that surely the ruffed grouse of the eastern Kentucky woodlands won’t go the way of the passenger pigeon and the dodo bird.
Hunters who go into April woods in pursuit of the wild turkey report hearing few sounds of grouse drumming in wild places where such pleasant music used to come from different directions, one right after the other.
And grouse hunters who go into October woods tell me their dogs have to work a longer time just to give a decent point.
This was not the case not so many years ago.
George King, born in Huntington and growing up in Pennsylvania, author of the best-selling book, “That’s Ruff” (2010), in an interview with writer Art Wheaton, said, “I don’t see a great future for grouse hunting in much of its range in this country. Too much habitat is being destroyed that can never be replaced.
“With fewer coverts and less frequent success, there will gradually be fewer grouse hunters. But let’s hope that there will always be some that will keep the tradition alive.”
Grouse hunter/writer Burton L. Spiller, writing in that wonderful 3-pound book titled, “A Passion for Grouse,” recalled a time when hunting for this beloved partridge met with more success. His two dogs were side by side on point as he made his move to flush the bird.
ROAR OF WINGS
“When I swung the gun around and took a step in their direction,” he wrote, “it boiled up from under their very noses. I cut it down and at the report we could hear birds thundering up in the woods before us.
“…I know no sweeter sound than the booming roar of their startled flight, and I know of nothing else which will set my heart to pounding so ecstatically. I love to hunt them. I like to bag a few of them occasionally.
“But better still I like to know that despite drought and flood, disease and pestilence, vermin, predators, automobiles and man, the ruffed grouse has the fortitude to survive and periodically replenish our woodlands with others if its kind.”
The Ruffed Grouse Society works to create healthy forest habitat for the benefit of ruffed grouse. Its members, in various chapters across the nation, work with landowners and government agencies to develop habitat utilizing scientific management practices.
The Kentucky River Chapter has scheduled a fundraiser and membership drive for the RGS. The Society is working with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in launching a joint 10-year initiative to restore grouse habitat and young forest areas.
The event is scheduled for Aug. 6 at the Northeast Kentucky Fish & Game Association trap shooting range and grounds in Boyd County.
“It’s a fun day filled with beans, cornbread, hot dogs and firing at the clay pigeons,” said Kentucky River Chapter member Roy French.
Gary Greene, commissioner of the 8th Wildlife District, is the chief organizer. He said he hopes to get people involved with the chapter and the RGS, along with the Fish & Wildlife department, the National Forest Service and the Corps of Engineers to work together to open up forest land for management for better grouse habitat.
There will be a table for questions manned by Sandy Kilpatrick, forest biologist for the Daniel Boone National Forest; and Tom Jackson of the Corps of Engineers.
Speakers include Bruce Wolcik of the RGS, at 1 p.m.; and Zak Danks, grouse coordinator for the Fish & Wildlife department, at 4 p.m.
HOW TO GET THERE
To reach the shooting range take the Cannonsburg Exit (185) off Interstate 64, go south, toward the truck stop, just about three-tenths of a mile and turn right on South Big Run Road. Follow it for 2.3 miles and turn left on Dezarn Road (gate 2). Follow it right on up to the trap range.
Gates open at 9 a.m. and there will be shooting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fifty targets and a prize ticket are $15 and additional shooting will be available for $7.50 per 25 targets.
Beans, cornbread, hotdogs and drinks will be provided to all who attend.
There will be a raffle for more than 50 donated items, including a kayak.
For more information call Greene at (606) 836-7898 or on his cell phone at (606) 232-2727.
You can preregister by sending him a check for $15 for 50 targets and $7.50 for 25 more if you want them.
Mail it to Gary Greene, 1456 Pleasant Valley, Greenup, Ky., 41144-7587.
We can look at the downfall of the passenger pigeon and learn how a species of wildlife can be so abundant and yet so vulnerable.
There were an estimated 3 to 5 billion of them in the forests of eastern North America when the first European explorers set foot on American soil.
When they gathered to migrate south, their flocks measured 300 miles long and half-a-mile wide. They darkened the sky for days while passing.
Over the years, for sport and for food, they were slaughtered.
The last known wild passenger pigeon was shot on March 24, 1900 in Sargents, in Pike County, Ohio. Today, its mounted remains can be seen on display at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.
And on September 1, 1914, the last remaining passenger pigeon in captivity, Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
And with her died an entire species.
THE DODO BIRD
The dodo was a flightless bird standing about three feet tall and weighing 30-40 pounds that inhabited only the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598. In the following years, the bird was hunted by sailors and invasive species, while its habitat was being destroyed.
Less than 100 years after encountering men, the last dodo was gone.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected]