Sunday, July 08, 2007

Woodcock Hunting 2006

Mixed Bag from October 18, 2006

Bean the American Water Spaniel taught me quite a bit about woodcock hunting when the birds were plentiful right out our back door in the middle 90’s. We became such aficionados of the little russet fellers that I volunteered to send a wing from each bird we took to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be inventoried as a data point in its continuing study.

Last Fall, young Gordie and I did some pre-season scouting and came upon attractive cover that looked little changed since I’d worked it years ago with Beanie. I was eager to hunt woodcock there again to enjoy seeing Gordie literally and figuratively follow in Bean’s pawprints. We went on to enjoy a wonderful season, even after the surprise October 12 ice storm put quite a shock on our woodier cover.

Just the other day, we received our annual report from the USFWS. It gave the age and sex of the 11 woodcock and the single snipe we took in 2006. The composition of our bag was interesting, even if it was so small as to be statistically insignificant. Seven of our woodcock were immature birds while only two were adult females. The ratio of immature birds to adult females is called the “recruitment index,” and bigger is considered better for the long-term health of the woodcock population. The 3.5 computed for Gordie and me compares with 1.0 for the hunters who reported a total 1,403 birds from NY in 2006, and with 2.2, the best index in the Eastern Region, reported by hunters who took 236 birds in NJ in 2006.

The long-term recruitment index (1963-2005) for all of the Eastern Region is 1.7. I’ve been fiddling around with all the tables in the FWS’s full report, enjoying “what if” games here and wondering “how does that work” there. For example, arbitrarily looking at only the 8 eastern states whose total reported bag for the survey period was >10,000, I find a narrow range of recruitment indices between 1.4 and 1.7, except for anomalous NJ at 2.6 and CT at 2.8. Anyone who knows what's going on in NJ and CT is encouraged to share the skinny as a comment.

Readers interested in the entire USFWS report can find it right here.

Best Wishes to the Class of 2007!