From this story (via Upland Journal) in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
When the 2010 Minnesota ruffed grouse hunting season opens at a half-hour before sunrise Saturday, hunters should encounter good numbers of the forest birds. Although spring drumming counts conducted by the Minnesota DNR were down slightly, a good hatch of young grouse could offset the apparent dip in bird numbers. Anecdotal observations this summer by many grouse enthusiasts suggest a good hatch indeed, with reports of more and bigger broods than the past few nesting seasons. Despite the optimistic forecast, fewer grouse hunters will take to the woods this fall than during past grouse population peaks. That’s a disturbing statistic.
“…The number of grouse hunters has always fluctuated with the ruffed grouse population. Times of peak numbers of birds saw corresponding peak numbers of hunters. Recently though, ruffed grouse hunter numbers during cyclic ruffed grouse high populations have declined significantly. According to DNR statistics, during the last ruffed grouse population peak in 1998, 142,000 hunters pursued ruffed grouse. Last fall was the supposed grouse population peak, yet only 87,000 hunters pursued the birds, a roughly 40 percent decline from the 1998 peak. Why is this happening? ”
You could take the above paragraphs and replace “ruffed grouse” with quail, pheasant, prairie grouse or virtually any other upland gamebird and the numbers – and the question of why – would be similar. Granted, many species are suffering range-wide population declines, and it stands to reason that as a species and the opportunity to hunt it dwindles that fewer people will. But it seems that there are fewer and fewer bird hunters these days even in good hatch years and in states with ample public land. Why? Do most guys simply prefer deer and turkey hunting these days? Does the considerable expense and time commitment required to own bird dogs just not gel with our modern lifestyle as easily as deer hunting? Your thoughts?