Board should wait for some science before closing ruffed grouse season early
Dealing and managing a game bird species, including ruffed grouse, requires science and common sense.
Too often those who have the knowledge are left out of the decision or are pressured by politics to move this way or that.
It seems two likely decisions, one to close the season early and one to trap and send birds to Missouri, could be examples.
Closing the season Nov. 30 as is being considered by the Natural Resources Board is probably unnecessary at this time. The research on West Nile virus needs hunters in the woods to take samples of grouse shot for testing. Some of the samples could come from December and January, the last two months of the current season. Additionally, the number of birds likely killed during December and January would be miniscule compared to a weekend in October, so no hunting at all would get a few birds for testing but would not cut deeply into the population.
Other bird observations could be made during those months, too. Closing the season early might be similar to closing the season every 10 years when the cycle is at its lowest point. Closing the season on a short-lived gamebird for two months will only give someone a feel-good reaction of doing something to help the population.
Then, sending 100 birds to Missouri during 2018, 2019 and 2020 in trade for habitat improvement work in Wisconsin is an OK idea. Those birds are such a tiny number compared to those killed by hunters, predators and winter severity. Plus, this trade arrangement was likely planned months – if not years – ago, long before the possibility of West Nile virus. And Wisconsin gets something in return. There should be no connection between reduction of 300 grouse and saving birds by closing the season two months early.
Allow science to find some answers and then make an educated decision.