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Will Lower Grouse Numbers Affect How Many MN Hunters Hit the Woods?

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July 02, 2012

Will Lower Grouse Numbers Affect How Many MN Hunters Hit the Woods?

By Chad Love

Spring drumming counts in Minnesota, long known as one of the top ruffed grouse states in the nation, have declined by some 46 percent from last year, and biologists say the bottom of the ruffed grouse's 10-year population cycle probably won't come until next year. Will the lower numbers affect how many grouse hunters hit the woods this fall?

From this story in the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

Ted Dick has a glass-half-full attitude. While Minnesota's spring ruffed grouse drumming counts indicate the population has fallen dramatically, Dick, an avid ruffed grouse hunter and the Department of Natural Resources grouse coordinator, said that news last week won't affect him and other diehard hunters. "I'm still going to hunt, no matter what,'' he said. "We're still one of the top grouse states in the nation.'' But it's uncertain how other hunters will respond to the news of a 46 percent average decline from last year in drumming counts in northern Minnesota's prime grouse range.

In the past, hunter numbers rose and fell with the cyclical grouse population. But in 2009, when the grouse population recently peaked, fewer than 90,000 hunters pursued them -- 40,000 to 50,000 fewer than the previous peak.

According to the story, grouse have declined over the past three years, which tells biologists the birds are on the downslope of their 10-year cycle, which occurs range-wide. Scientists don't know why ruffed grouse go through the population cycle, but it happens range-wide and is a phenomenon well-known to avid grouse hunters.

What's more worrying however, is the number of grouse hunters pursuing grouse at the peak of the cycle. If, as the story states, 50,000 fewer hunters pursued grouse during the 2009 population peak than the previous peak, what's going on? Is ruffed grouse hunting experiencing the sort of long, slow slide that southern quail hunters are all too familiar with? Will you be hunting grouse this fall?

Comments (7)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Grouse hunting is being hyped out of existence by other forms of hunting that are more profitable for the hunting technocrap industry. No one needs scents, calls, special ammo, or fancy camo duds to hunt grouse. Hunting grouse is also not the easiest thing to film for a television show (not like sitting on ones can in a blind over a food plot to shoot a habituated deer - anyone ever seen a habituated grouse come to a feeder? Nope!). So grouse hunting, even in the peak years when a bag limit will literally jump in the truck as you drive down a dusty road at dusk, just isn't "the thing" to do. Or so sayeth the outdoors marketers. If it was really all about shooting something for the table (instead of wall hangers) you'd think there'd be MORE people hunting grouse, not less. I mean, there is no sweeter wild meat than a ruff grouse! Just wish they were a bit bigger. Bottom line is the poor grouse season has to compete with other more technocrappy friendly hunting seasons (waterfowl, deer, turkey) that are open at roughly the same time.

Also, if Minnesota is anything like Northern Ontario (and clearly it is), the bulk of the grouse hunters probably shoot them driving the back roads. With the price of gas being what it is, I'm sure that kind of hunting is going to drop off A LOT.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Ontario Honker: They will just switch to the ATV as they get better gas mileage ! Clearly your are right about excitement grouse hunting presents as there is lots of activity on this blog ........
Despite the poor report I will still make my trips north to chase grouse and be glad there will be fewer hunters in the woods :)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I'll make a few trips out for grouse too unless I go off to Manitoba to guide for waterfowl. Have to wait and see how my older dog is doing before I commit to that. The lodge has made a great offer and it would be for most of October only. Then I'll continue on to Montana for my annual six weeks or so of pheasant hunting.

If last year was supposed to have been something on the down side of the cycle, I sure didn't see it. I easily bagged a limit both times I went out.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

My other thought from the techno stuff is quite a few folks I know use gps ( both on dog and to find their way ). I stil use a map, compass ( carry two ) & my legs to find grouse. The dog helps tremendously too !!
I hunt Wisconsin and find enough grouse to make it worthwhile and kill a fair amount to make the trip worth it.....
6 weeks in Montana hunting phesants ? WOW, retirement must be nice !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

i'm from nothern wisconsin and i'll be hunting grouse downward spiral or not. the thing about grouse hunting is the terrain you have to go through to flush birds (especially public lands) is pretty rough. extremely thick young aspen stands, black spruce swamps,alder swamps, last year i found a bunch in some thick young jack pine stands. you can still get some just walking the logging roads but not near as many

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

wisc14 If you see a black chevy colorado with Iowa plates leave a note on it with your phone #. Good luck to you this fall !

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I dont think it will affect the hunting at all. It just depends on how the person thinks.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Grouse hunting is being hyped out of existence by other forms of hunting that are more profitable for the hunting technocrap industry. No one needs scents, calls, special ammo, or fancy camo duds to hunt grouse. Hunting grouse is also not the easiest thing to film for a television show (not like sitting on ones can in a blind over a food plot to shoot a habituated deer - anyone ever seen a habituated grouse come to a feeder? Nope!). So grouse hunting, even in the peak years when a bag limit will literally jump in the truck as you drive down a dusty road at dusk, just isn't "the thing" to do. Or so sayeth the outdoors marketers. If it was really all about shooting something for the table (instead of wall hangers) you'd think there'd be MORE people hunting grouse, not less. I mean, there is no sweeter wild meat than a ruff grouse! Just wish they were a bit bigger. Bottom line is the poor grouse season has to compete with other more technocrappy friendly hunting seasons (waterfowl, deer, turkey) that are open at roughly the same time.

Also, if Minnesota is anything like Northern Ontario (and clearly it is), the bulk of the grouse hunters probably shoot them driving the back roads. With the price of gas being what it is, I'm sure that kind of hunting is going to drop off A LOT.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Ontario Honker: They will just switch to the ATV as they get better gas mileage ! Clearly your are right about excitement grouse hunting presents as there is lots of activity on this blog ........
Despite the poor report I will still make my trips north to chase grouse and be glad there will be fewer hunters in the woods :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I'll make a few trips out for grouse too unless I go off to Manitoba to guide for waterfowl. Have to wait and see how my older dog is doing before I commit to that. The lodge has made a great offer and it would be for most of October only. Then I'll continue on to Montana for my annual six weeks or so of pheasant hunting.

If last year was supposed to have been something on the down side of the cycle, I sure didn't see it. I easily bagged a limit both times I went out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

My other thought from the techno stuff is quite a few folks I know use gps ( both on dog and to find their way ). I stil use a map, compass ( carry two ) & my legs to find grouse. The dog helps tremendously too !!
I hunt Wisconsin and find enough grouse to make it worthwhile and kill a fair amount to make the trip worth it.....
6 weeks in Montana hunting phesants ? WOW, retirement must be nice !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

i'm from nothern wisconsin and i'll be hunting grouse downward spiral or not. the thing about grouse hunting is the terrain you have to go through to flush birds (especially public lands) is pretty rough. extremely thick young aspen stands, black spruce swamps,alder swamps, last year i found a bunch in some thick young jack pine stands. you can still get some just walking the logging roads but not near as many

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

wisc14 If you see a black chevy colorado with Iowa plates leave a note on it with your phone #. Good luck to you this fall !

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I dont think it will affect the hunting at all. It just depends on how the person thinks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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