MN 2022 Ruffed grouse counts up unexpectedly from last year


 

 

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring population counts are up from last year, which was not expected during the current declining phase of the 10-year cycle — a pattern recorded for 72 years.

“While ruffed grouse drumming counts are up, they are not a reliable way to predict the fall hunting season,” said Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We also recorded an increase in sharp-tailed grouse in east-central Minnesota, which is positive this year but could be short-lived.”

Unexpectedly high ruffed grouse counts this year may have resulted from the warm temperatures and dry conditions last year during May and June, which favors high nest success and chick survival. Snow conditions also were favorable during winter for roosting throughout much of the core of grouse range.

The DNR and its partners use spring drumming counts to help monitor the ruffed grouse breeding population through time. Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.

“In a typical year, we have 16 cooperating organizations providing folks to help us count grouse drumming,” Roy said. “We are grateful to our federal and tribal partners for their assistance in completing routes.”

Historically, these spring counts were related to the fall population; however, in recent years, drumming counts have not reliably predicted the fall hunting season.

The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. Nesting success and chick survival are influenced by many factors, including weather during May and June, which has been more extreme in recent years, and other factors, including disease and predators. This year in May and June, heavy rainfall and flooding affected much of the core of ruffed grouse range.

The ruffed grouse survey report can be found on the grouse management page of the DNR website.

Wisconsin ruffed grouse drumming down for 2022

By John Myers

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources this week announced the annual spring drumming survey of ruffed grouse showed below-average counts while the spring waterfowl breeding survey indicates good numbers and excellent habitat conditions.

DNR wildlife biologists reported a 5% decrease statewide in ruffed grouse drumming activity from 2021.

“These results are not surprising. Ruffed grouse typically follow a 10-year population cycle,” said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife surveys specialist. “While we don’t have data for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, we know that cycles usually peak in years ending in 9, 0 or 1. We’re likely going to see that abundance begin to wane in the coming years as we enter the down phase of the cycle.”

During the spring mating ritual, male ruffed grouse beat their wings slowly and then more rapidly to create a deep, drumming sound. Surveyors listen to this sound to identify and count male ruffed grouse each spring.

You can find more on wildlife surveys on the DNR's wildlife reports webpage at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/reports.htm

 

 

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We recently assisted a "breeder/hunter" with dogs he no longer wanted - in total 16 dogs were brought into the shelter for rehoming. They are English Pointers. All are being altered today and assessed by Dr. Lyon. They will be ready for adoption soon. We've been enjoying watching them do their job in the yard pointing out the random birds and small critters we have in the area. They are all very sweet, smart and we are learning their individual personalities as we go! If you know someone who loves pointers PLEASE SHARE THIS POST THEM!
***Please send questions or applications in an email to our kennel manager, Becky, at becky@theannashelter.com
 

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Tips for Hunting Ruffed Grouse in the Winter

 









Stepping into the middle of a tightly wadded covey of quail will do things to your heart that would concern a cardiologist. But when a ruffed grouse erupts from beneath a mantle of unblemished snow, the percussion all but drops you in your tracks. You see the snow begin to move, and you think, What the… Then the world explodes. At this point, you’re faced with two problems: The first is pulling yourself together so you can bring your shotgun into play and function as a hunter. The second is finding your target through the dreamlike crystal cloud hanging in the air between you and the grouse—which is exiting the scene at an alarming rate.

That’s pretty much how things went down on a hunt in Wisconsin last winter. I’d seen a few meandering tracks in the fresh powder, and my English setter, Tina, had gotten birdy a time or two. But the makers of those tracks seemed to have vanished into the winter woods.

At last, we came to a little clearing. I turned to whistle for Tina, took a wading step through the snow, and had the sensation that I’d detonated a land mine. Now came the hard part.

Winter Wonderland

Hunting winter grouse is a feast-​or-­famine proposition. A grouse that’s lived to see December is a professional survivor. Tested by predators of ­every stripe, its nerves are cocked against a hair ­trigger. High alert is its ­default setting; at the slightest hint of danger, a grouse that feels vulnerable rockets for the nearest concealing cover. If this means diving headlong into the snow, so be it.

Grouse spend more time in trees in winter than they do earlier in the season. I’d suggest that you need to be prepared for this, but because no one’s that cool-headed, I’ll just say that you should be aware of the possibility.

The variable conditions typical of winter hunting complicate the equation as well. You might encounter deep snow, but you might as easily have bare, hard-​­frozen ground; one day might be bitter cold, another balmy. Ironically, a warm day without snow cover is the most challenging scenario. The walking is pleasant, but the birds are at their wild-flushing worst. This is the time to go to tighter chokes—­Modified in a single-barrel gun, IC/IM in a double—and to stick with No. 71⁄2 shot or, if you can find them, No. 7s.

When the powder is piled high and the thermometer plunges, on the other hand, surprisingly close flushes are the order of the day. Plus, once the swamps freeze, you can sometimes get to islands of cover that are inaccessible earlier in the season and find birds that may not have been shot at.

The spots where I’ve had consistent success on winter grouse all had a diversity of cover: a mix of classic brushy popple, conifers of different sizes, low-lying swamp and marsh, and grassy clearings. A south-facing slope is another plus, as is the presence of food sources other than the aspen buds, which are the staple winter ration of grouse. My Elhew pointer, Traveler, once pointed a December grouse that was feeding on ­delicate maiden­hair ferns growing where a cluster of tiny springs kept the ground clear of snow. To stumble on that patch of green in the middle of the winter-white forest seemed almost magical.

More tips and the complete Field and Stream article