With birds on the low end of cycle, opportunities for grouse hunters scarce in Minnesota

Written by Glen Schmitt

The Department of Natural Resources has monitored the ruffed grouse population in Minnesota for more than 60 years. Part of that process involves driving established routes in the forested region and counting the number of male grouse heard drumming each spring.

Those drumming counts are used as an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population, which tends to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle. Results from this year’s survey showed that drumming counts were down for the second consecutive year and that ruffed grouse numbers are likely at the low end of that natural cycle.

In the northeast, which is considered the state’s premier ruffed grouse range, drumming counts dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 per stop. Counts in the northwest dipped from 0.9 last spring to 0.7 drums per stop this year, while drumming counts showed little change from a year ago in the central hardwoods and southeast with an average of 0.9 and 0.4 drums per stop, respectively.

According to Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse biologist, the decrease in drumming counts this spring was not unexpected since the ruffed grouse population is still in the declining phase of its cyclical pattern.
“We’re near or at the bottom of the cycle and I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” Roy said. “Historically, you can see that it takes three or four years to rebound so it wasn’t surprising to see the counts down this year.”

Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop in years when grouse abundance is low and as high as 1.9 drums per stop when the grouse population is up. Drumming counts spiked last in the spring of 2009.
The peak of spring drumming efforts usually occurs somewhere during the first few days in May. The median date this year was later, around May 10, likely the result of lagging cold and snow in the state’s core ruffed grouse range.

Roy pointed out that she asked DNR officials and volunteers that were counting drums across the 117 surveyed routes to do so when they thought drumming was at its peak. Most of them indicated that drumming peaked later than usual.

PA 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates

RUFFED GROUSE: Oct. 19–Nov. 30, Dec. 16 –24 and Dec. 26 –Jan. 25 

Please check the PA Game Commission website for updates

NY 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates

Check the NY DEC website for updates and the original map

WV 2013 Pheasant Hunting Season Dates

Ruffed Grouse October 12 - February 28

Please check the WVDNR website for updates

VA 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates


Bag Limit:

Three per day.


  • October 26 through February 8 west of I-95
  • Continuous closed season east of I-95

VT 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates

Sep 28 2013 - Dec 31 2013 Ruffed Grouse Season

CT 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates

Ruffed Grouse18Oct 19 - Nov 30

WI 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates

Ruffed grouse
Zone ASept. 14 - Jan. 31, 2014
Zone BOct. 19 - Dec. 8.

MN 2013 Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Dates

09/14/13 - 01/01/14

Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Hungarian Partridge season

Michigan Saginaw Valley Ruffed Grouse Society to hold fun shoot, steak dinner at Saginaw Gun Club

The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society will hold its annual fun shoot, with a "grill your own steak" dinner at the Saginaw Gun Club Thursday, Aug. 15.

Those attending will have an opportunity to shoot skeet or sporting clays.

The event begins at 4 p.m., with advance registration required by Thursday, Aug. 9.

The steak dinner costs $25. Proceeds will support the Harry Danz Scholarship Fund. 

For more information, call 989-860-4874.

Free Workshop on Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse Hunting - New Hampshire - 8/17/2013

Get set for the fall grouse and woodcock season at a free workshop on Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Hunting on Saturday, August 17, 2013, from 9 a.m. to noon at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Owl Brook Hunter Education Center in Holderness. Pre-registration is required. To sign up, call 603-536-3954. 

The workshop covers the basic skills needed for the pursuit of these challenging birds. Participants also will learn about grouse behavior, hunting safety issues, hunting with or without dogs, gaining permission to hunt/landowner relations, clothing choices, shotgun and ammunition options, creature comforts for an enjoyable hunt and recipes for grouse. 

The session will be led by grouse hunting enthusiasts/Hunter Education instructors Sean Williamson and Dan Keleher. In addition, Andrew Weik, the Northeast biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, will give a presentation on ruffed grouse and woodcock and their habitat needs. 

Grouse hunting season in New Hampshire opens October 1 and runs through December 31, with a daily bag limit of four birds. Woodcock season opens October 1 and runs through November 14. To learn more about small game hunting in New Hampshire, visit http://www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_small_game.htm

For more information about the Owl Brook Hunter Education Center, and directions to the center, visit http://www.huntnh.com/Hunting/hunter_ed_center.htm

Educational activities at Fish and Game's Owl Brook Hunter Education Center are funded by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, supported by your purchase of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. 

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department works in partnership with the public to conserve manage and protect the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats. Visit http://www.huntnh.com

MN 2013 Grouse counts decline, later spring nesting may help hatch

Ruffed grouse drumming counts were down across most of the bird’s range, according to the annual survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“This decrease was not unexpected because the ruffed grouse population is still in the declining phase of its 10-year cycle,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse biologist. “Drum counts peaked most recently in 2009.”

Drumming counts dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 per stop in the northeast, which is the forest bird’s core range in Minnesota. Counts in the northwest declined from 0.9 in 2012 to 0.7 drums per stop in 2013. Drumming counts did not change significantly in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.9 and 0.4 drums per stop, respectively.

Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population.

This year, observers recorded 0.9 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2011 and 2012 were 1.7 and 1.0 drums per stop, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. Drumming did occur later this year because of the late spring, suggesting that nesting likely occurred later than normal.

“Later nesting would have pushed the hatch out a bit, hopefully beyond the spring rains,” Roy said. “Time will tell if that occurred and the impact on production.”

Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in the state each year, making it the state’s most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin – which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota – round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

One reason for the Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

For the past 64 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 14 organizations surveyed 117 routes across the state

Sharp-tailed grouse counts decrease slightly
Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest, the bird’s primary range in Minnesota, were similar to 2012. Counts in the east-central region declined significantly.

Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds.

Despite several years of declining numbers, this year’s statewide average of 9.2 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Overall, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.

The DNR’s 2013 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online.

Original MN DNR article

More Bird Hunting posts @ BirdHuntingBlog.com

ND Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season 2013

Ruffed Grouse Hunting Season Information

Official season dates for the 2013 hunting season will be set in early August.

Statewide - 2013
-- Tentative --
Sept. 14
Jan. 5

LA Woodcock 2013 Season Set

There were no surprises in the recommendations that the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approve a 16-day special September season for teal hunters, nor that dove hunters will get their usual 70-day season, nor that woodcock hunters face another restricted 45-day season during the commission's July meeting in Baton Rouge.

The woodcock season will run Dec. 18-Jan. 31 with a three-bird daily bag.