Flush with grouse but not hunters

For Minnesota's ruffed grouse hunters, it might not get much better than this. ¶ The "Ol' Ruff" population is up a remarkable 43 percent from last year, based on spring drumming counts, and the population index is the highest it's been in 37 years. ¶ This is the fourth consecutive increase, and the grouse population probably is at or near the peak of its 10-year boom-to-bust cycle. That means the hunting season, which opens Saturday, could be one of the best in decades.

"I think we'll see a noticeable increase in birds out there, said Dan Dessecker of Rice Lake, Wis., an avid grouse hunter and director of conservation policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society.

Said Dave Schad, Department of Natural Resources fish and wildlife section chief: "Hopefully, we're approaching one of those really special years with peak bird abundance. I think there's a lot of excitement and a lot of interest.''

But two key questions remain: Will hunters actually find significantly more grouse this fall? And how many hunters will show up in the woods to seek them?

The last time the grouse index was nearly this high, in 1998, an estimated 142,000 hunters bagged almost 1 million grouse.

Yet no one expects that kind of harvest this fall. A major reason: Despite the expected huge increase in bird numbers, it's highly unlikely that 142,000 hunters will show up. Though grouse hunter numbers historically have climbed and dropped along with the grouse population, the long-term trend has been a decline in small-game hunters.

Last year, the DNR estimated there were 87,000 grouse hunters -- or 55,000 fewer than 11 years ago. And the agency sold 290,000 small-game licenses in 2008, 30,000 fewer than in 1998.

Last year, grouse numbers also were up from 2007, but hunter numbers dropped slightly.

Read full article in the StarTribune

Fall Training Review

Tina is almost finished up with training camp, I’ll be picking her up this weekend. She has been getting tuned up on a few things before the season starts up. A little whoa and backing work.

The most fun for her is probably getting to be roaded. She gets hooked up to an ATV and gets to go running with a bunch of her dog buddies. My yard at home isn’t fenced in so this helps to get her in shape for the early season when it can be a bit warmer. As the season progresses the dogs get enough work that by the time we have to work harder for our birds they are in shape to make a whole day of it. 

www.hunt.mn - Hunt Private Land in MN

Game Fair Review

Game Fair has finished and the unofficial start to the hunting pre-season has started. I didn't see any gun vendors this year. Plenty of training electronics. The one thing that really stuck out was the number of dog food vendors. I didn't know that there were so many dog food vendors.

It was fun to visit some of the different trainers and breeders to get their views and opinions.

Whenever I visit Waterfowl Hill I keep thinking I should take up waterfowl hunting. Lots of cool stuff to buy. Maybe this will be the year I get a goose. Have to check out early goose season I guess. Don't want to give up any grouse or pheasant hunting to chase them.

A good hunting mid-summer weekend

This weekend was a good one to stay psyched up for the fall.

Saturday morning I drove up to Sandstone MN to drop off ,Tina, one of my setters, at NorthWoods Bird Dogs for pre-season conditioning and some training tuning up. Jerry had a client coming in to look at the training progress of the two Brits that he had there. One was a young dog and the other was about 10 years old. I got to hang with them and play bird boy while they watched the improvements the two dogs had made. I also got to watch him work a pointer, gsp, viszla, and a french brittany. I had a great time seeing the different stages the dogs were at and picked up a few pointers.

Sunday I went to Metro Gun Club and shot 2 rounds of trap. I'm averaging about 3-4 birds more per round than I was last summer. If I keep at this rate of improvement in a few years I'll be halfway decent. During the first round there was just two of us shooting and the second round there were three of us. It was kind of nice to get in and out pretty quickly. I think it took me mor etime to drive there and back than it did to get in my shooting. After shooting I took the other two dogs out for a walk. There was a bit of a difference in energy level of the pups on Saturday and my 11 and 13 year olds.... I'm pretty sure they will be excited when I first start to load up the hunting gear though.

Game Fair starts in about two weeks so if you are out there please stop by the Minnesota Outdoor Sports booth and say Hi.

Dog Training

The way I think of the need to get my dogs trained for the season might be a bit different than most people. I think the less you hunt the more important it is to have your dog fully trained and ready to go right at the start of the season. I usually can hunt 20-30 days per season ( still less than I want but until I win the powerball.... ) and if it takes me 4 or 5 hunts to iron out any issues that have cropped up over the summer I still have 15+ hunts left after I’ve gotten the issues straightened out. During the years when I could only get out 10-12 times that means that about half of my hunts were spent working with a dog who wasn’t fully ready to be in the field. Hunting season is too short to spend it with a dog that hunts out of range or breaks their points.

Even though my dogs have been to a trainer almost every year I still like to have them get a preseason tune up. Even if it is just to get them on birds on a consistent basis. I’ve noticed that they are much more ready to go the first day I put them in the woods.

I’ve worked with two different trainers over the past 10 years and have been really happy with them. ( and no I don’t get a kickback or free training from them...)

Jerry Kolter @ Northwoodsbirddogs.com 320-245-6988
Gregg Arndt Kennels 320-983-2021