MN Count: Ruffies Dropping from the Peak?

July 8, 2010 | By | Reply More

MN hired a ringer this spring....

Since you’re Serious, even if you don’t hunt for ruffed grouse you no doubt know that these birds have a roughly 10-year population cycle (insight about that is in our book!).

Last season apparently was the peak for northern Minnesota grouse – good info but a bit of a bummer since we plan on going there this fall. Then again, this info is based on the drumming count which, while a decent indicator of fall populations/hunting, isn’t necessarily accurate nor widely applicable (more on that in our book too).

According to Sam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune, “ruffed grouse drumming counts dropped 31% in northeastern Minnesota this year, indicating that last year probably was the peak in the bird’s 10-year population cycle, according to MN DNR wildlife officials.

“Grouse populations in Minnesota tend to rise and fall in 10-year cycles, and drumming counts had increased 44% from 2008 to 2009.

Mike Larson, DNR grouse biologist, said: “Given the high counts in ’09, I figured we had one of two likely outcomes for 2010: Either we might be lucky enough to stay relatively high like we did in the late 1990s, or we’d come down and have a one-year peak like in the late 1980s.”

Let’s put this in perspective, however: Cook notes that “grouse are surveyed each spring by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.” And this spring “observers recorded 1.5 drums per stop statewide” vs. last year’s average of 2.0 drums per stop. Also, “counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.”

Mark Fouts, director of regional operations for the Ruffed Grouse Society, said in that article: “I think we’ll be okay. We had the early spring. People were seeing quite a few birds, good brood sizes, and people were seeing a lot of woodcock.”

Larson said also said “the nesting season was very favorable.”

Well, we’re not changing our plans. See you in MN!

Notable: Sharpies

> The article also noted that “sharptailed grouse counts in the northwest survey region decreased about 5% between 2009 and 2010, while in the east-central region it declined about 1%. This year’s statewide average of 10.7 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to counts during 2003 to 2007 and the long-term average since 1980.”

Category: MN, Ruffed Grouse, Sharptailed Grouse

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