Minnesota’s annual grouse surveys showed some interesting conclusions.
Each year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) helps coordinate ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse surveys. This effort is undertaken to track grouse populations over time and help inform future management actions.
The 2015 grouse survey was conducted between April 14 and May 16, when grouse are most active and observable. Let’s break the observations down by species.
Ruffed Grouse Survey Results
Ruffed grouse are the most popular game bird in Minnesota, with over 500,000 birds harvested annually. Their population cycles up and down approximately every 10 years.
Their populations are surveyed by stopping at various points along a given route and listening for grouse drumming. Male grouse thump their wings in a slowly increasing cadence to announce their territories and attract females. They are most active at sunrise.
Surveyors waited at each stop for four minutes to listen for drumming activity.
The 2015 average was 1.1 grouse drums per stop, which changed less than one percent from last year’s grouse survey. Unsurprisingly, the highest grouse drum counts were observed in northeast Minnesota. The arrowhead region naturally has more optimal habitat for ruffed grouse than other parts of the state.
Thanks to grouse surveys like this, we know that Minnesota ruffed grouse populations hit their 10-year peak in 2009, and were at their lowest in approximately 2013. The good news is that the populations are on the up-swing now.
What does that mean to you? Grouse hunting will only get better for the next couple years!
Sharp-tailed Grouse Survey Results
Sharp-tailed grouse aren’t as common in Minnesota as ruffed grouse. The annual harvest in the state is anywhere from 6,000 to 22,000 birds.
The populations are surveyed by watching known sharptail dancing grounds (called leks) to count birds. Male sharp-tailed grouse compete for mates by stomping their feet, stretching their wings out wide, and dancing around the leks.
Within 2 1/2 hours of sunrise on a clear and calm day, surveyors observed 206 leks in Minnesota in 2015.
Similar to the ruffed grouse numbers, the grouse survey revealed that the sharp-tailed grouse observations remain basically unchanged from last year. Their statewide population seems to have grown since 2013 with ruffed grouse, and so it is also on the incline.
Grouse hunting season isn’t all that far off now. We’re on the home stretch. Hopefully these grouse survey results will fuel your excitement.
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