by Dave Smith
Ruffed grouse hunters in the Great Lakes region have learned over generations to pursue ruffs when they peak in their 9-to-11 year cycle, which last occurred between 2009 and 2011. Each year since has been marked by a predictable decline, but the results of this springˊs drumming surveys show an increase, statewide, in Minnesota and Michigan, and a slight increase in northern Wisconsin.
"This may indicate the beginning of an upswing in the grouse cycle, which has been in the declining phase since 2009," said Charlotte Roy, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Roy reported a 34 percent increase in the annual drumming surveys statewide, driven by the birdˊs prime range in northern Minnesota.
Michiganˊs drumming surveys revealed an increase from 10 to 12 drums per route, according to Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Further, Stewart says that the heavy snow this winter and ideal moisture conditions this spring were perfect for over-winter survival and reproduction, thus he is cautiously optimistic for a slight increase in grouse numbers this fall.
Grouse populations in Maine have declined from the recent peak but are still near the long-term average, and this yearˊs hatch makes for a promising hunting season. "We had favorable weather for grouse nesting and hatch," said Kelsey Sullivan, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "Drumming surveys completed this spring revealed that areas with quality grouse habitat – such as much of northern Maine above Old Town – showed good activity, so I expect production will be relatively good."