By Darin Potter
Lansing — Hunters throughout the state in pursuit of upland birds and small game can expect another successful season this fall. Upland game birds like ruffed grouse and woodcock should be found in good numbers, and rabbits and squirrels are plentiful.
“The 2013 fall ruffed grouse and woodcock numbers could be similar if not a little bit lower statewide compared to 2012. With favorable annual production, hunters could take approximately 240,000 grouse and 74,000 woodcock in 2013,” Al Stewart, the DNR’s upland game bird specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News. “Although spring arrived two weeks later than normal in 2013, the warm, average weather conditions this year may have a positive impact on brood survival. If we have favorable production this spring, I anticipate fall ruffed grouse and woodcock numbers could be similar to or only down slightly from last year.”
Stewart said grouse drumming counts were down this spring.
Using data from 87 routes run in 2012 and 2013, statewide there was a 10.3-percent decrease in the average number of drums heard per route between 2012 (11.8) and 2013 (10.6).
The drumming counts were highest in Zone 1 (14.5 drums per route), followed by Zone 2 (9.4) and Zone 3 (6.4).
Grouse season runs Sept. 15 to Nov. 14, then re-opens Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. The woodcock season opens Sept. 21 and ends Nov. 3.
When hunting woodcock, a Harvest Information Program endorsement is required. The HIP survey takes about a minute to complete and must be added by the agent when you purchase a small-game license.
A relatively new tool created by the DNR called, MI-Hunt (www.michigan.gov/mihunt) gives hunters the ability to scout areas ahead of the season by viewing land from aerial photos and learning the habitat online. With 10 million acres of public land in Michigan, it’s not difficult to find areas that hold upland game birds or game animals, according to Stewart.
“Bird hunters have found this tool to be very helpful for viewing different forest types, topography, satellite imagery, and road layers – all from the comfort of their own home. There’s even a tutorial designed for grouse hunters,” he said.
Calling the local wildlife biologist before the season is also a good way to find areas that hold game.
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