Posted by: Nate Kruse
Camouflage jacket and duck call? Check.
With the start of the waterfowl hunting season last weekend, turkey season opening this weekend, and the ruffed grouse and deer archery seasons already on the go, UMD hunters are making checklists and waking up early for the hunt.
Already, senior Justin Grossinger has a fridge full of Canada geese, wood ducks and ruffed grouse. He and his dad got three geese the weekend opener of early goose season, Sept. 1, and have been feasting ever since.
“I cooked them up and they were phenomenal,” Grossinger said. “Put a little seasoning on there. Some butter. So good.”
The grouse in his fridge, however, are not freshly harvested, but leftovers from a successful season last fall. This year’s grouse hunt has proved unproductive so far not only for Grossinger, but for junior Jon Dordal as well.
“It was tough because there’s a lot of undergrowth still,” Dordal said about his grouse hunt. “The woods are really thick.”
Once the undergrowth vegetation in the forests dies off for the winter, it will be a lot easier for hunters to spot the well-camouflaged grouse before they take off flying and it’s too late to shoot.
Although the winterkill will work in favor of hunters, the low numbers of grouse will not. The Minnesota DNR’s spring ruffed grouse drum count fell by 10 percent from last year’s, meaning that the bird population is in a decline. The drum count refers to the number of male grouse mating calls observed in the spring.
The decline, however, is part of the natural cycle for grouse, which peaks every 10 years regardless of environmental impacts. Given that the last peak was in 2009, the lowered population is expected.
Grossinger, who is aware of the declining population cycle, isn’t discouraged from hunting the bird.
“Hopefully, I’ll just get out and see a couple here and there,” he said. “I’m happy to walk eight miles and see two birds. I’m fine with that.”
For him, hunting is less about the kill and more about enjoying the outdoors.
“A lot of the trails in this area are beautiful,” he said. “You hike around the woods. See if you see anything. If not, hey, you got some exercise and it was beautiful out. Even in the rain, it’s still fun.”
Grossinger walks the public Wildlife Management Area trails (WMAs) by Island Lake with his Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun in search of coveys of grouse.
The last time he went out for grouse, two weekends ago, he stumbled upon a ten-point buck instead.
“If I’d had a bow, I’d have seen a grouse—it’s just how it goes,” he said and laughed.