Minnesota ruffed grouse preview: 'Average' season in the cards, DNR wildlife managers predict
Written By:Brad Dokken
Trying to predict ruffed grouse hunting prospects is never an exact science, given the thick wooded cover in which the birds are found, but all of the signs this year point to an average season in Minnesota – or perhaps slightly better than average.
Minnesota’s season for ruffed grouse, spruce grouse and Hungarian partridge opens Saturday, Sept. 19. Sharptail season opens Sept. 19 in the Northwest Zone and Saturday, Oct. 10, in the East-central Zone.
Based on spring drumming count surveys, which were abbreviated this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, surveyors from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other cooperators tallied a statewide average of 1.6 drums per stop along their listening routes.
That’s on par with or better than the past five years with the exception of 2017, when the spring survey count was 2.1 drums per stop statewide, a number that didn’t translate into better hunting success that fall and left many DNR experts shaking their heads.
By the numbers
Biologists tally spring ruffed grouse abundance by following set routes and stopping to listen for the “drumming” sound male ruffs make as the birds rapidly beat their wings in an effort to attract a mate.
By region, this year’s survey tallied 1.7 drums per stop in the Northeast, which encompasses the core of Minnesota grouse range; 1.2 drums per stop in the Northwest, down from a statewide high last year of 2.1 drums per stop; and 1.2 drums per stop in the Central Hardwoods.
The Southeast survey region wasn’t sampled this year. The DNR didn’t conduct a sharptail survey this past spring because of the pandemic.