Picture yourself walking on a trail through stands of young aspen trees with blazing yellow leaves overhead. The fall air is crisp. Shotgun in hand, you’re enjoying a hike while hunting grouse-Minnesota’s most popular game bird. Something akin to this scene will soon be reality for the nearly 100,000 grouse hunters in Minnesota. The season for ruffed and spruce grouse runs from Saturday, Sept. 13, until Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015; and for sharp-tailed grouse from Sept. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 30.
Spring drumming counts were up 34% compared to 2013, possibly signaling the start of an upswing in the 10 year grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase. However, brood rearing success may have been affected by a cold, wet spring. Grouse tend to be drawn to young forests where trees are less than a few inches in diameter, and they often are found on the edges of younger woods or the edges of trails where they can feed on clover and broad leafed plants.
There are 528 wildlife management areas in the ruffed grouse range that cover nearly 1 million acres, 43 designated ruffed grouse management areas and 600 miles of hunter walking trails. Search for hunter walking trails online at http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/hwt. State forests, two national forests and county forest lands also offer many additional acres of public land for grouse hunting. Find public land on which to hunt by using the DNR’s Recreation Compass at http://www.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html.
Grouse hunters usually use 12 or 20 gauge shotguns and No. 7 1/2 target or field loads. The daily limit for ruffed and spruce grouse is five combined, with a possession limit of 10. The daily limit for sharp-tailed grouse is three, with a possession limit of six. For more information on grouse hunting, see http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse. Have a safe and fun hunt.