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BentBarrels

Anyone else think Grouse are WAY DOWN?

63 posts in this topic

I have been hunting for 10+ years east of Bemidji. And this is without question the WORST year for grouse hunting i have experienced.

We have put a lot of hours in the woods this year and have only shot 10 grouse.

In most years we would have 2 maybe 3 x's as many. We just are not seeing or flushing the amount of birds that we have over the last 10 years.

The other hunters i have spoken to in the field are reporting the same news.

Would like to hear how other hunters would compare what they have seen this year vs previous years.

I know the DNR stated the drumming counts were up...so my conclustion would be that we had a TERRIBLE hatch.

Your thoughts?

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We've had better luck this year around Park Rapids than the last 6 or so. Got a limit without a dog in about 3 hrs of walking. I also know of people in McGregor area who are reporting limits of grouse.

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Bent, I hunt on the east side of Kabekona Lake and it's been poor here also.

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Hmmm, I have been out the last three weekends, and have seen more birds by far. They certainly haven't been everywhere, but when I've found them they've come in bunches, big bunches. The majority have been young birds.

Grouse fluctuations and the ten year cycle although is proven, specific areas can have their own fluctuations usually due to weather etc. Several years ago up at LOW the population was supposed to be way up state-wide. Unfortunately we had major flooding in the areas we hunted and there was hardly a bird to be found and these areas always produced birds regardless of cycle. We went an hour south and birds were everywhere. You may be right; the area you hunt had a bad hatch for one reason or another.

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Last week around Mcgreggor we put up 25 birds in 5 hours... Tat's good hunting anywhere..Maybe 20% of those we would have seen without the dog. Do you have a good dog? I know you can hunt without them but you can't imagine how many birds you walk right by without one....Esp. early in the season when birds haven't been pushed around much and are much less likely to fly without the pressure of a solid point or hard flush!!!....In my opinion the birds are up But like the previous poster said they come in waves....Don't get disscouraged or we'll be filling our bags here in the next few weeks and you'll be at home watching the Vikings............wouldn't that be fun..... Good luck keep on em....Uplander

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I hunt around squaw lake which is east of Bemidji and I agree they are down this year. We only saw 3 birds on opener and the reports I'm hearing from others in the same general vacinity is about the same. Reports from other parts of the state do seem to be up significantly though.

My hunch is that that part of the state got hit with a cold rain right after hatch that the other parts of the state didn't get.

The birds we did see were mature too. No young birds flushed or shot.

I'm going to give it another try in that area soon but I'm not too optimistic.

ccarlson

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Some people get them, while others do not!

I have not been out yet to give any view point yet!

I have had good luck in years were people say they are down!

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An area we hunt I believe is "down" this year also. Last year was phenomenal. Not sure if our area is on a different 10 year cycle or something. Our one local connection to the area said that he is seeing LOTS of fox, wolves, and hawks this year. Hunters we are running into are saying the same things.

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I've found that even in good grouse habitat areas the grouse are down but then again there are some good pockets here and there. We had a killing winter where there wasn't any snow for roosting. A weeks worth of -20 took its toll.

I've been observing grouse for 30 years and had never bought into the 10 year cycle. IMO winter roosting snow cover and wet cold Springs have more to do with grouse numbers. Predation with lack of rooting snow also takes its toll. Now get this, besides the native predators on MN we get the Snowy Owls that are forced down from the North because lack of food(lemmings) take a lot of MN ruffed grouse. Combine that with a winter without snow roosting cover and they're sitting ducks. So grouse populations are caused by a number of things, not a mysterious 10 year cycle. How many times have we heard were in the upward trend of the 10 year cycle and the next year the bottom falls out?

Whats the Ruffed Grouses # 1 winter food source? If you said Aspen buds your repeating what George Gullian wrote.

In the last 20 years or so theres been a huge demand for Aspen. We have more Aspen stands now then ever.

Whitetail deer benefited greatly by that new abundant food source. Guess what game bird hasn't? Fact, we have less Ruffed Grouse now then when the Aspen boom started 20 years ago. Coincidence? Its been my observation Aspen buds are not the Ruffed Grouses # 1 winter food source. Birch buds are. Mature Birch are gone after a clear cut and replaced with Aspen.

The late George Gullian(Mr Grouse) wrote the book on Ruffed Grouse. I wonder is he'd change his mind after seeing the effects of huge Aspen stands on Grouse today?

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I hunted between Cass and Winnie this weekend and was dissappointed in what we saw. Flushed 2 way ahead (80 yards) of the dog (I think they were runners as my young dog was birdy, but is trying to figure the whole game out). He did manage a close flush of a woodcock. I may have to slide off in another direction to get him on some birds. I noticed a lot less grouse while bear hunting around Waskish this year than the last 2 also.

Good Luck!

Ken

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I do believe hte birds are in pockets. I talked with a friend who hunted the Cass Lake area and flushed 20 birds in 3 hrs. I sure hope I'm able to find such a spot in a couple of weeks. laugh.gif

Ken,

Any chance that you'll be up on Cass over MEA? We'll be hanging out at Cass Lake Lodge.

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I see more grouse the last two years...but they have been down for quite awhile.

Less brush and no snow in the winter. Nowhere to hide in the winter from the predators and the cold.

Too much competition form turkeys and other game also.

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If I had shot 10 grouse 5 years ago it would have been a banner year. Im a forester, in the woods alot and talk to alot of other woods people. They all have seen significant increases in grouse. Im sure there are some areas that are down. Theres alot of factors involved, plus grouse are very adaptive in there eating habits. They can eat pretty anything they can fit in there mouth, acorns, leaves, buds, fruit, seeds insects, etc. Theres still plently of aspen out there of all ages. Prime grouse habitat needs three different age types of aspen, young,medium, and mature. If your missing one or two of those age classes chances are there wont be alot of grouse in the area.The national forest have virtually stopped cutting aspen because of litigation which will be interesting to watch and see what evolves. My pup flushed four grouse in the brush in a fairly residential area, but it was thick cover which is why they were probably there

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For whatever reason in our area we don't really start seeing alot of birds until almost deer hunting and then your kicking them out of the way to get to your stand?...go figure. The birds that I did see last wknd were pretty skittish..flushing wild, etc I think a fellas just got to keep scoutng diffrent areas and keep moving..habitat changes year to year and I'm just as guilty as the next guy for getting into ruts of not changing locations (they were there 2 years ago..where are they now?)

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It seems about the same as last year for me..Maybe seeing a few more birds early in the season. The better hunting will start soon.

For me, I think hunting grouse is similar to walleye fishing. You can put in a ton a time with poor results, then things turn around fast. Last Sunday I walked 4 miles with the dog and flushes one bird. Then in a 1/4 mile I put up 8-9 birds and still had an empty game bag.

I talked to a guy who hunts hard with top of the line dogs around the Bemidji area and feels counts are way down. He also went up to Northome for a week end with poor results. Another friend went out to check a stand and brought his gun shot a limit off the ground in 30 minutes.

I was supposed to head to Lutsen with a friend last weekend but had local commitments. 4 guys put up 4 birds for the weekend.

The best hunting is yet to come. I'm taking Thursday and Friday off.(It's supposed to rain but have friends coming up) Hopefully the Woodcock will start coming down.

That is why I love grouse hunting. Every scenerio is different. This year I can't seem to do the right thing when opportunities arise. I am getting that look from the dog like I'm an (Contact Us Please).

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I actually buy into the 10 year Cycle and feel we are definitely on the up swing I'm really encouraged by the number of birds and the different age groups in the coveys we have encountered.

Of course it fluctuates from area to area and on the Weekends if the spot your hunting has had pressure it will seem like the numbers are way down when in fact the Birds are just scattered because of the pressure.

Obviously mid week hunting a is a bonus if you can pull it off, Thursday and Friday morning we saw a lot of birds the rest of the weekend was dismal to say the least.

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Never saw another hunter and only one other truck on a trail head. We tried trails, busting brush, swamp edges, and 2 cut over areas. Walked probably 2-3 miles... so I don't think pressure was the problem. We were out at 9am and hunted till just before noon when the sun came out and it soared into the low 70's... too warm to be walking when a guy can be fishing. On a side note, the deer ticks were incredible! At least 50-100 on my dog! Couple hours of picking and a tick bath... No Fun!!!!!

Borch, I'm 50-50 on MEA, I'll see what my NoDak bowhunting days are gonna be. I'd love to meet up to chase some grouse or walleye if I'm up then. We'll keep in touch.

Good Luck!

Ken

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We hunted with my britanny Sunday around Longville in

the rain. We shot 3 and heard a few flushes in the woods.

Passed up 3 more on the road. Very young birds we shot.

One tail was only an inch long. My friend was on the Echo

Trail near Crane Lake on opener and said they were thick.

Can't wait until Saturday to hit it again.

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Quote:

I've found that even in good grouse habitat areas the grouse are down but then again there are some good pockets here and there. We had a killing winter where there wasn't any snow for roosting. A weeks worth of -20 took its toll.

I've been observing grouse for 30 years and had never bought into the 10 year cycle. IMO winter roosting snow cover and wet cold Springs have more to do with grouse numbers. Predation with lack of rooting snow also takes its toll. Now get this, besides the native predators on MN we get the Snowy Owls that are forced down from the North because lack of food(lemmings) take a lot of MN ruffed grouse. Combine that with a winter without snow roosting cover and they're sitting ducks. So grouse populations are caused by a number of things, not a mysterious 10 year cycle. How many times have we heard were in the upward trend of the 10 year cycle and the next year the bottom falls out?

Whats the Ruffed Grouses # 1 winter food source? If you said Aspen buds your repeating what George Gullian wrote.

In the last 20 years or so theres been a huge demand for Aspen. We have more Aspen stands now then ever.

Whitetail deer benefited greatly by that new abundant food source. Guess what game bird hasn't? Fact, we have less Ruffed Grouse now then when the Aspen boom started 20 years ago. Coincidence? Its been my observation Aspen buds are not the Ruffed Grouses # 1 winter food source. Birch buds are. Mature Birch are gone after a clear cut and replaced with Aspen.

The late George Gullian(Mr Grouse) wrote the book on Ruffed Grouse. I wonder is he'd change his mind after seeing the effects of huge Aspen stands on Grouse today?


Do you think its due more to the age of the aspen? I see tons of aspen, just not a lot of the 20-30 year aspen grouse like to eat(the buds).

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No I dont think the numbers are down at all. I have never seen so many young grouse. The grouse do seem to be farther off the trails this year. I have been walking the dog straight through the woods with no trail at all. I have heard road hunters complaining of less birds on the roads and I love it. grin.gif

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A healthy mix is key. Theres a thread on land management for the landowner. You won't see clear cuts recommend, rather selective thinning. Thats not financially feasible for the logging industry and what you end up is a huge stand of Aspen of the same age for the rest of its cycle.

I'm not complaining about that, it is what it is. Lacking that mix, it isn't prime grouse habitat but at some stage they'll use it.

Grouse start to disperse in Sept-Oct. Some stay put all year long, those areas are prime grouse habitat meaning everything they need is there all year. Anyway that move is two fold, young of the year moving off and or grouse moving to a winter food and cover source. How I gauge a good year from bad year is first I go to those prime areas. Adult Grouse aren't going to bunch up in one prime spot. They're territorial and very specific as to their needs thats especialy true come nesting season.

On a bad year the birds will be there. On a terrible year they won't. You probably know a few areas that always have grouse. It'll be like that year after year. Thats as long as the forests cycle changes naturally. What I want to now is covey size in those areas, that'll give me an clue as to nesting success.

So I then start looking at not so prime areas, areas that you won't see grouse on a bad year. So between the two I look for carry over from the year before and this Springs nesting success. What I've found is pretty much whats been said.

Some good pockets here and there but in prime habitat.

Its not a good year but it isn't all that bad. Tell me how that relates to a 10 year cycle. I'll say if we get roosting snow before the cold snap and if we don't get a cold wet Spring next year will be better.

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not really trying to debate because for the most part I agree, just adding information.

From the DNR (yeah, ok, this could be propaganda...)

If I was savvy enough to post the graphs I would, but looking at the graphs on the attached link from the DNR there is no denying 10 year cycles. I think we can argue the how's and why's forever, but they do exist, some areas the up and downs might be more extreme.

http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/outdoor_activities/hunting/grouse/grouse_survey_report_07.pdf

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I hunt 30 miles straight North of Bemidji, numbers seem to be a little lower right now. I did better late in October in the same area, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

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Just about all the grouse hunters stopping at the lodge say the numbers they are seeing are way down throughout the area (Virginia to International Falls) this year. One person in this thread said he saw a good number near Crane lake though. Most of the local hunters blame it on -30 low temperatures for two weeks in January and no snow until mid-February. In addition, there appear to be increasing numbers of predators.

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cannot say i am seeing more birds thatn last but way more than 2-3 years ago.

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