Roosters took cover in standing row crops to hide from Minnesota pheasant hunters during last weekend’s season opener. Game wardens across the state’s pheasant range reported strong participation in many areas, but sparse results.

“Success on opening morning appeared to be around one pheasant per every two hunters,” New Ulm area conservation officer Thor Nelson wrote.

Straight west of Minneapolis in fields around Madison and Montevideo, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer Luke Gutzwiller reported “tough” conditions because of wet ground that limited harvesting of corn and soybeans.

Similar reports were filed by game wardens Jim Robinson in Slayton and Nicholas Klehr in Litchfield. “Pheasant success was only fair,” he wrote.

Klehr said low productivity didn’t mean the opener was a failure.

“Most hunters said it was great to be out and the dogs were having a great time with the wonderful weather,” he wrote.

Grouse flip-flop

Results from the Ruffed Grouse Society’s National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt last weekend in the Grand Rapids area were disappointing, and reflected what other forest hunters have found this fall: an unexpected downturn in grouse numbers.

A total of 108 hunters killed 124 ruffed grouse during the two-day hunt, a 30 percent decline from last year and a 50 percent drop from the hunt’s average harvest.

The drop-off might not have been so noticeable had the DNR not reported a 57 percent increase in its annual grouse drumming counts last spring.

Forty-five percent of birds taken by the hunters were adults, and 55 percent juveniles. The male-female split was 60-40.

The hunt’s woodcock harvest was also down. A total of 333 of these birds were killed, a 14 percent decrease from 2016. Seventy-five percent of woodcock harvested were adults, with the remainder juveniles.

The hunt has occurred in the Grand Rapids area during the second week of October for more than 35 years, and provides researchers insights into the area’s grouse and woodcock populations, especially in context of the grouse’s 10-year population cycle.

This Grand Rapids Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society sponsors the hunt, which attracts wingshooters and their dogs from around the nation.