Minnesota has yet to release results of its ruffed grouse spring drumming counts – which usually give hunters a good idea of fall hunting prospects.
But in Wisconsin, the ruffie’ populations appear to be entering a downswing, according that state’s grouse survey. The population index is down 25 percent this spring.
Both of the primary regions for grouse in the state, the central and northern forest areas, showed declines of 21 and 26 percent respectively. The only area to show an increase was the southeast, where grouse exist in only isolated areas of suitable young forest habitat and are not common.
“While this is a bit of bad news for grouse hunters, it should not be too big of a surprise,” said Brian Dhuey of the Wisconsin DNR. “We were overdue for the expected downturn.”
Ruffed grouse populations are known for their boom-to-bust cycle every nine to 11 years.
“This drop in breeding grouse was not unexpected, as grouse populations tend to be at their peak in years ending in a 9 or 0 in Wisconsin,’’ he said in a news release. “Last year we had an increase in grouse and were probably at the cyclic peak, a decline was inevitable.
“Early weather conditions are excellent for nesting and brood rearing, if we can stay normal or above for temperatures and have a bit of dry weather, we should have a pretty good brood year. I would expect that hunters will see a decline in the number of birds they see afield this fall, but areas of good cover should still hold birds.
“In years with low grouse numbers, hunters who find success are generally those willing to explore new coverts, as grouse will tend to occupy only the best habitat available and may not be found in the same areas where hunters found them in recent years,” he said.