Minnesota's ruffed grouse population is supposed to be on the downswing, but so far it has been a pretty good fall for "ruffie" hunters.
"A lot of people tell me it's better than they thought it was going to be," said Ted Dick, Department of Natural Resources ruffed grouse coordinator.
He has received reports of hunters doing especially well in the far north, including Itasca, St. Louis, Lake of the Woods, Roseau and Beltrami counties.
"Grouse hunters are starting to do very well in the Chippewa National Forest and Blackduck State Forest areas," reported DNR conservation officer Keith Backer of Blackduck.
A friend and I hunted over the weekend in Itasca and Koochiching counties and found lots of fall color gawkers, hunters, anglers, ATV riders -- and decent numbers of grouse. With three dogs, we flushed 10 birds on Saturday, bagging two. Hunting a half-day Sunday, we flushed eight birds and again dropped two.
Dick said grouse might have had a good nesting season, which boosted numbers. Still, he said the spring drumming counts indicate the population is declining.
"I still think the harvest will be down," he said.
Did you know?
The conservation efforts of Don McMillan, former president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, who died at age 74 earlier this year, will be honored Saturday. The DNR will dedicate waterfowl pools at the Dishpan Wildlife Management Area near Dora Lake in northern Itasca County in McMillan's name, and place a monument there. McMillan served as president of the MOHA from 2007 to 2012, and worked to promote the passage of Minnesota's Legacy Amendment and the Minnesota constitutional amendment to preserve hunting and fishing.