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Ruffed grouse numbers drop, according to DNR spring survey

 

If it was a population peak, it was short-lived.

Spring ruffed grouse drumming counts conducted by the Minnesota DNR show a 29-percent falloff from a year ago — bad news because the relatively high drumming counts of 2017 didn't seem to manifest themselves in  bird numbers last fall.

Bad news also because last year was believed to be the most recent cyclical population peak of  the state's ruffed grouse.

“Surveys indicate the peak occurred last year,”  Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader, said in an agency news release Monday. “Grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a decade-long cycle and counts this year are pointing to the peak lasting only one year this cycle. This has occurred before, but it’s always nice when the cycle stays high a little longer.”

Drumming counts indicate the size of the ruffed grouse breeding population. But the population payoff is seen in the fall — or isn't —  in the size of hunters' bags. This determines, generally, the success of nesting and chick survival.

“If production of young birds is low during the summer months, hunters may see fewer birds than expected based on counts of drumming males in the spring,” Roy said. “Conversely, when production of young is high, hunters may see more birds in the fall.”

The DNR has monitored ruffed grouse populations for 69 years. Statewide this year, the survey showed an average of 1.5 drums per stop. The averages during 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 were 0.9, 1.1, 1.1, 1.3 and 2.1 respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.

In the northeast survey region, which is the core of Minnesota’s grouse range, counts were 1.7 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.0 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.9 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.9 drums per stop. 

 

Minnesota camping, hiking guidebooks improved on

“Picking a finite number of campgrounds to include in a ‘best of’ listing is not an exact science. Are 25 too few, are 100 too many? More important, I feel, is that the criteria remain constant and based on unchanging standards that the author can share with the reader.”

So writes guidebook author Tom Watson in the preface of “Best Tent Camping: Minnesota,” just updated in a third edition from Menasha Ridge Press.

Order is Watson’s modus operandi; he is all about the details. He rates his top 50 campgrounds in the state (just one private) on criteria such as beauty, security, levels of quiet and privacy, cleanliness and spaciousness. Then, he ranks each of those categories from “ideal” to “acceptable.” He also assigns the best among his list for birding, for hiking, for boating, for families — you get the idea.

Watson has been busy: The fourth edition of “60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Minneapolis and St. Paul” also was released in May. He has a third guidebook, “Best Minnesota Camper Cabins.” Find them in the metro at Midwest Mountaineering, Barnes & Noble, and Bibelot shops.