Minnesota’s 82,000 ruffed grouse hunters should find plenty to smile about this fall. The ruffie population is up a whopping 57 percent from last year — and might be the highest in decades — according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources annual survey.

“It could be ridiculously good this year,’’ said Ted Dick, DNR forest game bird coordinator in Grand Rapids. “In some areas, the numbers are the best we’ve seen in the last 20 years.’’

The grouse population usually tracks a 10-year boom-to-bust cycle, and it appears the population is near the peak.

“I’m saying [to hunters] get out there this year. It’s looking like this is the peak. Don’t pass this one up,’’ Dick said.

While the spring drumming counts were impressive, Dick said weather during the birds’ reproduction, which can affect newly hatched birds, should have been good.

Translation: Hunters should flush plenty of birds this fall. Hunters bagged 309,000 ruffed grouse last year, up 15 percent from 2015.

Doug Smith