1) You had to be encouraged by the spring drumming counts. Where are we at on the grouse cycle?
TD: “We were encouraged…I remember back in 2009 and 2010we were looking at some peak hunting. 2009 was probably the top so then it’s been on the decline for 2010, 11, 12 and 13, but now in 14 we did see a 34% increase at that was driven mostly by the increase in the heart of the grouse range in the north and northeast. It remains to be seen if it will continue to trend up.”
2) Explain what the cycle is:
TD: “…for some period of time, (they seem to) go through fairly regular cycles of high populations and low populations. With ruffed grouse it’s approximately every ten years. Lately the year numbers in the 8 and 9 range have been the ones with the highest population. Like ’98 or 2009. Once they reach one of those highs, they tend to decline for a little while and it takes about 10 years for numbers to come back up. It looks like a roller coaster.
3) Why is their a cycle?
TD: “No one knows for sure. Might have to do with predation or it might have to do with aspen as a primary food source- The trees responding with chemical changes in the buds that the grouse eat in the winter making them less nutritious or less palatable. Goshawks or other predator’s cycles they experience prey populations up north (to drop), they move down here in larger than normal numbers and feed on some of the prey species down here.”
4) What are the limits for the different grouse species?
TD: “Ruffed grouse and spruce grouse are combined into one limit, so if you shoot one spruce grouse, you can shoot 4 more ruffed grouse for a daily limit of 5, with a possession limit of 10. With sharp tails, there are fewer of them around, it’s tougher to maintain those we’re a little more conservative. It’s 3 a day with 6 in possession for sharp-tailed grouse. There’s two open zones (for sharp-tailed grouse), the east-central zone is over closer to Cloquet and the northwest zone is north and west of Bemidji and Baudette…there are some remnant populations further south and their doing what they can to improve habitat…” (but they’ve closed those areas. Check the regulations for maps.)
5) What size shot should be used and where should someone go for ruffed grouse?
TD: “Grouse flush very quickly and with the leaves on so you want to maximize your chances to make contact. Shot sizes in the small range like 7 1/2, 8’s or even 9’s-they’re small pellets, but you have a better chance of getting one through to make contact and it doesn’t take a lot of pellets to knock down a grouse. If you see some thick stuff, it could willow, alder or aspen-any kind of regeneration, it works pretty well. But they’re found in their highest density where there’s a lot of aspen. They like some old aspen next to some young aspen. They seek the young, thick aspen when they’re rearing their broods and they like to nest in older aspen. In the winter, they use the bigger, older aspen trees to pick buds.”
Thanks Ted! Have a good, safe opening weekend!