Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were unchanged this year compared to last year, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Natural Resources. This follows a significant increase of 34 percent from 2013 to 2014, said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “While it can be tenuous to compare the results of only one year to the next, we suspect the cold, wet spring of 2014 may have hurt grouse production,” she said. “We also had comparatively little snow last year for roosting, which may have influenced overwinter survival.” Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Compared to last year’s survey, 2015 survey results for ruffed grouse showed no statistical change in all regions of the state. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota, counts were 1.3 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.0 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.7 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.4 drums per stop. Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013 and 2014 were 0.9 and 1.1, 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. Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. For the past 66 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 12 organizations surveyed 126 routes across the state. Sharp-tailed grouse counts remain steady Statewide sharp-tailed grouse counts were similar in 2015 compared to 2014 on both the regional and statewide levels. Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year’s statewide average of 9.8 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground. The DNR’s 2015 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.
RUFFED GROUSE COUNTS ANNOUNCED