Ruffed grouse drumming counts increased 18 percent statewide this spring, according to a survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Counts were up 16 percent in Northeastern Minnesota and 9 percent in Northwestern Minnesota, said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader.
Results this year followed a year of no change from 2014 to 2015.
The ruffed grouse population in Minnesota tends to rise and fall in a 10-year cycle. The last peak in that cycle occurred in 2009, Roy said.
“I think we’re in the rising phase of the cycle,” Roy said. “This is very apparent when you look at statewide counts, that we’re in the ascending phase.”
Drumming counts, an index of the grouse population, help forecast what kind of success hunters might have in the coming fall. Drumming counts are made each spring.
“It’s definitely exciting news,” Nick Larson, regional director for the Ruffed Grouse Society, said of this spring’s drumming counts. “As a grouse hunter, you like to see the turn in the upswing. A lot of people like to look at the drumming counts, but that’s only part of the story. The survival of the spring hatch and young birds is also an indicator of what hunters will find in the fall.”
Although no scientific data is gathered regarding nesting success, Roy said she believes this past spring was probably favorable for grouse.
“Anecdotally, I’ve heard good things about spring conditions,” she said. “We received a fair amount of rains but not in big events. They were a little more spread out. That’s a little easier on the chicks.
That was not the case last year, Roy said.
The drumming of ruffed grouse is a low, repeated thumping 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.
Minnesota’s sharp-tailed grouse counts were down slightly, Roy said. This year’s statewide average of 9.5 sharp-tailed grouse per lek was similar to the long-term average since 1980.