Upland Forests Beautiful, But Where are the Grouse?

By KBJR News 1

September 29, 2010 Updated Sep 29, 2010 at 11:05 PM CDT

While the beautiful fall colors often send leaf watchers into the woods to gaze, the season may mean something entirely different for small game hunters.

In this week's "Nature Matters" David Hoole hits the upland forest to check on this year's grouse season.

The Ruffed Grouse of Minnesota is one of the most sought after game animals in the state, and for good reason.

"It's a pretty simple sport. That's the good thing about it, you need a shotgun, you need some shotgun shells and a hunting license and some blaze orange and a pair of boots, that's all you really need."

Just because it's a simple sport doesn't mean the birds are easy to find. I spent a recent afternoon looking for the popular game bird. I saw beautiful fall colors, together with the contrasting bright blue sky; this is the time of year outdoors people wait for.

"They have a 10 year cycle and that peak was last year."

The DNR says there should be some birds out there, though I had no luck getting any on tape.
Many others had difficulty as well despite estimates of a large grouse population.

"If you have a high spring drumming count you generally have a high fall harvest. That didn't come into play last year. We had the high spring drumming counts but a disappointing harvest."

The DNR says not as many took part in the hunt as in past years. Small game license numbers are down and resource managers aren't sure why.

"We're losing some grouse hunters and it wasn't just a one year phenomenon, that's kind of been the case over the last four of five years."

The bottom line for small game hunting this fall is not to get discouraged.
For now enjoy your walk through the fall colors...and remember once those leaves are gone the hunting improves.

"The hunting is always better in October, when the leaves drop a little bit and the woods open up the grouse concentrate in the better cover, they're easier to see. Success is always better in October.

In North Star Township, I'm David Hoole for nature matters.

Resident Small Game hunting licenses in Minnesota are 20 dollars.
Hunters are required to wear at least one article of blaze orange clothing when they're in the woods.