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Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Tue Sep 11, 2018 10:33 am

Two things here:

1. Just a simple shout out to all those busting through the brambles, leaves, and mosquitoes to chase the King of Gamebirds this weekend (9/15 is grouse opener in MN), especially in Minnesota! I'll be among that crowd of hard-core people.

2. If people want to share season updates it would be interesting to hear anecdotal evidence about populations and hunting success (measured in flushes per hour). With the high drumming counts last year, the observations of hunters last fall, the lower drumming counts this year (although still higher than 2 years ago), and West Nile, it will be interesting to hear what people have to say about their seasons, particularly in MN and WI.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Settertude » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:11 am

I'm interested to follow this thread.
I'm a grouse and woodcock hunter from NH recently moved to Grove, OK.
I have a new puppy (Llewellin) and am planning a trip to Minnesota next season with a year old.
My Tucker is too old to make that trip this year and the pup--Max is just a baby.
I would like to find cover in the southern tier, if possible.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby reba » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:15 pm

I am hunting ruffed grouse right now in Wyoming.

I am amazed on how my big running GSP's tighten up in the thick stuff.

Season runs through December.

Sage grouse starts Sept 15th.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mgrucker » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:02 am

I'll be around Isabella this weekend. I'm not a good grouse hunter so... we'll see. Gotta do something to pass the time until pheasant opener though :lol:
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby walt501 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:32 pm

I have a place just across the border from Minnesota in Ontario so my observations should hold for most of the "big woods" country of Northeast Minnesota. Checking the logging roads on my 4 wheeler around my place 2 1/2 weeks ago I was spotting several young of the year grouse out picking gravel. I take this as a very good sign, as not a lot of grouse come out to the road in late August. More mature birds should be joining the youngsters as the weather cools.

Our last grouse population peak was in 2009, with another banner year in 2011 which I attribute to excellent nesting success. So now and for the next 2 to 3 years should see peak population numbers once again for ruffed grouse. If you're looking for a specific place to hunt, I enjoy hunting the almost endless miles of logging roads northeast of Orr, MN. Also, public land closer to Lake Superior should prove productive and I'll actually be hunting near the big lake myself later this fall.

Good luck and save a couple for me!
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:12 pm

I couldn’t get out Saturday due to work, but went out this morning. Man, talk about heat and humidity! I got started earlier than I usually do (I like to let the birds get down and walk around some in the morning) but the temps forced my hand. Even at 7 AM it was 68 and like a sauna!

Anyway, I hunted under 2 hours. Each dog got about 45 minutes on the ground, give or take. The springer was first and she flushed 4 woodcock (but they open next week). I assume the grouse were mostly in the trees then. She stayed really nice and steady on those doodles. Next up the Pointer... she pointed a woodcock first. One of those “trip over your own feet” points. Next she pointed a grouse that she caught on the wrong side of the wind and the bird sat for .5 seconds after she pointed. Luckily the bird flew at me and I dropped it. 1/1. Next was a gorgeous point! Walked up and found her tail high and nose pointed to the sky. Based on the wind, I have no clue how she scented that bird. Anyway, I didn’t give myself a good window to shoot so that bird got away. Last grouse flushed wild and I never saw it.

So just about 2 flushes per hour on a hot/humid day and a ton of leaves.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Settertude » Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:26 pm

mnaj_springer wrote:I couldn’t get out Saturday due to work, but went out this morning. Man, talk about heat and humidity! I got started earlier than I usually do (I like to let the birds get down and walk around some in the morning) but the temps forced my hand. Even at 7 AM it was 68 and like a sauna!

Anyway, I hunted under 2 hours. Each dog got about 45 minutes on the ground, give or take. The springer was first and she flushed 4 woodcock (but they open next week). I assume the grouse were mostly in the trees then. She stayed really nice and steady on those doodles. Next up the Pointer... she pointed a woodcock first. One of those “trip over your own feet” points. Next she pointed a grouse that she caught on the wrong side of the wind and the bird sat for .5 seconds after she pointed. Luckily the bird flew at me and I dropped it. 1/1. Next was a gorgeous point! Walked up and found her tail high and nose pointed to the sky. Based on the wind, I have no clue how she scented that bird. Anyway, I didn’t give myself a good window to shoot so that bird got away. Last grouse flushed wild and I never saw it.

So just about 2 flushes per hour on a hot/humid day and a ton of leaves.

An encouraging early season report. Thank you and congrats on some nice dog work.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Sat Sep 29, 2018 10:04 pm

Well, I was able to get out this evening for 2.5 hours at one of my usual coverts. Weather could hardly be better: 44 degrees with a decent breeze and slightly overcast. There are still a lot of leaves up but they’re starting to drop.

Anyway, report on birds flushed. In that 2.5 hour hunt we moved 8 grouse and 3 woodcock, so 3.2 grouse flushes per hour. I’ll take that any day!

I’m surprised I saw so little woodcock at this spot. It usually holds quite a few. So many sometimes that you trip over them while looking for grouse. Makes me wonder if the recent cold snap pushed the residents out and the migrators just haven’t arrived yet. Also, both dogs (springer and pointer) gave the impression that the birds had been or currently were moving a lot. I got a lot of points and relocations that were unproductive, and the springer did a lot of nose to the ground tracking.

Anyway, the dog work was great too! The EP in her age 4 season is really starting to put things together!
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Settertude » Sun Sep 30, 2018 7:12 am

mnaj_springer wrote:Well, I was able to get out this evening for 2.5 hours at one of my usual coverts. Weather could hardly be better: 44 degrees with a decent breeze and slightly overcast. There are still a lot of leaves up but they’re starting to drop.

Anyway, report on birds flushed. In that 2.5 hour hunt we moved 8 grouse and 3 woodcock, so 3.2 grouse flushes per hour. I’ll take that any day!

I’m surprised I saw so little woodcock at this spot. It usually holds quite a few. So many sometimes that you trip over them while looking for grouse. Makes me wonder if the recent cold snap pushed the residents out and the migrators just haven’t arrived yet. Also, both dogs (springer and pointer) gave the impression that the birds had been or currently were moving a lot. I got a lot of points and relocations that were unproductive, and the springer did a lot of nose to the ground tracking.

Anyway, the dog work was great too! The EP in her age 4 season is really starting to put things together!

Great report. Are you hunting aspen stands or more transitional edges?
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Sun Sep 30, 2018 9:55 am

Setterdude,

A little bit of both. Actually, it’s a lot of aspen with alder transitions, and some pine/aspen/dogwood.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Settertude » Sun Sep 30, 2018 10:07 am

mnaj_springer wrote:Setterdude,

A little bit of both. Actually, it’s a lot of aspen with alder transitions, and some pine/aspen/dogwood.

Sounds perfect...have a great season.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:46 am

Settertude wrote:
mnaj_springer wrote:Setterdude,

A little bit of both. Actually, it’s a lot of aspen with alder transitions, and some pine/aspen/dogwood.

Sounds perfect...have a great season.


Thanks! Again, I started this thread to not to talk about my hunts but to hear from other MN Ruffed grouse hunters and their anecdotal accounts of bird populations. I understand the flaws in it, but I was curious if the stories match the science.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Settertude » Mon Oct 01, 2018 12:15 pm

I understand--I'm following because it gets my juices flowing regarding next years MN hunt.
From a NH perspective, MN is Ruff heaven.
LOL
Nothing like getting a pup on lots of wild birds.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Sat Oct 06, 2018 6:24 am

I spent yesterday in the woods.. Ran six dogs, two at a time. Conditions were nasty, light rain off and on, most of the leaves are still on and the Alder areas have standing water. Four points, no shots, in about six hours. No Wood Cocks. Which is alright with me. Not a fan.
grouse seem to bedown in our area. It is better farther north where there has been snow. The last few winters here have had very little snow. Good four deer, tough on grouse........Cj
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:17 am

I got out yesterday in some logging land. It was nearly all poolstick popple and some spruce mixed in on the edges. Lots of leaves still up but they are starting to drop. Light mist here and there, but nothing terrible.

Anyway, we walked for about 2 hours up and down a closed off logging road and it was interesting. We flushed 4 grouse in that time, and only got shots at one. I thought I had a good shot and looked and followed up for 30 minutes. Nothing. The dog acted like the big hit the ground and ran and did a lot of tracking but still nothing. (2 flushes/hour)

The interesting part was the woodcock. We flushed 24+ during that walk. At one point we couldn't go 15 seconds without a woodcock point. I've never been upset with my dog doing her job well, but it was on the verge of getting to be too much. I'm thinking that we hit the woods right after a flight came in the night before. It's typically a good woodcock spot, but I've never seen in that good. Needless to say, woodcock appetizers will be served soon.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby DonF » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:50 am

Are those woodcock any good to eat?
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Tue Oct 09, 2018 9:52 am

DonF wrote:Are those woodcock any good to eat?


I put them in a brine with water, lemon juice, and salt for at least 24 hours. Mostly it helps to draw the blood out. Then I marinade them for at least 24 hours. The marinade depends on what I'm in the mood for at the time. Then I grill or pan fry until cooked through yet tender. To me it tastes a lot like duck. The caveat is that you need at least 3 for a snack. Ideally you cook a pile with all your buddies to make an appetizer.

So if prepared correctly, they are delicious. Otherwise, meh.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Up North » Wed Oct 10, 2018 9:11 pm

Lets just say it is an acquired taste, that I never acquired. :mrgreen:
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby Featherfinder » Tue Oct 23, 2018 8:19 pm

Brine the de-boned skinned breasts as already mentioned to clean them up - ~40 minutes will do. (Save the legs for another recipe.)
Then, marinate them in a teriyaki-type sauce or make your own with soy sauce, some fresh ground ginger, a clove of garlic and a few drops of lemon juice - 24 hours is plenty.
Take each breast and cut it in half - each woodcock will offer 4 pieces. Place a slice of water chestnut on top of your 1/2 woodcock breast and wrap the two in a piece of strip bacon (I usually cut the strip in half or thirds depending on the length - as long as it wraps once around the woodcock/water chestnut). Place a toothpick through the wrapped piece to hold them in place. Place each piece on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil (easier clean up). Set your oven for broil (Hi) and place the aluminum foil wrapped cookie sheet of these gems into the oven, close to the top of the oven cavity.
Watch them closely as they crisp up fast! Flip them once to crisp up the opposite side. Serve them to "unsuspecting guests" ;) as appetizers or hours d'oeuvres. Then, watch them disappear!
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:51 pm

Featherfinder wrote:Brine the de-boned skinned breasts as already mentioned to clean them up - ~40 minutes will do. (Save the legs for another recipe.)
Then, marinate them in a teriyaki-type sauce or make your own with soy sauce, some fresh ground ginger, a clove of garlic and a few drops of lemon juice - 24 hours is plenty.
Take each breast and cut it in half - each woodcock will offer 4 pieces. Place a slice of water chestnut on top of your 1/2 woodcock breast and wrap the two in a piece of strip bacon (I usually cut the strip in half or thirds depending on the length - as long as it wraps once around the woodcock/water chestnut). Place a toothpick through the wrapped piece to hold them in place. Place each piece on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil (easier clean up). Set your oven for broil (Hi) and place the aluminum foil wrapped cookie sheet of these gems into the oven, close to the top of the oven cavity.
Watch them closely as they crisp up fast! Flip them once to crisp up the opposite side. Serve them to "unsuspecting guests" ;) as appetizers or hours d'oeuvres. Then, watch them disappear!


That is a great recipe, I can tell already!

I've found if you brine them and marinate them, people will eat it and love it. Just don't tell them what it is until after. It's amazing how much the brain can get in the way of our stomachs!
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:20 am

Been out quite a few times lately.
It seems like you have to get north of the turkey's to find many grouse. Also seems like the population is better in areas that have had more snow the last few winters. Deer are doing well though......Cj
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:23 am

cjhills wrote:Been out quite a few times lately.
It seems like you have to get north of the turkey's to find many grouse. Also seems like the population is better in areas that have had more snow the last few winters. Deer are doing well though......Cj


So I am inferring that you suspect there has been lack of winter cover (ie snow) in some areas that's affecting the population?
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:49 am

mnaj_springer wrote:
cjhills wrote:Been out quite a few times lately.
It seems like you have to get north of the turkey's to find many grouse. Also seems like the population is better in areas that have had more snow the last few winters. Deer are doing well though......Cj


So I am inferring that you suspect there has been lack of winter cover (ie snow) in some areas that's affecting the population?

Pretty sure turkeys and cold winters with little snow are tough on the grouse. Grouse numbers are down here. But 50 miles north where snow depths have been better and turkeys are fewer numbers are quite good......Cj
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:12 pm

cjhills wrote:
mnaj_springer wrote:
cjhills wrote:Been out quite a few times lately.
It seems like you have to get north of the turkey's to find many grouse. Also seems like the population is better in areas that have had more snow the last few winters. Deer are doing well though......Cj


So I am inferring that you suspect there has been lack of winter cover (ie snow) in some areas that's affecting the population?

Pretty sure turkeys and cold winters with little snow are tough on the grouse. Grouse numbers are down here. But 50 miles north where snow depths have been better and turkeys are fewer numbers are quite good......Cj


By here do you mean where you live? Because I'm finding a lot of them here.

How are the turkey's affecting the grouse?
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:03 pm

If you mean a lot of Grouse where I live maybe your just better than I am. I am sure you can walk farther and faster. All the grouse hunters I know and DNR people think the numbers are down around here. If you mean where you live,you only needed to go a little farther north from here last winter to find greater snow depth and no turkeys and to find a lot better grouse numbers now.
I believe that turkeys find a lot of the grouse nests and eat the eggs and also catch the new hatched babies. I have seen them do both.
You sound a bit like you disagree. That is fine I respect your opinion. Never said it was a scientific fact. If you are trying to start an argument forget it. But I have seen far better grouse numbers than there are now. Not long ago......Cj
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Thu Oct 25, 2018 9:12 pm

cjhills wrote:If you mean a lot of Grouse where I live maybe you are just better than I am. I am sure you can walk farther and faster. All the grouse hunters I know and DNR people that I talk with every day, think the numbers are down around here. If you mean where you live,you only needed to go a little farther north from here last winter to find greater snow depth and no turkeys and to find a lot better grouse numbers now. Duluth had a lot of snow as did Hill City. The Hedboom trail area has good Numbers.
I believe that turkeys find a lot of the grouse nests and eat the eggs and also catch the new hatched babies. I have seen them do both.
You sound a bit like you disagree. That is fine I respect your opinion. Never said it was a scientific fact. If you are trying to start an argument forget it. But I have seen far better grouse numbers than there are now. Not long ago......Cj
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Fri Oct 26, 2018 8:57 am

cjhills wrote:If you mean a lot of Grouse where I live maybe your just better than I am. I am sure you can walk farther and faster. All the grouse hunters I know and DNR people think the numbers are down around here. If you mean where you live,you only needed to go a little farther north from here last winter to find greater snow depth and no turkeys and to find a lot better grouse numbers now.
I believe that turkeys find a lot of the grouse nests and eat the eggs and also catch the new hatched babies. I have seen them do both.
You sound a bit like you disagree. That is fine I respect your opinion. Never said it was a scientific fact. If you are trying to start an argument forget it. But I have seen far better grouse numbers than there are now. Not long ago......Cj


Ugh, the sensitive nature of our society is ridiculous. Asking a question, probing further, the Socratic method, does not in and of itself mean someone disagrees or is arguing. I ask questions because things that are true hold up to scrutiny and questioning. They can be defended and bolstered through the Socratic method.

So really I am questioning you to understand more. That's just who I am and what I am like. I don't accept things at face value. I question things. I seek to understand them on a deeper level. I'm willing to have my ideas and presuppositions questioned and prodded as well.

I didn't think of turkeys being a source of depredation or being egg-eaters. I learned something through this dialogue. Usually I worry about skunks and raccoons when it comes to nest raiding, and hawks for predators (when it comes to ruff grouse).

And yes, we live in the same town. That's where most of my previously listed flush per hour numbers are coming from. But you're right... I probably walk farther (although I don't necessarily believe faster is better). I pride myself with hunting hard. I endure scrapes, cuts, wet feet, and tired legs with pride. So maybe I'm not representative of the average grouse hunter, which is why I wanted to start this thread.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby averageguy » Fri Oct 26, 2018 12:01 pm

mnaj_springer wrote:I didn't think of turkeys being a source of depredation or being egg-eaters. I learned something through this dialogue. Usually I worry about skunks and raccoons when it comes to nest raiding, and hawks for predators (when it comes to ruff grouse).


What you learned for certain is that CJ believes Turkeys eat enough grouse eggs and chicks to have an impact on the population at large. Whether what he believes has any credibility is another matter entirely. I am in the camp where the huge majority of upland bird biologists are as well, there is not significant predation of ground nesting birds from turkeys. Coons and Skunks - Absolutely!
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Fri Oct 26, 2018 12:28 pm

averageguy wrote:
mnaj_springer wrote:I didn't think of turkeys being a source of depredation or being egg-eaters. I learned something through this dialogue. Usually I worry about skunks and raccoons when it comes to nest raiding, and hawks for predators (when it comes to ruff grouse).


What you learned for certain is that CJ believes Turkeys eat enough grouse eggs and chicks to have an impact on the population at large. Whether what he believes has any credibility is another matter entirely. I am in the camp where the huge majority of upland bird biologists are as well, there is not significant predation of ground nesting birds from turkeys. Coons and Skunks - Absolutely!

That is exactly what I said. I have no scientific evidence. I had trail cameras on five nests last spring. About fifty turkeys came through my woods one afternoon, They ate the eggs from three nests. Skunks and raccoons got Zero. In the grand scheme of things maybe a small difference. In my woods it was huge. I bought that woods in 1966,never had a year with no grouse 'til the turkeys moved in. None this year.
mnaj:
I pride myself on being able to hunt grouse at all, since I am +2x your age. I do have sons,grandsons, young friends and employees that are avid grouse hunters. Mostly they go a little farther north where there are no turkeys.......Cj
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby mnaj_springer » Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:53 pm

cjhills..... sounds like you need to do some turkey hunting! If that's not your cup of tea, I can do it for you!! I've had some pretty good luck around Aitkin! :lol: :lol: :lol:

In all seriousness, I'm not disagreeing with you. Like I said, I am using this thread to learn/observe.
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Re: Minnesota Ruffed Grouse

Postby cjhills » Fri Oct 26, 2018 4:23 pm

I do shoot a fall turkey every year. Always from my deer stand. most boring thing I do. The old Toms are not fit to eat. I certainly would not have a problem with you did disagree. Like somebody said biologists disagree and perhaps they are right overall, but in our area they make a difference......Cj
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