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Minnesota grouse drumming counts up 57 percent

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DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota grouse hunters received great news this past week — ruffed grouse drumming counts were up 57 percent statewide compared to last year.

Drumming counts this spring are on par with those of recent peaks in the bird's 10-year population cycle, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials said. Results of the survey were announced Monday, July 10.

"It's really stunning," said Ted Dick, DNR upland game bird coordinator.

Midwestern ruffed grouse populations tend to follow a roughly 10-year cycle, often peaking in years ending in 9, 0 or 1.

Matt Kangas of Superior, recently named regional director for the Ruffed Grouse Society in Minnesota, has been talking to grouse hunters about the drumming report.

"They're very excited," Kangas said. "And from my perspective, as a hunter, I'm extremely excited. I've got a young dog. This will be his first season. I'm thrilled for what this means."

Kangas has a six-month-old English setter.

The 2017 survey results were 2.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 were 0.9, 1.1, 1.1 and 1.3, respectively.

In the northeast survey region, which is the core of Minnesota's grouse range, counts this spring were 2.5 drums per stop, said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. Statewide, drums per stop were as high as during the last peak in drumming in 2009 but have not yet reached previous peak levels in all regions, DNR officials said.

Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly to signal the location of their territory. Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming at regular stops along established routes.

While a good breeding year is helpful to the grouse population, fall hunting prospects still depend a great deal on the spring hatch and brood survival. Cold, wet conditions in early June can take a toll on chicks.

Minnesota's ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 16.

Wisconsin's ruffed grouse drumming counts, announced in early June, were up 17 percent statewide and 30 percent in Northwestern Wisconsin. Wisconsin's grouse season also begins Sept. 16.