Grouse counts similar to last year
Don't expect great, even good, ruffed grouse hunting in southeast Minnesota.
You can look forward to good, but not great, hunting up north.
The Department of Natural Resources came out with its spring drumming counts, and they are statistically the same as last year. That follows an 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. We also had comparatively little snow last year for roosting, which may have influenced overwinter survival."
Grouse like deep snow because they dive in to roost and get out of severe cold.
This spring, in the northeast survey region, the core of grouse range in Minnesota, counts were 1.3 drums per stop, the DNR said. In the northwest there were 1 drum per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.7 drum per stop; and in the southeast, 0.4 drum per stop.
Grouse populations tend to fluctuate over a 10-year cycle with low years showing an average of 0.6 counts statewide to 2 per stop on the top of the cycle.
Drumming, however, only indicates how many males are around in spring to breed. The number of birds in fall depends on nest and chick survival, the DNR said.
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 .
Sign up for firearms safety
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that it is never too early to sign up for a hunter safety course. In general, anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979, needs a firearms certificate to hunt game with a firearm in Minnesota.
"Many people fail to consider enrolling in a course until the weather turns cool in late September," said Acting Capt. Jon Paurus, DNR education program coordinator. "Unfortunately, most courses have either begun or are full by then, and the opportunity to hunt during the fall may be diminished."
Classes are offered in a traditional classroom setting or online.
The firearms safety classroom course includes at least 12 hours of classroom instruction and a field day, which teaches the safe handling of firearms and hunter responsibility. The field day allows students to learn and demonstrate commonly accepted principles of safety in hunting and handling of firearms. It includes live fire on a rifle range.
The online course is not intended to replace traditional classroom instruction, but does give another option for students. It provides the same information as the classroom course for youth and adults interested in learning more about hunting.
"Today's students are computer savvy, so online training is just part of the DNR's evolving firearms safety education program," Paurus said.
Once the online examination is passed, students attend a field day where they apply what they have learned in a series of hunting scenarios testing firearms safety, safe hunting skills and tree stand safety.
"It's online training, but the course still heavily depends on the human interaction and guidance provided by dedicated, experienced volunteer instructors during the field day," Paurus said.
Field days are limited and hunter safety classes fill-up fast. Find a class by visiting dnr.state.mn.us/safety/firearms/index.html, or by calling 651-296-6157 or