Hunting

Grouse hunting is a great way to get started hunting, and a great way to spend an afternoon in the woods. Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR

Minnesota has 600 miles of hunter walking trails located in the northern forested area of the state where grouse are most abundant. There are more than 200 hunter walking trails, and most have marked parking areas at the trailhead.

“Hunter walking trails are a fun way to check out new areas and they do provide good hunting,” said Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “New hunters can follow these trails and not worry about getting lost or wandering off public land. And you can get away from trucks and four-wheelers and into some decent grouse habitat.”

An avid grouse and woodcock hunter himself, Dick has taken youth and new hunters on hunter walking trails over the years and uses the trails as a convenient way to discover new hunting areas.

The DNR partners with other organizations and land managers to maintain hunter walking trails. A $300,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to the Minnesota Ruffed Grouse Society will restore approximately 200 trailheads and 80 miles of existing trails, add 20 miles of new trails and update trail maps for land managers and trail users.

The DNR and partners developed the system of hunter walking trails beginning in the 1970s. Timber harvest around the trails is the main tool used to create quality grouse and woodcock habitat. The trails wind their way through wildlife management areas, ruffed grouse management areas, state forests and other types of public land.

Downloadable maps of hunter walking trails and more information can be found on the hunter walking trails page at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/hwt/index.html.

Getting started grouse hunting

Grouse hunting is one of the easiest way to begin hunting — and an even better way to get in a good hike.

The only items needed to get started are a shotgun, blaze orange vest and hat and a small game license. Good boots are mandatory, but a dog is optional. For many veteran grouse hunters, though, hunting with a dog is half the fun.

Ruffed grouse are generally found in or near aspen trees. Many hunters concentrate their efforts on young aspen stands with stems about as wide as a broomstick.

“We always say that in good grouse habitat, if you trip you won’t hit the ground because it’s too thick to walk through,” Dick said.

Grouse season is open now and lasts through Jan. 1, 2020. If you’re also targeting woodcock, make sure to get a Harvest Information Program certification when you buy your license. The woodcock season ends Monday, Nov. 4.

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