Minnesota’s 2024 spring drumming counts show highest peak for ruffed grouse since 1972 – Outdoor News


Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring population counts are similar to last year and to other recent peaks in the 10-year population cycle of grouse — a pattern recorded for 73 years, according to a study from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The Minnesota DNR and its partners use spring drumming counts to help monitor the ruffed grouse breeding population through time.

The recent grouse population trend includes a low point in the cycle in 2021 that was not as low as previous lows, followed by the highest peak this year since 1972.

Mean ruffed grouse drums per stop were 2.3 statewide, which is similar to last year and the highest estimate reported in over 50 years. Statewide drums per stop were highest in the northeast survey region, which is the core of ruffed grouse range in Minnesota. 

Warm temperatures and dry conditions that favor high nest success and chick survival the last few years may partly explain the quicker than expected rise to peak levels in the 10-year cycle. Snow conditions also were favorable for roosting throughout much of the core of grouse range during the winters of 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, followed by an unusually warm winter during 2023-2024.

Minnesota’s climate is getting warmer and wetter with more heavy, intense rainfalls occurring.

“While ruffed grouse drumming counts are high in the core of ruffed grouse range, indicating a strong breeding population this spring, drumming counts are not an accurate way to predict the birds that will be present during the fall hunting season,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “Nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer are among the factors that influence the number of birds present in the fall. These factors can be reduced by heavy rain during June when nests are hatching and chicks are young.”

Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse drums on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.

“In a typical year, we have 13 cooperating organizations providing folks to help us count grouse drumming,” Roy said. “We are grateful to our federal and tribal partners for their assistance in completing routes.”

The ruffed grouse survey report can be found on the grouse management webpage of the DNR website.


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Sharp-tailed grouse population up in the northwest, but remains low in east-central region

Minnesota’s northwest sharp-tailed grouse population is higher this year than last year and the highest it’s been since 2009, according to spring population counts conducted by the Minnesota DNR and cooperating organizations.

The population level remains low in east-central Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR closed the hunting season in the east-central zone in 2021.

Low population levels in this area are thought to be driven largely by changing habitat conditions. The birds require areas of 1 to 3 square miles of grassland and brushland, so managing their habitats often requires cooperation between multiple landowners.

The Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever and others have collaborated with the Minnesota DNR on targeted habitat management — specifically on prescribed burns, and mowing and tree shearing projects — for sharp-tailed grouse in the east-central range and remain committed to enhancing open-land habitats.

The sharp-tailed grouse survey report can be found on the grouse management webpage of the Minnesota DNR website.

Source: https://www.outdoornews.com/2024/07/08/minnesotas-2024-spring-drumming-counts-show-highest-peak-for-ruffed-grouse-since-1972/