Doug Smith
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Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts this year are unchanged from last year.

The annual spring drumming survey showed no statistical change in all regions of the state, the DNR said Monday.

Observers recorded 1.1 drums per stop – the number of drumming grouse counted at established routes -- statewide. The averages during 2013 and 2014 were 0.9 and 1.1, respectively.

In the northeast region, the core of grouse range, counts were 1.3 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.0 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.7 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.4 drums per stop.

Statewide, counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.

The spring counts are a population indicator, but whether hunters will find more or fewer birds in the woods next fall is dependent on spring nesting success and chick survival.

This spring's results follow a significant 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,” she said. “We also had comparatively little snow last year for roosting, which may have influenced overwinter survival.”

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, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions

For the past 66 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 12 organizations surveyed 126 routes across the state.

Sharp-tailed grouse counts remain steady

Statewide sharp-tailed grouse counts were similar in 2015 compared to 2014 on both the regional and statewide levels. Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year’s statewide average of 9.8 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

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.