Minnesota grouse counts similar to last year

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said today that ruffed grouse drumming counts are similar to last year across the state.

Spring ruffed grouse counts in Minnesota are similar to last year, the Department of Natural Resources reported Monday.

That’s either good news or bad news depending on your perspective, but based on what friends and I encountered during last fall’s grouse hunting season, “similar to last year” doesn’t sound half bad.

In a news release, the DNR said this year’s survey results for ruffed grouse showed no statistical change in all regions of the state. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota, 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.

Sharptail counts also were similar to last year, with this year’s survey tallying a statewide average of 9.8 grouse per lek, or dancing ground, which is similar to the long-term average since 1980.

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.

Inaugural Scheels Boundary Battle Catfish Tournament is in the books

The team of Tim Brooks and Dave Clement weighed in a two-day total of 53.2 pounds to win the inaugural Scheels Boundary Battle Catfish Tournament held Saturday and Sunday on the Red River in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Brooks and Clement landed $1,160 for winning the tournament. Teams could weigh in three fish each day, and 29 teams fished the tournament. Teams fished north of Riverside Dam, launching at the Whopper John Landing in Grand Forks, the first day, and south of Riverside Dam, launching at LaFave Park in East Grand Forks, the second day.

Rounding out the top five teams were:

  • Second: Darwin Lunski and Trevor Lunski, 53 pounds, $870.
  • Third: Jamie Gudajtes and Dustin Lunski, 51.6 pounds, $725; the pair also won $1,000 for heaviest weight (34.2 pounds) on the first day of the tournament.
  • Fourth: Brian Rud and Jackson Rud, 49.6 pounds, $435; they also won $1,000 for heaviest weight (32.4 pounds) on the second day of the tournament.
  • Fifth: Riley Gregoire and Tony Sirek, 48 pounds, $290.

Winning $100 Scheels gift cards for placing sixth and seventh were Dana Conners and Dick Hinrichsen with 46.4 pounds; and Andrew Vigan and Jared Kovar with 45.2 pounds.

Teams also competed for big fish honors each day. Daily winners were:

  • Day one: Tim Brooks and Dave Clement, 18 pounds, $290.
  • Day two: Brian Rud and Jackson Rud, 18.2 pounds, $290.

N.D. spring pheasant, sharptail counts up from last year

The news many North Dakota upland hunters were waiting for came this morning when the Game and Fish Department announced the results of its spring pheasant crowing count. Spring sharptail numbers also were up.

North Dakota pheasant counts are up 30 percent, and brood counts increased 37 percent from last year. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

North Dakota’s spring rooster crowing counts are up anywhere from 2 percent to 12 percent from last year, the Game and Fish Department reports. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

The success of this year’s hatch will be perhaps the biggest determining factor in this year’s hunting seasons, but so far, the news is favorable based on the spring pheasant and sharptail surveys.

Here’s the news release from the Game and Fish Department:

Spring Pheasant Count Tops Last Year

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is up 10 percent from last year, according to the State Game and Fish Department’s 2015 spring crowing count survey.

Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was up statewide, with increases ranging from about 2 percent to 12 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.

“A much improved production year for pheasants in spring 2014, coupled with the mild winter, produced a healthy breeding population this spring,” Kohn said.

While the spring number is a positive indicator, Kohn said it does not predict what the fall population will look like. Brood surveys, which begin in mid-July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.

Kohn mentioned a higher breeding population is good for production if the weather cooperates and nesting habitat is available. “This spring’s weather hasn’t been ideal, but I don’t think it has been a cause for major concern yet either,” he said.

Of concern, according to Kohn, is the continued loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, variable commodity prices and native grassland conversion. “All of this affects the amount of nesting and brood rearing habitat on the landscape, and as we lose grassland habitat we lose ground nesting bird populations,” Kohn said.

Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals, and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a two-minute period during the stop.

The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to previous years’ data, providing a trend summary.

Here’s what Game and Fish had to say about sharptails:

Spring Sharptails Look Good

Statistics from the 2015 spring sharp-tailed grouse census indicate a 22 percent increase in the number of male grouse counted compared to last year.

Sharp-tailed Grouse. photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

Sharp-tailed Grouse.
photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

Statewide, 4,346 sharptails were observed on spring dancing grounds this year compared to 3,551 in 2014. Male grouse recorded per square mile increased from 3.4 to 4.2. More than 1,000 square miles were covered.

Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said the outlook for the 2015 hunting season is still premature as lek counts are a metric of population trends and not a reliable predictor of hunter success.

“Preliminary observations indicate good residual cover for a favorable hatch, but this is heavily influenced by timing, duration, location of severe precipitation and low temperatures,” Robinson said.

An indication of the fall season won’t be known until completion of brood surveys in late summer.