Ruffed grouse hunters in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan can assist wildlife health officials again this autumn as part of a multi-year study monitoring for West Nile virus in ruffed grouse.

As they did in 2018, the departments of natural resources in each state are asking hunters to submit samples from their harvested ruffed grouse.

Each state will give out about 500 sample kits that hunters can pick up that include detailed instructions and the supplies need to take samples — feathers, blood and the heart — from freshly harvested grouse to submit for review to see if the bird has been exposed to the mosquito-borne virus.

The kits will be available in September at DNR wildlife offices across the grouse range in each state. Hunters will be provided test results via email. However, testing of samples will not begin until after the grouse season has closed, and final results will not be available for several months after the close of the season.

State officials still have not released the results of the 2018 grouse sampling survey. The issue surfaced in recent years when Pennsylvania biologists confirmed West Nile may be impacting grouse populations there. Officials in the Great Lakes states worried the virus may be one reason regional grouse numbers are down.

West Nile virus transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, and there is no evidence that the virus can be spread by handling dead birds or by consuming improperly cooked game.

In addition to collecting samples from harvested ruffed grouse, the DNR is asking the public to report any sick or dead grouse observed while out in the field. Anyone who sees a ruffed grouse that appears sick or emaciated, who finds a freshly dead grouse should take note of the location and promptly call a DNR wildlife biologist for possible testing and to help track reports statewide.

People who are willing to collect the carcass for testing, should keep the entire bird intact and place it into a plastic bag and keep the bird cool but not frozen. Bring the whole ruffed grouse carcass to a county wildlife biologist the same or next day. Prompt collection of ruffed grouse is necessary to prevent decomposition or scavenging. It is recommended people wear gloves whenever handling dead animals, even those that appear healthy.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin DNR is taking comments on the first draft of a new ruffed grouse management plan. You can find the plan at dnr.wi.gov and search for ruffed grouse management. The plan is intended to both guide future management actions and provide the interested public a concise and informative overview of ruffed grouse ecology and management in Wisconsin. You can comment online or attend a grouse plan meeting set for Tuesday from 7-8 p.m. in the Spooner DNR Service Station, 810 W Maple St.



Minnesota deer meetings coming up

One more reminder that deer hunters and others interested in deer management in Minnesota can meet local wildlife staff and learn about upcoming hunting season changes at a series of local Department of Natural Resources meetings over the next two weeks.

These local, open house meetings are a way to encourage conversations about deer and deer management, enhance local relationships and foster two-way communication between the DNR and the public. The DNR began holding the meetings last year with the release of its statewide deer management plan. Another round of meetings were held in March and April.

In addition to discussing general concerns about deer, individuals can ask DNR staff about last year's harvest data, provide topics that the DNR's deer advisory committee should be aware of, and discuss upcoming hunting season changes. Regulations for the 2019 season will be released in early August and reflect disease management needs, as well as feedback that was gathered from surveys and open house meetings in the spring.

The open houses do not include formal presentations; people can arrive at any time during the scheduled meeting times.

In the Northland, the DNR deer meetings are set for:

  • Two Harbors/North Shore, Tuesday, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Two Harbors DNR office, 1568 County Highway 2.

  • Aitkin, Wednesday, 5-6:30 p.m., Aitkin Area DNR Office. 1200 Minnesota Ave.

  • Iron Range/Tower, Aug. 27, 5-6:30 p.m., Mountain Iron Community Center, 8586 Enterprise Drive.

  • Cloquet/Carlton, Aug. 28, 5-7 p.m., Carlton County Transportation Building, 1630 County Road 61.

  • Grand Rapids, Aug. 28, 5-6:30 p.m., Grand Rapids Regional DNR Office, 1201 E. Highway 2.

  • International Falls, Aug. 28, 5-6:30 p.m., International Falls Area DNR Office, 392 E. Highway 11.

  • Bemidji, Aug. 29, 6-8 p.m., Bemidji City Hall, 317 Fourth St. NW

  • Brainerd, Aug. 29, 5-7 p.m., Brainerd Area DNR Office, 1601 Minnesota Drive

Upland Pint Night

Bird hunting season is just weeks away in some cases and several hunting groups are getting together for a pre-season fun event.

Upland Pint Night is set for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 5 at Clyde Iron Works, 2920 W. Michigan St. in Duluth. The event is sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Project Upland, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Minnesota Sharp Tailed Grouse Society.

Join the fun to swap stories with fellow hunters and see a screening of an unreleased Project Upland film. For more information contact Jason Meekhof at meekhof@backcountryhunters.org.



Meeting set for Island, Whiteface reservoir fish management

Anglers interested in Island and Whiteface reservoirs fish populations and management are invited to a public open house hosted by Department of Natural Resources Duluth area fisheries staff on Sept. 5 at the Rice Lake Town Hall, 4107 West Beyer Rd.

Information on Whiteface Reservoir will be presented from 6-7:30 p.m. Information on Island Reservoir will be presented from 7:30-9 p.m.

Fisheries staff will present research and angler survey results for each lake, and there will be time for questions and discussion. Attendees will also be asked to provide input on angler preferences for future walleye management.

The meeting is not a regulation review meeting and no special fishing regulation changes are currently being proposed. Those interested are invited to attend the meeting, review current biological data and provide input on fisheries management.

Questions regarding the September meetings can be directed to the Duluth area fisheries office at 218-302-3264 or email duluth.fisheries@state.mn.us.



Possible state record lake trout caught, released

On the slim chance you didn't see Tuesday's News Tribune viral story on a monster lake trout caught just off Duluth on Lake Superior, here's the short version: The fish was caught by Steve Gotchie of Spring Lake on the True North, a charter boat captained by Duluthian Jordan Korzenowski.

After a 20-minute battle Gotchie brought a 45 1/2 inch long, 30 1/8-inch girth laker into the boat, the biggest lake trout anyone can recall being caught around Duluth in recent decades. At least one fish calculator puts the weight of that fish over 51 pounds. But Gotchie's fish was released without being weighed. The Minnesota state record is 43 pounds, 8 ounces caught in 1955 by an unknown angler fishing in Lake Superior near Hovland in Cook County.

“I’m not going to claim this fish was a new state record. But it’s the biggest fish caught around this part of the lake in a long time,’’ Korzenowski said. “I just feel humble to be part of it. And I think it’s cool that it’s back out there for another angler to catch.”

Korzenowski operates FishNorthMN charters out of Duluth with co-captain Kent Paulsen. It’s their third year in the charter fishing business, although Korzenowski has been fishing the big lake for more than a decade. His boat, True North, had a fairly slow morning on Aug. 9 when the big fish hit at 9:58 a.m. He had a wire rod with 150 feet of line out in 110 feet of water, which means the lure was very close to the bottom. He was trolling a green “squid’’ lure with a dead smelt as bait, called a meat rig by big-lake anglers. A few inches in front of that was an 11-inch-long shiny flasher, a piece of metal that attracts fish to come and smell — and hopefully bite — the smelt.

The Minnesota DNR has a catch-and-release state record category for four species — muskie, sturgeon, pike and catfish — but not for lake trout.