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Minnesota hunting prospects

Get your walking boots ready -- or make sure your four-wheeler is tuned. Minnesota's ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were up 40 percent over last year in Northeastern Minnesota and up 30 percent statewide. Those increases come on the heels o...

Get your walking boots ready -- or make sure your four-wheeler is tuned. Minnesota's ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were up 40 percent over last year in Northeastern Minnesota and up 30 percent statewide. Those increases come on the heels of a modest upswing in numbers last year over 2005. Counts had been low for the four years before last year.

Spring drumming counts averaged 1.5 drums per survey stop, said Mike Larson, grouse biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids. The last time the region saw numbers that high was in 2000, when the northeast averaged 1.7 drums per stop, Larson said. Counts plunged to 1.1 drums per stop in 2001, the beginning of the low end of the population cycle. On a survey route, researchers drive to numerous points along rural roads and stop to listen for drumming male grouse.

The counts don't lie, Larson said.

"There's a high correlation between these counts and harvest," he said. "I'm fully expecting an increase in the harvest."

Last fall's statewide grouse harvest was 415,000. In 2000, when drumming counts hit 1.7 drums per stop, hunters took 620,000 birds, Larson said.

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And it can get even better.

At the peak of the grouse's 10-year cycle, the drumming survey turns up numbers like 2.2 drums per stop (1998) and 2.3 drums per stop (1989).

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