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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Minnesota ruffed grouse drumming counts rise, North Dakota Game and Fish stocks record number of walleyes etc.

Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources1 / 2
Cayla Bendel, new Pheasants Forever Women in Conservation coordinator for North Dakota.2 / 2

Ruffed grouse counts increase

Minnesota's ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were up 57 percent statewide from last year, results from a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources show.

This year's survey tallied 2.1 drums per stop statewide, up from 1.3 last year. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.

In the northeast region, which is the core of Minnesota's grouse range, the survey yielded 2.5 drums per stop; in the northwest, there were 1.6 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.9 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.8 drums per stop.

Ruffed grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle. Statewide, drums per stop were as high as during the last peak in drumming in 2009 but have not yet reached previous peak levels in all regions.

Spring nesting conditions and production of young birds also influence fall hunting prospects, but the big jump in drumming counts is cause for optimism.

"We're excited about the way things are looking," said Ted Dick, DNR forest game bird coordinator. "We have more good grouse habitat than anywhere in the lower 48 states."

In related grouse news, sharptail numbers are similar to last year across the species' range in northwest and east central Minnesota, the DNR said.

To count sharp-tailed grouse, observers look for males displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year's statewide average of 9.7 sharptails per lek 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 past 25 years, the sharptail index has been as low as seven birds per dancing ground.

The full DNR grouse survey report and grouse hunting information is available at

-- Herald staff report

PF hires N.D. women's coordinator

Pheasants Forever has hired Cayla Bendel as the new Women in Conservation coordinator for the state of North Dakota. In her new job, Bendel will focus exclusively on outreach, education and technical assistance to agricultural producers, landowners and volunteers with an emphasis on accelerating conservation engagement among women.

"By offering educational outreach opportunities that are tailored toward women, we hope to connect and empower female landowners to make informed decisions and actions on their land that align with their stewardship goals," Rachel Bush, North Dakota state coordinator for Pheasants Forever, said in a statement. "We're elated to add Cayla to our ranks, and I believe that her skills, background and passion will help create a new community of women interested in agriculture, conservation and the outdoor lifestyle."

Growing up with two older brothers and a passion for the outdoors, Bendel was immersed in the outdoor life at an early age. She attended college at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Natural Resources and Wildlife Management before continuing her higher education at North Dakota State University, recently graduating with a Master's in Range Science.

"I want to build on the foundations established by women in North Dakota and help better define this innovative position so it can be adopted across our footprint, receive broader support and gain more momentum," Bendel said.

To learn more about conservation programs and outdoor initiatives available to women in the state, contact Bendel at (952) 465-8228 or

-- Pheasants Forever

N.D. stocks record number of walleyes

Fisheries personnel from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department stocked a record 12 million walleye fingerlings in more than 130 waters across the state this spring.

That exceeds the previous high by more than 1 million fish, said Jerry Weigel, fisheries production and development supervisor for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

"Considering not many went into Lake Sakakawea, this included an unprecedented stocking of nearly 7 million fingerlings into the smaller fishing waters across the state," Weigel said.

With more than 50 new walleye lakes in North Dakota, Weigel said the demand to stock these waters, along with the larger, traditional fisheries, has greatly increased demand from the hatcheries.

Valley City National Fish Hatchery produced more walleyes this year than in any other year in its 77-year history, Weigel said; in its 54 years of raising fish, Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery shipped a record number again this year.

"Both hatcheries have been outstanding in helping address our demand for walleye fingerlings," Weigel said.

Stocking conditions were optimal, Weigel said, with cooler weather when most of the fish were shipped. The 30-day-old fingerings averaged about 1¼ inches in length.

"They should find lots of food and good survival conditions, which bodes well for future fishing opportunities," Weigel said. "Later this fall, fisheries personnel will sample walleye lakes to assess success of this year's walleye stocking, as well as what Mother Nature provided."

A complete list of all fish stockings is available on the Game and Fish website at

-- Herald staff report

Minnesota duck numbers vary, goose numbers rise

Population counts showed variable numbers for several species of ducks that breed in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources said in reporting results from its spring waterfowl surveys.

"Mallard and blue-winged teal counts declined some from last year but we saw some increases in other species like ring-necked ducks, wood ducks and hooded mergansers," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. "However, there is always considerable variability in the annual estimates. The survey is designed for mallards and our breeding mallard population remains near its long-term average."

This year's mallard breeding population was estimated at 214,000, which is 15 percent below last year's estimate of 250,000 breeding mallards and 6 percent below the long-term average measured each year since 1968.

The blue-winged teal population is 159,000 this year, 51 percent below last year's estimate and 25 percent below the long-term average.

The combined populations of other ducks such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is 263,000, which is 23 percent higher than last year and 48 percent above the long-term average.

The estimate of total duck abundance, excluding scaup, is 636,000, which is 19 percent lower than last year and 3 percent above the long-term average.

The estimated number of wetlands was 20 percent higher than last year and 5 percent above the long-term average. Wetland numbers can vary greatly based on annual precipitation.

The survey is used to estimate the number of breeding ducks or breeding geese that nest in the state rather than simply migrate through. In addition to the counts by the DNR, the continental waterfowl population estimates will be released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later this summer.

The Canada goose population was estimated at 322,000, higher than last year's estimate of 202,000 geese and 9 percent above the long-term average.

The 2017 Minnesota waterfowl report is available at

-- Minnesota DNR

Vet: Conditions right for blue-green algae

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is advising dog owners to to be cautious with their pets around water this time of year because of potential health hazards associated with blue-green algae.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Dan Grove said it only takes a few hot days for blue-green algae to bloom.

"We have experienced many days like this already this summer, and with warmer temperatures yet to come, conditions are right for lakes, ponds and wetlands to become contaminated by toxins produced by blue-green algae," he said.

Shallow, stagnant water, with moderate to high nutrient content, provides an optimum environment for blue-green algal growth. Water or wind movements often concentrate blue-green algae along the shoreline, and eventually the bloom appears as a blue-green "scum" floating on the surface. The threat diminishes but is not eliminated once the weather cools.

Dogs shouldn't drink or swim in discolored water or where algal blooms are apparent. Dogs that practice retrieving in such conditions should be rinsed off immediately and shouldn't be allowed to lick their coat, Grove said.

More information is available on the North Dakota Department of Health website at, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture's Animal Health Division at (701) 328-2655 or a local veterinarian.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Did you know?

• The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will host thousands of visitors to its free Conservation and Outdoors Skills Park from July 21 to July 29 at the State Fair in Minot. The park will be open from 1 to 7 p.m. daily during the fair.

• The Minnesota DNR reminds lakeshore property owners that it is illegal to use hydraulic jets to move sediment or excavate the bottom of a lake, or to uproot aquatic plants in public waters. A person may legally operate a hydraulic jet if it is placed high enough off the lake bed so that it doesn't move sediment or destroy rooted aquatic plants, the DNR said.

• Only approved firewood is allowed on Minnesota DNR-managed lands, which include state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas. Firewood restrictions help prevent the introduction or spread of damaging forest pests, including emerald ash borer, gypsy moth and oak wilt. Firewood that can be used on state-managed lands must be offered for sale by the DNR at that location purchased from a DNR-approved firewood vendor who sells firewood harvested within Minnesota and less than 50 miles from where it will be burned. More info:

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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