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DNR to put more focus on ruffed grouse in 2010

Ruffed grouse management in Minnesota will be ramped up this year under plans announced by the Department of Natural Resources at last weekend's roundtable meetings in Minneapolis.

Ruffed grouse management in Minnesota will be ramped up this year under plans announced by the Department of Natural Resources at last weekend's roundtable meetings in Minneapolis.

A new grouse management position will be created, and a grouse management plan two years in the making will be finished, said Dave Schad, director of the DNR's Fish and Wildlife Division. It's time grouse get more attention, he said.

"I think we've taken that a little bit for granted," he said.

The effort will be made in partnership with the Ruffed Grouse Society, a national conservation group promoting grouse and woodcock hunting. The group will pay about 25 percent to 30 percent of the salary for a new statewide grouse management position within the DNR, said Dan Dessecker, Ruffed Grouse Society biologist in Rice Lake, Wis.

"The (DNR) deserves a lot of credit for creating a position like this. That's a very welcome commitment," Dessecker said.

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Schad said the DNR would like to have the new position filled by spring. The person would work from somewhere in Minnesota's forested region, he said.

The increased emphasis on grouse and grouse hunting opportunities may include more hunter walking trails, more ruffed grouse management areas and more promotion of Minnesota's grouse hunting, said Dennis Simon, director of the DNR's wildlife section.

The renewed emphasis on grouse grew in part from hunters' experiences the past couple of years.

"There's been a lot of optimism going into the seasons, as drumming counts indicated we seem to be approaching the peak years (in the ruffed grouse population cycle)," Schad said. "There's been some frustration that the number of birds was less than expected. There are some questions about what might be happening. There's a lot of focus and interest in what's happening with grouse."

The agency would like to develop more ruffed grouse management areas where logging is done to provide a mix of aspen age classes that grouse prefer.

Last spring, ruffed grouse drumming counts were up across Minnesota, and hunters had high hopes last fall. Early reports of hunter success were mixed. October was extremely wet, and the leaf fall occurred later than in most years, hampering success.

"The weather in October was impacting people's desire to get out," said Mike Larson, grouse research biologist for the DNR in Grand Rapids. "I think that may show up in our harvest data."

Based on hunter feedback, Larson thinks that when the final numbers are in, the 2009 grouse harvest will be somewhat larger than that of 2008.

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Simon expressed some concern about the downturn in timber harvest and how it might affect grouse habitat in the future. But Larson said a two- or three-year decline in aspen harvest shouldn't be a significant factor in the long term.

The DNR and the Ruffed Grouse Society also plan to address the woodcock population, which has declined steadily for the past three or four decades.

"In Minnesota, we've stabled off the past couple of years," Dessecker said. "The decline is not what we want to see, but it's not as precipitous as it was in the '70s, '80s and '90s.

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

Related Topics: HUNTING
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