Minnesota is home to 17 million acres of forest land, both public and private, including 528 wildlife management areas, 43 designated ruffed grouse management areas and 630 miles of hunters walking trails.
Ruffed grouse habitats are primarily in the central and northern regions and extend into the southeast along the Mississippi River. In northern Minnesota, ongoing timber management aids in continued creation of excellent grouse habitat in various stages of growth, which provides hunters with many more options than other states.
“Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin are the top grouse-hunting states in the lower 48, but Minnesota has more young aspen forest [that grouse prefer] than Wisconsin and Michigan combined,” says Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
According to a recent DNR survey, “The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is the most popular game bird in Minnesota, with an annual harvest averaging >500,000 birds.” Even on the downward cycle, hunters in other states envy Minnesota’s flush rates. “The grouse drum counts are still favorable,” says Ed Fussy of Pimushe Resort near Bemidji. Fussy has hosted avid grouse hunters for more than 20 years at his resort.
He commented that “the out-of-state grouse hunters love to come to Minnesota, because even our lowest bird population years are still better than their best.” He also recalls that “just last fall, some of our hunters had 20- to 30-a-day bird flushes.”
Considered “the king of game birds,” grouse challenge hunters to use all their senses, DNR’s Dick says. Grouse hunters need to be careful, quiet and quick on the draw, but even novices can easily pick up the sport. The only equipment needed is a basic shotgun and some good boots; guides and hunting dogs are not required.
|Photo by Matt Soberg|
Wayne Jacobson, owner of the Sawmill Inn of Grand Rapids, has hosted the National Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Hunt for more than 30 years. This prestigious annual hunt attracts hunters from all over the world. Jacobson says the two top reasons that Minnesota is so popular with grouse hunters are “more public hunting land available” and “more birds to hunt, even in our down years.”
Minnesota’s fall climate is perfect for grouse hunting—cool temperatures for ruffed grouse, hunters and dogs. The leaves begin to change to brilliant hues of gold and red in mid- to late September. Grouse hunting success tends to peak around the second and third week in October, while there’s still fall color but a lot of the leaves are off the trees. At peak grouse hunting season, temperatures can reach below freezing at night and a pleasant 55 to 60 degrees by midday. The woods have the fresh, crisp smell of fall and the skies are clear and blue.
Eric Hanson, owner of Pehrson Lodge Resort on Lake Vermilion, says his “out-of-state hunting guests appreciate the uncrowded hunting land they find here in northern Minnesota. Rarely will you see a no trespassing sign or other hunters while you’re out for the day.”
“Minnesota is also easy to hunt, no need to check your guns or purchase special gun licenses,” he adds. Fall is also an excellent time to bring the family and combine some fishing and fall color sightseeing during your stay.
Helpful grouse hunting information:
- Grouse hunting in Minnesota
- Ruffed and spruce grouse season: Sept. 19, 2015, to Jan. 3, 2016
- Sharp-tailed grouse season: Sept. 19 to Nov. 30, 2015
- Shooting hours are half an hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily limits are 5 daily combined, 10 possession combined for ruffed and spruce grouse and 3 daily, 6 possession for sharp-tailed. Both cock and hen are legal game.
- Visit the Minnesota DNR website to buy your license and download maps of hunters walking trails