Along about mid-summer, I suppose, the Minnesota DNR announced to the world that the spring ruffed grouse drumming counts were up some 57% from last year. They had to get word out in time for folks around the country to plan their hunting trips to The Land of 10,000 Lakes. A year before, the DNR told us the drumming counts were up 25% higher than the year before that. That's a heck of an increase in a two year period. Some would think there must be a grouse under every bush.
A lot happens between springtime courting and fall shooting. If there were a way to keep track of brood survival into July I believe we'd have a more accurate idea of what to expect come hunting season, but there are some things better left a mystery. I don't pay much mind to spring drumming counts because I'm going to hunt no matter what they say, though I hope they serve a purpose more meaningful than selling licenses.
Well, it seems those who study and report those findings are now scratching their noggins and admitting the grouse season is nothing as expected. Everywhere I go folks are saying the same thing, “There are no birds!” Of course that's not true, but I have to say this is the kind of bird season that temps a person to go fishing.
Despite it all, Gabby and I are enjoying our time in the woods. OK, so we're not finding a lot of grouse but we're finding some grouse every time out. I've been following bird dogs hunting grouse for some forty years. It doesn't matter if the bird counts are high or low, following an enthusiastic dog in the autumn woods with a comfortable shotgun in hand is a pleasure you take as it comes and don't take for granted.
Sometimes I think it would be neat to be able to “catch and release” while hunting – to make a successful shot over a nice dog, admire the bird, and turn it loose to live on. Of course that's not possible and, after all, ruffed grouse are wonderfully delicious. And when the grouse shooting is slow, like this year, we usually find enough woodcock to keep things interesting. Gabby loves it all, points her game beautifully, and is a pleasure to hunt with. I love fall fishing, but October was made for bird hunting.
And October is winding down, already. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am.