National hunt suggests decent 2012 grouse, woodcock hatch
Grand Rapids, Minn. — Ruffed grouse, it seems, pulled off a decent hatch this year.
At least that’s what the results of the 31st annual Ruffed Grouse Society National Grouse and Woodcock hunt would suggest. The overall grouse kill – 184 – was down from last year, but not as much as might have been expected, given the decline in this year’s spring drum counts.
Though the harvest declined, the ratio of immature to adult females killed was up from last year, and about 15 percent above the long-term average. That suggests good recruitment this spring, said Dan Dessecker, RGS director of conservation policy.
“I was real anxious to see what that would look like, given that we had some nasty rain during the last week of June and early July,” he said. “The chicks probably were big enough that when they got smacked by that rain they were able to withstand it – both grouse and woodcock.”
Indeed, warm weather in March likely led to earlier grouse and woodcock nesting.
Dessecker, for example, heard reports of people seeing grouse and woodcock flying three or four weeks earlier than typically they would.
The hunt included 48 teams of two hunters apiece that set out last Thursday and Friday in an area within a 60-mile radius of Grand Rapids.
While many hunters indicated the grouse hunting was better than they expected – given the drumming count declines – it was the woodcocks that stole the show.
Hunters killed 415 woodcocks, which was the highest since the woodcock limit went from five to three per day in 1997.
“I was a little apprehensive about the number of woodcocks that might be around because of the dry ground,” said Ted Dick, DNR grouse coordinator. “But it was really spectacular.”
Said Dessecker: “We just loaded up on woodcock. Obviously, we hit the migration just spot on.”
One hunter with whom Dick hunted – who lives in the eastern United States – had 45 woodcock flushes, and three or four grouse flushes, in three hours in the woods.
“He said that’s more birds than he sees in five years back home,” Dick said.
And it was also a banner hunt for Wayne Jacobson, the former RGS president who lives in Grand Rapids.
“I think I had more woodcock points than I’ve ever had during a day,” he said. “And I’ve been hunting them a long time.”