As spring time approaches, the Northwoods’R crew has been eagerly awaiting the annual ceremony which takes place in the Ruffed Grouse kingdom, drumming season! Spurred by the creation of this blog, and an article in the most recent issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine, we are excited to attempt to capture some of the springtime magic with the use of trail cameras.
In anticipation of the drumming season, I ventured out over the weekend to do some scouting and check in on one of our favorite coverts for any possible activity. Although the end result of the trip was that there are still loads of snow piled up in the northern part of the state and scouting ability was limited, we found some of the signs we were looking for and had a great day trekking through the Northwoods. We’d like to personally thank the Ruffed Grouse Society as the plot of land we visited is partially managed by RGS and has provided us some fantastic hunting opportunities over the years. It is a perfect example of what quality and strategic land management can provide to the grouse hunter. For that, we can’t thank RGS enough!
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late March, my buddy and I strapped on the snowshoes, unleashed his one year old Spinone and set of in search of the drummer boy. Our ability to traverse the territory was aided by a single snowmobile track along the trail. Our four-legged friend, who was a bit more adventurous than we, found the deep snow off-track to provide considerable resistance to her search for any sign that the birds in this covert had survived the brutal Minnesota winter. We were disappointed to see that the snowmobiler had ignored the “Closed To Motorized Vehicles” warning, however we were at least satisfied that from what we could tell the rider had kept the sled on the main trail and did not damage any of the cover or habitat.
We set out along a trail that runs adjacent to the RGS managed covert and it did not take us long to find the first sign of the resident Ruff. We spotted a fresh set of grouse tracks that appeared to our right and made its way across the trail to our left. A quick investigation of the tracks, with Remi’s help of course, indicated that this bird had crossed the trail, and flushed just as it entered the woods on the left, possibly in an attempt to evade the snowmobile that had broken trail for us. We continued down the trail to check its condition and search for more sign, but with no luck we backtracked and struck out on the trail into the RGS management area. Again we merely stepped foot through the “front door” of the covert and found another set of tracks, this set not so fresh. Another twenty-five yards down the trail and we found a perfect imprint of a grouse launching into flight, which consisted of two deep footprints and the delicate scrapes of thrusting wingtips on the snow crest. Was the bird spooked by a predator, maybe a fox or a hawk? Or perhaps it simply sprung from the snow into the aspens to feed, one can only imagine.
At this point we were realizing that most of Ruff’s potential drumming logs are indeed still buried under the snow. As well, with off-track travel being rather difficult we were not able to search the covert as much as we would have liked, but as any sportsman knows, you can’t always depend on mother nature. The highlight of the day occurred as we made our way through a picture perfect patch of aspen and spotted a grouse nimbly dancing across the snow and threading his way through the stems to make his escape. Taking flight never crossed his mind, as if he knew neither us nor the dog had any chance of catching up to him once we stepped off the snowmobile track. The area of this covert is absolutely in its prime with respect to providing everything that a ruffed grouse needs to survive. We have flushed enough birds through this section over the least two years to know that for sure. As a whole, the RGS habitat area in which we spent our afternoon, is extremely well-managed, providing the versatile cover type and age range of forest that both grouse and woodcock thrive in. We were certainly excited to see the grouse and again thankful that with the help of RGS, our opportunities to easily access and hunt these birds are still plentiful.
At the end of the day were unable to successfully locate any active drumming logs, however we marked a few potential locations to check on in the near future. It shouldn’t be long before the spring drummers begin to take the stage and the NorthwoodsR crew intends to capture it when they do. We’re planning some additional trips into the grouse woods this spring to hopefully locate a number of logs and get trail cameras in place. Any and all activity will be promptly reported here!
P.S. If you have plans to, or possibly already have set up a camera over a grouse drumming log, please share in the comments section any tips or advice you may have for locating logs and setting up the cameras.