For those who enjoy grouse hunting, you know it can be a bit of a boon-or-bust kind of situation. Ruffed grouse follow a natural population cycle that swells and drops roughly every 10 years.

While the Minnesota DNR says that 2021 appeared to be a low point in the ruffed grouse population, drumming counts were still higher than in previous years. The population seems to have rebounded in 2022, building on the 2021 numbers. With a record-breaking snowy winter, you might wonder how that impacted the population from 2022 to 2023.

While the large amount of snow was not very nice to other wildlife, grouse populations didn't seem to be as phased by the harsh winter. Snow and available food in the form of things like aspen buds provided decent conditions to ride out the winter.

Once winter broke and the snow melted, our spring quickly went from soggy to warm and dry, with those dry conditions being beneficial for nesting and chick survival.

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During that springtime period, Minnesota DNR officials reported an uptick in drumming reports overall across the state, signaling what appears to be an increase in the population. That increase is not universal across the state, with some regions seeing higher counts than others.

Drumming surveys have been used as a measure of population by the DNR for several decades. If you've never actually seen them drum before, check out the video above.

Minnesota DNR
Minnesota DNR
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Of the Minnesota DNR's ruffed grouse survey areas, two of the four saw an uptick in drumming during their 2023 survey, while the other two saw a slight decrease.

Overall drum survey numbers across the state are at their third-highest levels since the DNR started recording data in 1949. While Northwestern Minnesota (NW on the map) and Southeast Minnesota (SE on the map) saw a reduction in drum counts, the Central Hardwoods region (CH on the map) and Northeastern Minnesota (NE on the map) saw increases.

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Here's a look at the numbers for Central Minnesota and Northeastern Minnesota:

Minnesota DNR
Minnesota DNR
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Minnesota DNR
Minnesota DNR
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While drum count numbers (recorded earlier in the year) are not a direct reflection of how the hunting season will be, it is a good sign the hunting season ahead will be at least as good as it was last year, if not better.

When it comes to sharp-tailed grouse, the DNR says those numbers have remained about the same as 2022 levels.

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