Outdoors column: Bad news birds

The news for Minnesota bird hunters isn’t all that rosy, not with drumming counts for grouse being down and pheasants taking a big hit.

It doesn’t take a lot of flushes to make it fun, but no birds make it hard to stay in the field or in the woods for very long.

Ron Anlauf didn’t let the bad news keep him from picking up a few ruffed grouse.

Ron Anlauf didn’t let the bad news keep him from picking up a few ruffed grouse. Submitted photo

My dog Annabelle loses interest and so do I if she isn’t picking up scent and I’m not getting to burn any powder.

On a brighter note there have been reports of nice sized broods of grouse showing up across the northern part of the state which gives us shot gunners some hope.

A late spring that held on forever could have put a hurt on chick production but apparently the birds held off and had later successful hatches and that is a real good thing.

Even with drumming counts bottoming out; a good hatch could make for some decent hunting this fall.

Decent to me includes the dog getting hot every so often (indicating grouse have recently been on the ground) and at least a couple of flushes to maybe a half dozen or so.

That’s enough to keep me coming back and putting in the time and effort.

Some of my favorite spots are newer aspen growth and there is a ton of it across the northern half of the state.

A logging road cutting through the middle of it is even better and makes for some easy walking.

It can also give you a clear shot if only for a second or two.

The thing about grouse is the fact that if you wait for a clear shot you may never get to squeeze the trigger.

If a bird gets up and you’re on it you might as well shoot even in heavy cover because it doesn’t take that much to knock them down.

I’ve had a lot of people say you really don’t have to have a dog to hunt grouse and that is true.

On the other hand, I know I see more birds because of Annabelle’s hard work and I know she has found downed birds that I would have never picked up on my own.

Even as delicate and easy to dispatch as grouse are I’ve still had them take off running after being knocked down and last thing you want to do is lose a bird that you’ve hit.

If you drop a bird and are having a hard time finding it you better give it your all to find it. They may take off running, but are more likely to tuck in under some downed brush or trees so take your time and look it all over.

Their color blends rather well with the fall foliage and they’re not all that easy to spot even when lying out in the open.

See you in the woods.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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