With monster drumming counts last spring and evidence that Minnesota and Wisconsin are approaching the peak of the 10-year grouse cycle, this seems to be the year to hunt ruffed grouse. But I have other reasons.
#1. There are only so many autumns in one’s life and whether at the peak or in the valley of the grouse population cycle, there will be grouse in the woods.
#2. Fluctuations in grouse populations don’t matter to dogs. They will hunt their hearts out and search for birds like they do always. They will carefully select which cover to hunt by following their noses along damp alder edges and into aspen cuts. Excitement will mount when one dog catches a scent, gets birdy and stands on lofty, intense point.
#3. Autumn is a fine season to be in the woods. The dogwood berries will be white on bright red stems and the aspen leaves will turn golden and, permeating the entire forest, will be the evocative smell of damp, fallen leaves.
I can’t predict if my dogs and I will find few or many grouse in a given day. Some of my best days were in “low” population cycles and, conversely, the biggest disappointments have been in “high” grouse years.
But it doesn’t matter. My dogs and I will be out in the woods and we will be hunting for them. For me, the sport is in the pursuit.
See you in the woods.