Five minutes into the morning hunt, Dillon came to a halt and held the first point of the day. The perfect flush followed, along with the first shots of the day. I’d like to say I hit it with the first pull of the trigger, but that’s why there are two barrels…right?
I’ve had many hunts start this way. A flush (sometimes a bird in the bag) 100 yards from the truck, then bupkis the rest of the day. All fears of such a day were quickly dashed when a nervous bird busted out of the aspen ahead of Dillon, 150 yards or so down the trail from the first flush. The hunt that followed was one of the best I have experienced since moving to Minnesota from Michigan seven years ago. I shot an early limit of grouse that morning, making it back to the truck in time to check in with the office before lunch. And it was entirely on state-owned, publicly accessible land.
Welcome to “Up North” Minnesota! Home of big whitetails, 10,000 lakes full of muskies and walleye, and ruffed grouse flushes that are the envy of the wing-shooting world. That last part may be more opinion than pure science…but it’s not far off.
Over one million of the state’s eleven million acres of public hunting lands are located in prime ruffed grouse territory, including 528 designated hunting areas and 600 miles of Hunter Walking Trails (HWTs). These trails (similar to Michigan’s GEMS, Grouse Enhanced Management Sites) are a godsend for southern interlopers like myself who love the idea of venturing into the Northwoods to chase grouse, but don’t have the time to scout ahead of the hunt or spend days on end searching out the perfect cover. The hunt I described took place entirely on a HWT, managed by the state’s DNR. In deciding which HWT or Grouse Management Area to try first, you really can’t go wrong. Do your research ahead of time and maximize your opportunity for time you spend in the woods.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides some great online information and is always a great place to start when planning a trip (www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/hwt/index.html and www.dnr.state.mn.us/rgma/index.html). A trip to google does the rest.
Happy hunting and don’t forget to trust your dogs…they’re smarter than all of us.
Minnesota Conservation Federation