St. Paul, MN -(Ammoland.com)- A hunter with a blaze orange cap and a shotgun keeps an eye on a dog bounding through the underbrush, trailing the scent of grouse.
Bright yellow aspen leaves frame the trail. It’s a common autumn scene in Minnesota, a fitting postcard for much of the central and northern reaches of the state.
But who is the typical hunter in this picture?
A first-of-its-kind scientific survey of Minnesota grouse hunters done in 2011 by the Department of Natural Resources sheds some light on this question and other information about the habits, preferences and tendencies of the state’s nearly 100,000 grouse hunters.
In this state, a grouse hunter is most commonly college-educated, hunts in October on state forest land, and is willing to travel as far as 120 miles from home to hunt, according to the survey. To the grouse hunter, far more valuable than bagging a limit of grouse is being able to get away from the crowds and enjoy the outdoors.
“This survey has proved valuable as we decide where to spend dollars that come from hunting and fishing license sales,” said Ted Dick, DNR ruffed grouse specialist. “For example, knowing that hunters value access to state forest lands helps direct focus on hunter walking trails or doing grouse habitat work in those areas.”
The survey also shows how hunters may already be boosting local economies in areas with good access to grouse hunting. Slightly more than half of all grouse hunters live in the Twin Cities metro area, and hunters from the metro area travel an average of 119 miles to hunt grouse, though they are willing to travel as far as 153 miles to hunt. The most popular counties among hunters statewide were St. Louis, Itasca, Cass and Aitkin counties, with Pine County also popular among metro respondents and Beltrami popular among Greater Minnesota respondents.
On average, 62 percent of hunters statewide took overnight or multiple-day trips to hunt grouse. Individual grouse hunters reported spending an average of $417 on grouse hunting in one season.
“Hunting is important to Minnesota’s economy, grouse is Minnesota’s No. 1 game bird and hunters spend money on travel, lodging and gear,” said Jenifer Wical, of the DNR outreach section. “Our state is a grouse hunting destination for both Minnesotans and hunters from out-of-state.”
The survey further showed that 41 percent of grouse hunters who live in the metropolitan area reported having children younger than 19 living at home, but only 39 percent of those children hunted grouse with a parent in 2010. Thirty-six percent of households in greater Minnesota had children younger than 19 at home, yet 53 percent of those children hunted grouse with a parent in 2010.
“We know it’s important to recruit new hunters and keep existing hunters going back to continue providing quality outdoor opportunities,” Dick said. “Whether travel distances or time committed to other activities interfere, fewer children are getting the hands-on experiences from their parents that help build and appreciation and understanding of the outdoors.”
Yet, barriers to starting grouse hunting can be relatively low. Unlike some types of hunting, grouse hunting requires little investment. Hunters need only a blaze-orange hat or vest, a shotgun, a sturdy pair of boots, a valid small-game license and a willingness to walk. And the ruffed grouse season is long, stretching from Sept. 13 through Sunday, Jan. 4.
This year, spring drumming counts showed encouraging signs, increasing 34 percent from 2013, possibly signaling the start of an upswing in the 10-year grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase.
“We have tremendous opportunity in Minnesota to experience the outdoors through grouse hunting,” Dick said. “There’s no better time to start than this year.”
The DNR grouse hunter survey is available online, just click here.
About the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR)
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is the agency of the U.S. state of Minnesota charged with conserving and managing the state’s natural resources. The agency maintains areas such as state parks, state forests, recreational trails, and recreation areas as well as managing minerals, wildlife, and forestry. The agency is currently divided into sections Ecological Resources, Enforcement, Fish & Wildlife, Forestry, Lands and Minerals, Waterways, Parks and Trails, and Waters.