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Hunters find grouse on opening weekend

Ben Williams of Bemidji and his dog Willow enjoyed a successful opening day of the grouse season as they flushed eight and bagged two. Submitted photo

Perfect conditions greeted Bemidji area ruffed grouse hunters during opening weekend and hunters who put in their time, especially hunters with dogs, were able to flush birds.

A hunter who worked a trail with his dog east of Bemidji on opening morning reported flushing a dozen grouse and bagging two in 2.5 hours. Sunday afternoon he hunted a trail south of Bemidji and flushed another eight birds in two hours.

Flushed birds do not always translate into bagged birds, however, especially in the thick cover of opening weekend.

"I didn't run into that many grouse hunters last weekend," said conservation officer Stacey Sharp. "The number of hunters seemed to be average and the hunters I saw didn't have that many birds."

Based on his observations and his conversations with hunters, Sharp believes that the grouse population may be slightly down from last year in the Bemidji area.

"But I don't think it's down 30 percent," he said. "Right now the cover is heavy and it's difficult to see the birds. Hopefully, I'll be more encouraged when the leaves fall."

Heavy cover and an abundance of outdoor options probably combined to limit the number of grouse hunters last week but Sharp believes the trails will be more crowded this weekend.

"There were so many things to do last weekend," Sharp said. "We had early-season goose hunting and archery deer hunting. And we have fall fishing.

"On Sunday afternoon I checked four boats at the Northwoods landing on Lake Bemidji and three of them had walleye limits of perfect 17, 18 and 19-inch eaters," Sharp said.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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