Ruffed Grouse Hunting In Minnesota
If South Dakota is the holy land of pheasant hunters, Minnesota is a ruffed grouse hunter’s paradise. There is something special about hunting grouse where hunting grouse is taken seriously. Sure there are many other states in which you can walk around the woods and maybe get a flush or two. But in Minnesota grouse hunting is part of the culture. Ruffs are premium table fare and a lot of fun to hunt too.
One of the best places to find ruffed grouse in Minnesota or any other state is around aspens. But what it really comes down to is forest structure. Grouse hunters need to think like a walleye angler and find seams and pockets in the woods. Clear cuts that have had a few years to recover offer golden opportunities for grouse. Thick cover offered by tag alders and shrubby growth are perfect for ruffed grouse. Anywhere there is an edge is usually a good spot. A good rule of thumb is if the walking is easy, you’re probably in the wrong spot. However, logging trails can be good in the mornings and evenings as birds come out to get grit. Here are a few top choices for Gopher State grouse.
Superior National Forest
This is one of my favorite Minnesota grouse hunting spots. An annual pilgrammage to Grand Marais is always on the calendar. Grouse numbers here are not through the roof. But hunter traffic isn’t either. There is just something about being around Lake Superior that inspires. The autumn air feels crisper and grouse taste better. If you head up before trout season ends, the fishing is also incredible. The mixed bag makes a great dinner too.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Just up the Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness(BWCAW). It is actually a part of the Superior National Forest. Hunters looking to disappear won’t be disappointed with the BWCAW either. With over one million total acres, there is plenty of room to get your feet cold. Grouse are plentiful in the eastern region, but the best hunting is near Ely.
Chippewa National Forest
This is the most popular grouse hunting destination in Minnesota. The Grand Rapids area is an easy drive from the Twin Cities and birds are plentiful. Of course, those attributes also make hunters plentiful. That being said, the casual hunters are long gone by the time cold weather starts moving in. You will also find the deeper in the woods you get, the more frequent flushes become. Most weekend warriors aren’t willing to walk very far off logging roads and foot paths. The birds living deep in the woods are largely pressure-free.
Southeast Minnesota isn’t well known for ruffed grouse. But there are some around. The Richard Dorer State Forest and Whitewater Wildlife Management Area are top public land spots. Winona County is big whitetail country and knocking on a landowner’s door before deer season might not get you very far. However, once deer season is over many of these same property owners will be happy to let you hunt for grouse. It never hurts to ask.