Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were unchanged this year compared to last year, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Natural Resources. This follows a significant increase of 34 percent from 2013 to 2014, said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “While it can be tenuous to compare the results of only one year to the next, we suspect the cold, wet spring of 2014 may have hurt grouse production,” she said. “We also had comparatively little snow last year for roosting, which may have influenced overwinter survival.” Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Compared to last year’s survey, 2015 survey results for ruffed grouse showed no statistical change in all regions of the state. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota, counts were 1.3 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.0 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.7 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.4 drums per stop. Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013 and 2014 were 0.9 and 1.1, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance. Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. For the past 66 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 12 organizations surveyed 126 routes across the state. Sharp-tailed grouse counts remain steady  Statewide sharp-tailed grouse counts were similar in 2015 compared to 2014 on both the regional and statewide levels. Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year’s statewide average of 9.8 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground. The DNR’s 2015 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online at

Prairie Chicken Lottery

42513 - prairie chicken display


Prairie chicken hunt lottery opens July 1

Starting Wednesday, July 1, hunters can enter a lottery for one of 126 permits available for the 2015 Minnesota prairie chicken season.

Applications are available wherever Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hunting and fishing licenses are sold. The deadline is Friday, Aug. 14. For application procedures and a permit area map, see

“Prairie chickens rely on healthy prairies and grasslands, and having a prairie chicken hunt brings more awareness to this unique species and its habitat needs,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. “Prairie conservation and prairie chickens go hand in hand.”

The nine-day prairie chicken season begins on Saturday, Sept. 26, and is open to Minnesota residents only. Hunters will be charged a $4 application fee and may apply individually or in groups up to four. Prairie chicken licenses cost $23. Apply at any DNR license agent; the DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul; online at or by telephone at 888-665-4236. An additional fee is charged for Internet and phone orders.

The hunt will be conducted in 11 prairie chicken quota areas in west-central Minnesota between St. Hilaire in the north and Breckenridge in the south. Up to 20 percent of the permits in each area will be issued to landowners or tenants of 40 acres or more of prairie or grassland property within the permit area for which they applied.

The season bag limit is two prairie chickens per hunter. Licensed prairie chicken hunters will be allowed to take sharp-tailed grouse while legally hunting prairie chickens.

Sharptails and prairie chickens are similar looking species. Sharp-tailed grouse hunting is normally closed in this area of the state to protect prairie chickens that might be taken accidentally. Licensed prairie chicken hunters who want to take sharptails must meet all regulations and licensing requirements for taking sharp-tailed grouse.

In 2014, an estimated 95 prairie chickens were harvested, with 54 percent of hunters taking at least one bird. Hunter success varies considerably from year-to-year, especially when poor weather prevents hunters from going out in the field.

“Prairie chickens need large tracts of native prairie and grasslands, but we’ve seen how difficult it can be to conserve prairie,” Merchant said. “So the DNR has partnered with groups including the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever and others in developing and applying the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan.”

The plan aims to protect Minnesota’s remaining native prairie, and restore and manage grasslands, which should benefit prairie chickens as a result.

For more information on the prairie chicken, search “prairie chicken” at the DNR’s rare species guide at For more information on the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, see

MNSJ RADIO – ON DEMAND: Bill Sherck Part 2

Bill Sherck using a hand auger during our primitive camping trip to the Boundary Waters area.

Bill Sherck using a hand auger during our primitive camping trip to the Boundary Waters area.

Bill Sherck and Bret Amundson talk about their winter camping trip to Ely and Bill’s new show, Made for the Outdoors.

Listen to Bill here: 

MNSJ RADIO – ON DEMAND: Bill Sherck from Due North Outdoors

The Checklist

The Checklist

You may have caught Due North Outdoors this week on FSN, if not, you would have seen Minnesota Sporting Journal tag along with Bill Sherck and check out an island lodge on Eagle Lake in Ontario.  We targeted walleyes, lake trout and muskie.  How’d we do?  Bret Amundson spoke with Bill on last week’s MNSJ Radio show.  Listen to his interview here:

Listen to Bill here: 

Camp Confidence Nick Adams Memorial Fishing Tournament On Gull Lake – Photos

by Bret Amundson

Here are a few photos from the Nick Adams Memorial Fishing Tournament that took place last weekend on Gull Lake in Brainerd.  This is a critical fundraising effort that takes place every to benefit Camp Confidence.

I was in the boat with guide Dave Meyer Jr and one of the fishing participants, Ken.  Dave will be on this weekend’s MNSJ Radio show to recap our day of fishing and talk about what it means for him to be in this tournament.

Also, Dennis Mackedanz will join us to talk about how important this tournament is and who all benefits from it.

Tune in this weekend!  Find a station by clicking on “MNSJ Radio” on the left. At Pink Boats: Floating To Fight Breast Cancer


by Bret Amundson

Stefanie Hurt and a Pink Boat For Hope

Stefanie Hurt and a Pink Boat For Hope

You can listen to Stefanie’s appearance on MNSJ radio interview here:

Stefanie Hurt is a two-time breast cancer survivor.  And she’s still in her twenties.

She founded the organization W.I.N.K. after realizing that insurance doesn’t cover all of the cancer-fighting expenses such as a tank full of gas to get to the hospital and back.  “Women In Need Of Kindess” is what it means, but the real story is where the name came from.

“No one really knows how to treat cancer, in the respect of: what do you to say to someone that has cancer,” Hurt explained.

What do you say?  “Cancer sucks,” is usually the extent of my eloquent prose.

“I found that there were more times than not [what people said was] very uneducated and hurtful,” Hurt continued. “I just decided to take the guessing out of it and asked people to wink at me.”

And right there, W.I.N.K. was born.

“A silent little gesture-if you winked at me, it meant you’re thinking about me, you care about my well-being, you’re praying for me and you’re supporting me.”

A simple wink can carry the weight of a full-bore bear hug.   Without exposing a person with a weakened immune system to unnecessary germs and potential complications.


“I didn’t care if it was a 2-year-old or an 80-year-old, if I got winked at, it made me feel good and it gave me that extra little boost to keep going.  If it happened for me and gave me that encouragement,  it has to work for other people,” Hurt said.

She took the word “WINK” and transformed it into “Women In Need of Kindness”, and began to look for ways to help other people.

After her second bout with breast cancer at age 26, she wondered, “Why me?”  She had endured an emotional perfect storm at age 24.  She had just given birth to her son and life was good. But two weeks later, she’d get the crushing news that her father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. And then just a short two weeks after that, the unthinkable happened: She would begin her own fight with breast cancer.

“There has to be a reason why this is happening and I should be doing something with it.  So I should turn my experience into something positive,” Hurt added.

W.I.N.K. would become a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping patients and their families.  While many other organizations raise funds to research ways to beat cancer, W.I.N.K. focuses on the bills and expenses that aren’t covered by anything else.

53015 - teen challenge pics-6JUST FLOATING

“We tag-teamed with Pink Boats For Hope,” Hurt explained. “What we do is give cancer patients the opportunity, through donations, to go have a free day of fishing in a pink boat. No need to worry about cancer that day.  It’s just you and God’s country-just floating.”

It started with two pink boats, Kevin Kerkvliet’s and Dean Kaminski’s.

“We teamed up with W.I.N.K. to specifically help those that are financially strapped during their fight with breast cancer,” Kevin Kerkvliet said during a recent MNSJ Radio interview. “We’ll help them with a grocery bill, a taxi ride to their next doctor’s appointment, or if they want a fishing trip, we’ll take them fishing for the day so they don’t have to think about their disease for the day and just go fishing.”

Are we seeing more cancer these days?  Or just more people trying to help?

“I think…more people are realizing that this is a disease that needs to be tackled,” Kerkvliet continued.  “Is it more frequent?  Yeah I think with some of the conditions that we’ve got going on with all the chemicals that are in our food now, I think it is on the rise. I think it is even more important now that we spend time trying to fix this.”


Stefanie Hurt

Stefanie Hurt

“She is an avid outdoors person who loves to hunt and fish and it fit right in with our mantra,” Kerkvliet said.

Hurt enjoys spending time on the water and in the tree stand.  But you’ll see more than just pink boats out there.

“We’ve teamed with some race car drivers too, so you’ll see be able to see them all around Minnesota tracks,” Hurt said while describing pink cars cruising around the local tracks. “It might be a manly sport, but guess what, there are a lot of guys out there supporting breast cancer (awareness), and not just breast cancer, but any kind of cancer.”


There are a few ways you can help out.

“We’re trying to grow our Facebook page,” Hurt said. “Head over to W.I.N.K. and give us a like, we’d certainly appreciate it.  Then you can keep tabs on us and who we’re trying to help.”

“We have a donation page on our website,,”; Kerkvliet said.

The fleet of pink boats is growing currently there are 3 pink-wrapped boats on the waters in Minnesota, the 3rd owned by Jamie Dietman.  More pink boats are planned with more anglers getting involved.

To learn more, visit or WINK on Facebook.