It is not unusual to hear hunters lamenting that wild turkeys are hurting the native ruffed grouse population. Many believe the turkeys eat grouse eggs, fight for the same food source and make life miserable for the native grouse. Adding to the perception is that more and more turkeys are being seen in fields across the state while the grouse population is on the decline.

Studies done by the University of Minnesota suggest that turkeys do impact their new environment, but historically turkeys and grouse have coexisted in portions of the eastern U.S. where their ranges overlap. Their studies show that turkeys favor a mix of fields and mature forest throughout their lives, especially oak forests. Ruffed grouse prefer a combination of young, dense forest for overhead cover from raptors. They rarely use open fields. While both birds share some foods, their diets differ enough to prevent substantial competition.

Grouse numbers are down, and they appear to be at the bottom of their ten-year life cycle. Their numbers appear to weaken from spring to fall counting periods. Current research is being done to see if West Nile is a contributing factor in decreasing numbers of grouse or if something else is contributing to these low numbers.

Changing rules on Mille Lacs and Lake of the Woods

Fishing was so good on Mille Lacs this summer that the allotted walleye fishing weight of 87,788 pounds was reached before Sept 1. Anglers were allowed to keep one fish early in the season and later were allowed to only fish walleyes by catch and release. As of Sept. 6, walleye fishing will be closed on Mille Lacs. It will be interesting to see what the next steps are for the big lake when it comes to ice fishing this winter.

Lake of the Woods is also likely to see new regulations regarding walleye and sauger. Winter fishing on this lake has been very good, and the pressure is taking a toll on fish populations. The DNR is considering making some rule changes before the coming ice fishing season. It is amazing to see how winter fishing has really exploded over the last five years or six years. When a lake has a hot bite, the word gets out, and the fishing pressure is immediate.

Ban on feeding deer has expanded

A number of new counties have been added to the list of counties where it is illegal to feed deer. These changes are the result of increasing concern for the expansion of CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease. The DNR has upgraded their list of counties where there is concern along with specific guidelines regarding how to keep feeding birds without feeding deer. Many people enjoy feeding both birds and deer, but that is a pleasure that is coming to an end for many. It is hoped that eliminating the feeding of deer will help reduce the spread of CWD.

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