REGIONAL— Whether you’re an experienced grouse hunter, or just want to give it a try for the first time, a nearby hunter walking trail might be a good place to spend a few hours on an upcoming …
REGIONAL— Whether you’re an experienced grouse hunter, or just want to give it a try for the first time, a nearby hunter walking trail might be a good place to spend a few hours on an upcoming fall afternoon. With the leaves rapidly disappearing, October is the prime of the grouse season, and there are opportunities right here in northern St. Louis County.
In fact, there are lots of them. Try the old Koschak farm, located just off County Rd. 88, between Ely and Winton, which has 2.5 miles of hunter walking trails. Or there’s the Hwy. 115 trail system, which includes 3.6 miles of trail. There’s another 2.1 miles of boat-access trail tucked in along the south shore of Black Bay of Lake Vermilion. There are hunter walking trails near Elephant Lake, Crane Lake, Black Duck Lake, and 9.5 miles of trails just south of Echo Lake, accessed from the Echo Trail. The Darwin Myers wildlife management area has 6.1 miles of trail.
Many, but not all, of the trails are mowed and some are enhanced with planted clover, which always attracts grouse and other wildlife.
“Hunter walking trails are a fun way to check out new areas and they do provide good hunting,” said Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “New hunters can follow these trails and not worry about getting lost or wandering off public land. And you can get away from trucks and four-wheelers, and into some decent grouse habitat.”
With or without a dog, the trails can offer a surefire way to get out and get away from it all.
Minnesota’s 600 miles of hunter walking trails are located in the northern forested area of the state where grouse are abundant. There are more than 200 hunter walking trails. Most have convenient parking and signs at the trailhead.
“Our grouse hunting is better than any other state, so if you have the urge to try an activity you haven’t done, it’s as easy this year as any other and hunter walking trails are a good place to start,” Dick said.
The DNR partners with other organizations and land managers to maintain some hunter walking trails. A new $300,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to the Minnesota Ruffed Grouse Society has a goal of restoring about 200 trailheads and 80 miles of existing trails, adding 20 miles of trail and updating trail maps for land managers and trail users.
Online and downloadable maps of hunter walking trails and more information can be found on the hunter walking trails page.
Want to start grouse hunting?
Grouse hunting may be the easiest way to get into hunting – or if nothing else, get in a good hike.
“Grouse hunting for a lot of people is an excuse to get into the woods and away from the day-to-day stress,” Dick said.
To get started, find a shotgun, a blaze orange vest and hat, and buy a valid small game license. You don’t even need a dog, although a good hunting dog can significantly boost your odds of success. On a sunny, crisp fall afternoon, with your faithful companion working the thickets, you just beat it. So Tivo the football game and get off the couch and into the woods. You’ll be glad you did.