While hunting grouse in the fall is the most popular of small game hunting activities in Minnesota, there is another way to experience the elusive bird in the Spring. Between mid April and the end of May grouse perform their mating ritual referred to as "drumming." It's when the male grouse shows off his stuff by standing on a fallen log and flaps his wings vigorously which makes a distinctive sound that can be heard by humans and the female grouse as well. Hiking trails in the Rainy Lake area near International Falls have abundant places where the grouse can be heard. While their feathers blend into the woods around them, making them almost invisible, their drumming reveals their whereabouts. Hunters can note these locations for better success in the fall and nature lovers can enjoy the effort of catching site of a male doing his best to attract a mate. This is hiking with a purpose. Maps of hiking trails can be obtained at area lodges as well as the Voyageurs National Park.
I can tell you all the habitat types in Voyageurs National Park. Koochiching county supports a wide variety of owls. You can spot a great horned owl, snowy owl, barred owl, and great gray owl. Along with other special types of owls. They are on the edges of clearings. They roost in a tall tree and scan for anything they can ambush and eat.
Additionally there are many hawks that also hunt in the area. There are sharp shinned, broad-winged, red-tailed, rough-legged and northern hawk.
There are some songbirds that spend the winter there too. black-capped chickadees are the most common. Ruffed grouse are about the most common larger upland bird spending the winter here.
The snowshoe and cross-country ski trails offer easy access to the forests. you can spot any of these birds here. The Tilson Creek trail system offers a lot of opportunity along with the Black Bay ski trail system.
I spot a lot of White-Tail Deer on the trail between the Rainy Lake Visitor Center and Minnesota 11 East. The Rangers at the visitor Center spotted a wolf there too, exciting! and it was rare white timber wolf at that. The Black Bay ski trail comes across a beaver pond where some people have spotted a moose. but moose are very reclusive. People exploring the Rainy Lake Ice Road have seen a white-tail deer and a wolf pack crossing the ice.
Fall Foliage Guide
Autumn foliage in Minnesota provide a colorful display, artfully painting the diversity of species that thrive in the northern climate. However, in Koochiching County, it’s not just the variety of tree species, but also the diverse ways to enjoy the colors of this transitional season. Plan to park your car and explore via ATV, bicycle, motorcycle, boat, canoe, kayak, paddle board, horseback or trail.
Here are some great places to begin your journey into the season’s abundant color:
Voyageurs National Park Rainy Lake Visitor Center offers miles of hiking trails into diverse woodlands, with occasional vistas from which you can view Rainy Lake. A well-maintained paved bicycle trail creates another unique opportunity to take in the colors of the park. Reserve a place on the Voyageur, VNP’s tour boat, providing colorful tours through the end of September.
Drive 40 miles from International Falls along the shores of the Rainy River to Franz-Jevne State park. Well-maintained, the park offers lovely, rustic camp sites and hiking trails, as well as boat access to Rainy River. Launch your canoe or kayak here for a quiet and colorful afternoon of paddling the international water of Rainy River.
Minnesota’s largest state forest, Pine Island is an off-the-beaten-path destination busting with fall color. With multiple public access points within 30-40 miles of International Falls, the area offers nearly 880,000 square miles of opportunity to view enough fall foliage to keep you coming back for generations.
With color change taking place from North to South, Minnesota is a great state for chasing the transition. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides an annual Fall Color Finder map as well as specific location updates. Motorcyclists can download this map to enjoy the sights.
Where is your favorite place to view the colorful autumn leaves? Tell us in the comments below.