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Ruffed grouse management

Each spring, biologists, wardens, foresters, members of the Ruffed Grouse Society, and other volunteers travel survey routes in order to record ruffed grouse drumming activity. Drumming is the sound produced by a male grouse during the spring breeding season. The male will display on a drumming log, rapidly beating his wings, producing a drumming sound with the intention of attracting a female. Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 as an indicator of ruffed grouse population trends. Brood data is also collected during July and August, after eggs have hatched and the young birds are a month or two old. These data are available in early September each year. Collectively, these surveys provide a good picture of ruffed grouse production levels and population trends in Wisconsin.

Statewide, a similar number of drumming grouse were heard in 2014 (0.84 per stop) as were heard during the 2013 survey (0.83 per stop). Wisconsin's primary ruffed grouse range, the Central and Northern Forest Regions, showed mixed results. The Central Forest had a decrease in breeding grouse of 24% this spring, while the Northern Forest had a small increase of 3%.

Grouse populations in northern Wisconsin tend to cycle predictably over a 9- to 11-year period. Survey results suggest that grouse populations in the state may have peaked in 2011 and are now nearing the low point in the cycle.

Contact information
For information on ruffed grouse management, contact:
Jaqi Christopher
Assistant upland ecologist
Bureau of Wildlife Management
Last revised: Wednesday February 08 2017