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September 6, 2011

MADISON - Annual brood sightings of upland game birds is one measure the Wisconsin wildlife officials use to both to monitor population trends and to give hunters another bit of information for decisions they'll make during fall hunting activities. Brood production surveys for pheasants, ruffed grouse, and wild turkey are conducted by Department of Natural Resources employees and the public during the months of June, July and August. Biologists stress however that these reports are preliminary and could change.

The Summer Wildlife Inquiry (SWI) questionnaire was sent to approximately 5,000 rural landowners throughout the state in mid August asking if they had any game birds on their property. Rural landowners in Wisconsin's primary turkey range were also sent report cards for reporting turkey broods seen during this time period.

DNR and federal field employees report the type and number of game bird young seen during their normal working duties during a 10-week period from mid-June through mid-August. In addition, the general public contributed information again this year, via the online Game Bird Brood Survey, which allowed them to report the type and size of game bird broods they may have seen during the same 10-week period.

"Brood rearing conditions have a great impact on nesting and rearing success," says Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife surveys coordinator. "Weather during the early part of June is most critical for turkey, pheasant and grouse populations, as this is when recently hatched chicks are most susceptible to hypothermia if they get wet."

Weather in Wisconsin during the months of June, July and August was two to three degrees warmer than average, with precipitation near normal in the north and 3 to 4 inches below normal for the southern half of the state. Parts of northern Wisconsin had a large rainfall event on the June 18 and 19, with some areas receiving 2 inches of rain. Temperatures were normal to above during this same period.

"It's possible that some brood losses occurred during this rain event," Dhuey said. "Spring phenology was delayed in much of the state prior to the brood rearing season and may have affected nesting and/or brooding efforts. The late spring may have also affected the availability of insects once broods hatched."

Ruffed Grouse

The number of rural landowners reporting ruffed grouse on their property was down 2 percent from last year and 31 percent below the long-term mean. DNR personnel reported a downturn in grouse production, with a 15 percent decline in the number of broods seen per hour from 2010 levels. The number of ruffed grouse broods seen per hour was down in both the central (-32 percent) and northern (-8 percent) regions, with only the southwestern region showing an increase (+25 percent). Brood size, as reported by DNR personnel, was up slightly with 4.2 young per brood reported in 2011, from 4.0 reported in 2010. The size of grouse broods observed by the public on the online Game Bird Brood Survey was 5.1, identical to that reported last year.

"This spring's grouse drumming survey showed an upturn of 38 percent in the number of breeding grouse in the state in 2011. Even though our brood count data are down somewhat, it appears that Wisconsin is still at or near the current grouse cycle high," Dhuey said.


The number of rural landowners reporting pheasants on their property was down 12 percent from last year and 20 percent below the long-term mean. The number of pheasant broods seen per hour by DNR field personnel fell 16 percent from 2010 levels, although brood size was up slightly. DNR field personnel reported 4.5 young per brood in 2011 as compared with 4.3 in 2010. The size of pheasant broods observed by the public on the online Game Bird Brood Survey was 5.6, also slightly higher than the 5.3 poults per brood observed last year.

"The Spring Breeding Pheasant survey showed a decline in breeding pheasants of 30 percent. The downturn in pheasant numbers suggested by both the spring surveys and brood count data in part likely reflects the impacts of harsh weather conditions during the past several winters," Dhuey added. "More problematic long-term, however, is the deteriorating habitat base in Wisconsin. With high corn and soybean prices, many acres previously in grassland cover have been converted to row crops. For example, we've lost more than 300,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program enrollments state-wide in the last 15 years. We'll not likely see a significant rebound in pheasant numbers until we find a way to replace these acres on the landscape."


The number of rural landowners reporting turkeys on their land was down 1 percent from 2010 levels, but still remained 29 percent above the long term mean. Rural landowners reporting turkey broods reported that 42 percent of the hens had a brood and that broods averaged 3.9 poults. In 2010 34 percent of the hens had broods and the average brood size was 4.1 poults. DNR field personnel reported that the number of turkey broods observed declined by 29 percent compared to 2010 levels. The average size of broods observed by DNR personnel was 4.5, the same as last year. Participants in the online Game Bird Brood Survey reported 4.7 young per brood, higher than the 3.9 observed last year. "Turkey brood production seems to have dropped off a bit from previous year's losses and is below the long term average."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey (608) 221-6342 or Scott Walter (608) 267-7861

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 06, 2011

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