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Ruffed grouse management

Attention: The 2018 grouse season dates have changed for Zone A. Per Emergency Board Order WM-13-18(E) [PDF], the 2018 ruffed grouse season in Zone A is now September 15 - December 31, 2018.

The change does not impact season dates for Zone B, which is October 20 - December 8, 2018. Bag limits remain 5 birds in Zone A and 3 birds in Zone B.

Disease sampling

A region wide effort to better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse is underway in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The DNR is asking hunters to submit samples from harvested grouse using self-sampling kits. For the 2018 season, all self-sampling kits have been distributed. For those who would like to sample their grouse, there will be additional opportunites next season.

Report sick or dead grouse

If you see any ruffed grouse that look or are acting sick, or if you find a freshly dead grouse in the field, take note of the location and promptly call your county wildlife biologist. If you are willing to collect the carcass for West Nile virus sampling please follow the instructions below:

  • Please keep the entire bird intact.
  • Place it into a plastic bag and keep the bird cool, but not frozen. It is recommended you wear gloves whenever handling dead animals.
  • The same day or the next day, bring the whole ruffed grouse carcass to your county wildlife biologist. Prompt collection of ruffed grouse is necessary to prevent decomposition or scavenging.
  • If you are unable to drop off the carcass with your county biologist, you can ship the carcass to the DNR by contacting the Wildlife Disease Specialist, Nancy Businga, at 608-221-5375 for a pre-paid shipping box.
  • Carcasses in poor condition (scavenged with openings into the body cavity, having an odor, or maggots present) will not be usable for testing, but please take note of the location and report these sightings to your county wildlife biologist.

Population surveys

Each year, biologists, wardens, foresters, members of the Ruffed Grouse Society, and other volunteers conduct ruffed grouse surveys throughout Wisconsin. Drumming surveys are conducted in the spring to detect males. The male ruffed grouse will display on a log, rapidly beating his wings to producing a "drumming" sound with the intention of attracting a female during the breeding season. Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 as an indicator of population trends. Game bird brood surveys are conducted in July and August, after eggs have hatched and the young birds are a month or two old. Collectively, these two surveys provide a good picture of ruffed grouse production levels and population trends in Wisconsin.

Contact information
For information on ruffed grouse management, contact:
Jaqi Christopher
Assistant upland ecologist
Bureau of Wildlife Management
Last revised: Thursday September 27 2018