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Sharp-tailed grouse management

Attention: Twenty-five permits are available for the 2018 sharp-tailed grouse season. Permits are only available in Game Management Unit 8.

Season Dates: October 20 - November 11

Application Period: August 1-31

Applications can be purchased online at or at any license agent starting August 1.

Sharp-tailed grouse are a resident game bird of Wisconsin. These grouse are dependent on young, open pine and oak barrens and savanna ecosystems. Historically, sharp-tailed grouse were found throughout the state. Due to habitat loss and fragmentation, the majority of sharp-tailed grouse in Wisconsin are now found in the northwest.

Sharp-tailed grouse management began in Wisconsin during the late 1940s and early 1950s in response to concerns of habitat loss. Today, the DNR and several partner groups are working to restore and preserve habitat necessary for sharp-tailed grouse and other barrens-dependent species. Some of the larger state-owned areas that focus on sharp-tailed grouse management include Crex Meadows Wildlife Area [exit DNR] and Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area.

The Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Management Plan [PDF] contains information on sharp-tailed grouse taxonomy, natural history, habitat requirements, population status and distribution, along with management goals and strategies for ensuring long-term viability of sharp-tailed grouse populations in Wisconsin.


Each spring, surveys for sharp-tailed grouse are conducted on dancing grounds, also known as leks. Leks are a communal display area where males gather to attract and mate with females. Male sharp-tailed grouse have a unique mating display consisting of a series of rapid stepping motions with their tail pointed upward and wings outstretched. Surveyors locate leks and count the number of birds present either using flush surveys or observation blinds. Lek survey data, along with past harvest rates are considered when determining the harvest quota each year.

Barrens management

Pine and oak barrens were once widespread in Wisconsin, but are now considered globally threatened. Due to land use changes and fire suppression, the barrens of Northwest Wisconsin exist in scattered fragments, surrounded by a forested landscape. Habitat fragmentation can threaten the long-term viability of species native to this ecosystem.

The Northwest Sands Habitat Corridor Plan [PDF] is a plan to identify and restore habitat corridors between existing barrens patches. The goal is to create a non-fragmented landscape that could benefit sharp-tailed grouse and other barrens-dependent species.

Contact information
For information on sharp-tailed grouse management, contact:
Jaqi Christopher
Assistant upland ecologist
Bureau of Wildlife Management
Last revised: Thursday August 02 2018