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Ruffed grouse hunting

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.

Ruffed grouse are one of the most popular upland game birds to hunt. These birds are most commonly known for their distinctive "drumming" noise produced by males during the spring breeding season. Male grouse will display on drumming logs, rapidly beating their wings with the intention of attracting a female grouse.

Check out the 2018 fall upland game bird hunting forecast [PDF].

Season information

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.

Know the regulations

Many hunters pursue ruffed grouse and woodcock at the same time. The regulations for hunting woodcock and other migratory birds are different than ruffed grouse. If hunters wish to harvest woodcock or other migratory birds as part of a mixed bag, they must follow the more restrictive migratory bird regulations, such as being HIP certified. To learn more about migratory game bird hunting and HIP certification, see the Small Game Hunting Regulations and the Harvest Information Program webpage.

Spruce grouse are a state-threatened species which may not be harvested. Spruce grouse can be found in many of the same areas as ruffed grouse in northern Wisconsin. Before heading out to the woods, look at the Grouse Identification Guide [PDF] to be certain you can tell the two species apart.

Where to hunt

Ruffed grouse use a variety of habitat types, but young, early successional forest types are most important when trying to find a good grouse hunting spot. Seeking out the densest woody cover available is usually the quickest way to locate grouse in a new hunting area.


The Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool (FFLIGHT) is an interactive mapping tool that allows hunters to locate and view suitable habitat for ruffed grouse and woodcock in the state. Using this map, hunters can explore the young aspen and lowland alder stands that provide excellent cover for ruffed grouse and woodcock, along with locate dove fields and properties stocked with pheasants. FFLIGHT allows hunters to use aerial maps, topography and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest.

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