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ruffed grouse successful hunting dog

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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

Season dates

Regulations

  • Small game hunting regulations
  • Harvest Information Program (HIP)
    • Many hunters pursue ruffed grouse and woodcock at the same time. If you plan to hunt woodcock or other migratory birds as a mixed bag, you must be HIP certified and follow the migratory game bird hunting regulations.
  • Grouse identification guide [PDF]
    • Spruce grouse are a state-threatened species and can be found in many of the same areas as ruffed grouse. Be sure you know the difference between the species to avoid accidental harvest of spruce grouse.

Where to hunt

Find the best habitat

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.

  • Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool (FFLIGHT)
    • Use this interactive map to find public land and suitable habitat for grouse and woodcock.
  • Hunt Wild Wisconsin
    • Use the new DNR mobile app to find ideal ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat, explore new public lands, brush up on hunting regulations, listen to podcasts and see up-to-the-minute shooting hours.
  • Public land access
    • From hunting and fishing to camping and hiking, use this resource to find everything you need to enjoy the outdoors.

Disease sampling

West Nile virus sampling

A region wide effort to better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse is underway in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The DNR is taking a 2-pronged approach to analyze disease prevalence in Wisconsin's ruffed grouse. First, the DNR is asking hunters to submit samples from harvested grouse using self-sampling kits. Second, the DNR is asking anyone out in the field, hunting or otherwise, to report any sick or dead grouse and submit it for sampling.

Self-sampling kits

For the 2018 season, all self-sampling kits have been distributed. Those who would like to sample their grouse will have additional opportunities 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.

Management

Ruffed grouse management

The department has taken a proactive and collaborative approach to ruffed grouse management, with emphasis placed on increasing available habitat, developing partnerships and outreach strategies, engaging private landowners, monitoring the population through surveys and providing tools to improve the hunter experience on public lands.

Management plan

Starting in September of 2018, an ad hoc committee was formed to create Wisconsin's ruffed grouse management plan with an anticipated completion date of January 2020.

For more information on ruffed grouse management and updates on the ruffed grouse management plan, see ruffed grouse management.

Contact information
For information on ruffed grouse hunting, contact:
Jaqi Christopher
Assistant upland ecologist
Bureau of Wildlife Management
608-261-8458
Last revised: Tuesday November 06 2018