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Ruffed grouse hunting

Attention: The 2019-2020 ruffed grouse season dates have changed for Zone A. Per Emergency Board Order WM-18-19(E) [PDF], the 2019 ruffed grouse season in Zone A is now September 14 - January 5, 2020.

The change does not impact season dates for Zone B, which is October 19 - December 8, 2019. 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 2019 fall upland game bird hunting forecast [PDF].

Season information

Season dates


  • 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.

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

Thank you to all hunters who submitted a self-sampling kit for the 2018 season. Samples are currently being processed, results will be posted publicly as soon as they become available. If you submitted a sample in 2018, you will be notified via email as soon as the results from your sample are received. If you have a kit from 2018 you were unable to fill DNR encourages you to fill it and send it in this year, nothing in the kit expires. If you are interested in a sample kit for 2019 please contact your local wildlife biologist.

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.


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.

Ruffed Grouse Management Plan

Starting in September of 2018, an ad hoc committee was formed to create Wisconsin's ruffed grouse management plan, the Wisconsin Ruffed Grouse Management Plan 2020-2030 was approved by the Natural Resources Board on December 11, 2019.

For more information on ruffed grouse management, see ruffed grouse management.

Contact information
For information on ruffed grouse hunting, contact:
Alaina Gerrits
Assistant upland wildlife ecologist
Bureau of Wildlife Management
Last revised: Friday December 27 2019