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Ruffed grouse hunting

Attention Ruffed Grouse Hunters:

In collaboration with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society and Wisconsin Conservation Congress the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is continuing the second year of a multi-year West Nile virus (WNV) monitoring program. The DNR is asking ruffed grouse hunters to submit samples from their harvested ruffed grouse. If you are interested in providing a sample please request a kit from your local wildlife biologist. There will be 500 kits available for ruffed grouse hunters in 2019, if you have a kit remaining from 2018 that you were unable to fill, DNR urges you to use the kit and send it in, nothing in the kit expires. The WNV sampling kit contains detailed instructions and all the supplies needed to collect one sample. Hunters will be asked to collect a small amount of blood along with the heart and a few feathers from their harvested grouse. Samples from the fall of 2018 are currently being processed, those who submitted samples will be notified via email as soon as results become available. Thank you for your help in managing one of Wisconsin's most important game birds!

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

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.

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.

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.

Ruffed Grouse 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. The first draft of the Ruffed Grouse Management Plan has been completed and the public comment period has ended. Comments and input regarding the Draft Ruffed Grouse Management Plan have been compiled and will be closely reviewed by the ruffed grouse management plan team before drafting a final version of the plan.

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
608-261-8458
Last revised: Thursday August 29 2019