Wisconsin ruffed grouse prospects should be promising

Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) standing on his drumming log

Bird hunters who are looking ahead to Sept. 16 and the ruffed grouse season opener have reason to be optimistic.

The winter did not shoot out long, cold spells, but there was not a lot of deep snow, either, which birds often depend on during cold winters. They probably didn’t need it in most areas.

Comments have already come in to regional Ruffed Grouse Society biologist Scott Walter, who has heard from hunters who are hearing a lot of drumming males this spring, and these hunters are making a point of passing the information on to Walter.

It’ll be several weeks before the DNR drumming counts are final and released.

In general, Walter said Wisconsin’s population of the popular gamebird bounced off the bottom of the 10-year cycle last year and should be peaking in three to four years. Of course, winter weather and hatching conditions can, and have, put a major dent in past cycles.

The 2017 record wet April should not have been a problem for nesting hens because the hatches are usually the last week of May, first week in June in southern Wisconsin and northern Wisconsin, respectively, after 22-24 days of incubation.

An additional plus is the uptick in public understanding of the value of timber management for forest birds, including ruffed grouse, in part due to the Wisconsin Young Forest Initiative.  That could help to push the cycle crests higher and the valleys lower.

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