Now that the dogs’ noses have found the scent and the hunters’
guns have been fired, this is a time to assess Wisconsin’s ruffed
grouse population as best we can.
Hunting conditions have been ideal at times, other times the
temperatures have been more August-like than Octoberish, but
hunters and dogs have coped.
Autumn leaf color and subsequent leaf fall started early to the
displeasure of leaf peekers, but not so for hunters. Forest
visibility has been better than average and ahead of schedule.
The birds? That depends on who you ask, how free they are with
information, and how much actual hunting they have done.
In general, many reports have been good, in fact almost too
good. And that seems to agree with forecasts from the spring
There have been some reports, however, that were dismal, at
best. Walking many miles for a flush, let alone a shot, left some
of us scratching our heads, but if one thinks deer hunting instead
of grouse hunting, that makes sense. Even in good, very good years,
there continues to be dismal populations in some areas, even in
areas with pretty darn good habitat.
Spring rains at the wrong time? High numbers of predator birds
or mammals? Perhaps. Time to move a few miles to another location
or lower expectations. But certainly not a time to put the gun
away. Things are bound to go south during the next few years (these
Conditions are dry in some locations. That may mean hunters
should head deeper, lower in to the forests. Sans a dog? Expect
half the birds to not flush and half of those missed and half of
those found. Grouse hunting is a dog/hunter activity unless the
hunter is really experienced.
All in all, this is likely, in most areas, to be one of the best
grouse hunting years in the last decade. In other words, for some
hunters, it’s now or never. Hunters grow older.
So take advantage of the opportunities at hand and learn from
this experience. And as birds disperse more, there will be fewer
birds in every location, but some birds in more locations.