Positive outlook for Wisconsin ruffed grouse, and grouse hunters, this fall

(Jerry Davis photo)

As the calendar flips closer to the ruffed grouse season opener of Sept. 16, news continues to favor one of those “don’t-miss-it” opportunities.

We’re talking primary ruffed grouse habitat here across the northern third of the state and select locations in mid-Wisconsin, where the bag limit is five birds and the possession limit remains three times the daily bag of five birds, which equals 15 grouse.

Consider this: A Hayward hunter who recently combined an ATV ride and his own grouse survey to see, count, and assess ruffed grouse broods for the upcoming Sept. 16 season opener returned saying “things look promising.”

During a four-hour ride, he saw four hens each with four to eight chicks. He admitted that some of the chicks were likely missed when he approached the coveys. “Things look good for fall. The birds were drumming all spring and lots of grouse flushed while spring turkey hunting here in northern Wisconsin.”

A more scientific count, based on drums heard by listeners this spring, was encouraging, too. In primary grouse habitat in northern Wisconsin, drums heard increased 30 percent, compared to 2016. Of the 41 routes surveyed in April and early May, 20 revealed increases, 11 decreased and 10 had no changes compared to 2016.

Statewide, the data revealed a 17 percent increase, but much of the state is no longer primary grouse habitat.

This is a year to participate. In addition, there will be no sharp-tailed grouse permit issuance or season.

Bird-dog training should be another consideration for getting in the woods this fall. It should be a good time to train a young dog.

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