Anxiously awaiting in Wisconsin: Ruffed grouse drumming discloses potential bird densities

Wisconsin DNR wildlife personnel and volunteers are in the process of conducting spring ruffed grouse drumming surveys. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

When the ruffed grouse population seemed to all but vanish in some parts of northern Wisconsin last autumn, several hypotheses materialized. The evidence, and then conclusions, may never tell the entire tale, but spring drumming counts, August brood numbers, and fall flushes will tell hunters, birders and biologists enough to quiet the forest, or make it even more of a ruckus.

This population dip of sorts, in the midst of an approach toward a cycle peak, could start another climb from a deep valley and set the cycle back five years. Or the population could right itself with a slow progression toward a peak, albeit lower than normal – or lower than expected.

Other outcomes, too, could go a long way in determining some of the possible culprits that caused last year’s slide.

If it turns out to be a disease – one more related to West Nile virus – and the summer and autumn are unfavorable to mosquito recruitment, the future could quickly be bright. If some other lingering disease of the birds or their vegetation played a role, the slide could get even worse before it gets better.

On the bright side, how this situation plays out could shed some light on the reasons of the grouse cycle itself.

In reading some lines in the recent Aldo Leopold Foundation’s new booklet, “Why Hunt?” which is directed toward bringing more mature non-hunters into the fold, the author reminds us all that the North American Conservation Model has a few simple principles.  One principle screams loud and clear today: “Sound science should guide the government in their management of resources.”

Does the state have a stable of horses ready to “pull the plow” in researching this dilemma?

Even more basic, does Wisconsin’s stable master care?

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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