Wisconsin Natural Resources Board tinkering with ruffed grouse season

The Natural Resources Board will consider closing the Zone A ruffed grouse season early this year when the board meets Aug. 8 in Green Bay. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

It has been proposed that the ruffed grouse season, which opens Sept. 15 in Zone A and Oct. 20 in Zone B, be closed earlier than normal.

Nov. 30 is the proposed closing for Zone A. Zone B is scheduled to close Dec. 8, so that may be moved to Nov. 30, too. The reasons for considering an earlier closing is that the population, at least in northern and central Wisconsin, where the best habitat exists, has taken hits from weather-related events during nesting and brooding, as well as possible infections from West Nile virus, although the virus has yet to be confirmed in Wisconsin grouse.

Other Midwest states have experienced similar disruptions. The DNR and Ruffed Grouse Society are cooperating to do some serious survey work to at least determine if WNV was – and is – a factor.

Would other options, at least in Zone A be better – including no change, reducing the daily bag from five birds, or cutting the possession limit of 15 birds? How much impact does hunting have on the population? How much hunting occurs after gun deer season? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to shorten hunting times by an hour in December and January if the concern is hunting grouse “budding” in aspens before roosting for the night? And would reduction of any sort be suggesting that the birds, with their normal cycle and regular weather fluctuations, simply cannot support a hunting season such as is on the books?

RGS will not take a stand either way on the shorter season. Regardless of the final plan, and implication, hunters should not shy away from the 2018 season. Their help will be greatly needed in collecting and testing birds.

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