Wisconsin’s NRB shortens Zone A ruffed grouse season, but adopts Dec. 31 instead of expected Nov. 30 closure
The Natural Resources Board (NRB) modified its effort to close the ruffed grouse hunting season early in Wisconsin this fall, voting to close the season in Zone A on Dec. 31 instead of the expected date of Nov. 30.
The board adopted an emergency order at its Sept. 26 meeting in Hayward that will move the end of the ruffed grouse season in northern, central and southwestern Wisconsin from the original closing date of Jan. 31, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2018.
The change does not affect the close of the grouse hunting season in Zone B, which opens Oct. 20 and closes Dec. 8. Zone B covers southeastern Wisconsin and eastern counties up to Green Bay.
The board originally asked the DNR to present a plan that would close the season on Nov. 30 due to concern over an unexpected lack of ruffed grouse sightings followed by a drop in drumming counts this past spring.
The board later agreed to the Dec. 31 date because there was not enough scientific evidence available to prove that shortening the season to Nov. 30 would save many birds for the following spring breeding season.
Grouse hunting harvest is considered compensatory (if not shot, those birds would be killed by predators anyway) rather than additive (an additional form of mortality for the population beyond predators or weather).
Also, grouse hunting interest often declines in late November with the advent of the gun deer hunt.
Ken Jonas, of Wisconsin’s Green Fire, and George Meyer, of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, asked the board to forego shortening the season to Nov. 30 because of a lack of scientific data.
Two other citizens, Roxanne Lotts and Ray Hanson, both of Chetek, supported an earlier closure.
Board members were pleased the proposal brought increased attention to ruffed grouse, an important game bird in the state.
The DNR is now working on a ruffed grouse management plan, something the agency has never drafted in the past.