Time for Wisconsin to support a ruffed grouse conservation stamp
The good news for some ruffed grouse hunters who ventured up north this fall is that they saw more ruffed grouse in the woods than they anticipated.
There are concerns over the grouse population, as spring drumming counts were much lower than expected and last year most hunters reported fewer grouse than expected.
Though there are many potential reasons for changes in the population, from the possibility of West Nile virus to impacts from an increasing number of predators, the “official” line from biologists is that forest habitat is aging.
Grouse populations peaked when young forest habitat, notably thick aspen stands and brushy woodlands, were plentiful.
The DNR and organizations such as the Ruffed Grouse Society and Natural Resources Conservation Service emphasize the need for landowners to conduct forest management. This year, the DNR even traded 100 live-trapped ruffed grouse and sent them to Missouri in exchange for money that will be used to fund young forest management in Wisconsin.
Two years ago, 14 conservation groups unsuccessfully asked the governor and legislature to increase the costs of their licenses and stamps to help fund DNR wildlife programs. The new governor-elect and Legislature will again look at funding of conservation programs, and it is time that they consider a wildlife stamp for ruffed grouse and woodcock hunters to fund young forest management.
Waterfowl, pheasant, and turkey each have separate stamps that provide habitat for those species. It is in hunters’ interest to improve habitat and wildlife populations.
Wisconsin has about 64,000 grouse hunters and 15,000 woodcock hunters. It is time that those of us who love to hear the explosion of wild wings from woodlands are able to buy a young forest stamp to benefit grouse and woodcock.
Separate stamps are the key to raising and spending money on specific species. Ruffed grouse have been taken for granted far too long and deserve the attention of improved funding.