ruffed grouse

Ryan Brady DNR

Park Falls is known as the Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World. The habitat in the region proves to be one of the prime locations for ruffed grouse. But several factors have happened together this year to shorten the hunting season in most of Wisconsin for the prized bird.

An emergency rule is closing hunting north and west of a line from Green Bay to Madison from Jan. 31, 2020 to Jan. 5, 2020. The rule will go into effect on Friday, Nov. 8.

DNR upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha says officials took the action after a surprising set of facts came to light... LisaTaylorPhoto

Hunters are being asked to help the DNR determine the extent of West Nile Virus' impact on ruffed grouse populations.

Wildlife health officials in three states are conducting a multi-year study monitoring for West Nile virus in ruffed grouse by submitting samples from their harvested ruffed grouse. The Wisconsin DNR is collaborating with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress to conduct the study.

There's apparently more of a popular game bird. Roadside ruffed grouse surveys completed this spring show statewide drumming activity increased 41 percent in the last year. This increase aligns with the generally predictable grouse population cycle.

DNR upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha says the large increase in 2019 has made up for much of the unanticipated decline seen in last year's drumming surveys and appears to put Wisconsin back on track for approaching the next cyclical high in the ruffed grouse population...

NPS Stan Canter

The goal is to expose a new generation to the idea of gathering local food, as the DNR is hosting seminars in April to learn to hunt grouse and turkeys.

Conservation Warden in Langlade county, Tim Otto, describes the program...

"...We try to focus on adults that haven't hunted in the past, trying to recruit new hunters or reactivate hunters who are trying to get back into it...."

Otto says this is another aspect of the locally grown food movement... 

Wisconsin DNR


West Nile virus was detected last fall in three of 16 ruffed grouse that were found sick or dead and submitted by the public to the DNR.

West Nile Virus has proven to be a killer among other bird species like bluejays and crows. Humans and horses can also be affected by the virus. The virus is moved by mosquitoes looking for a blood meal to lay eggs.

DNR ecologist Mark Witecha, says there is no evidence to confirm that West Nile virus or any other factor is having population-level impacts on ruffed grouse in Wisconsin.

Mdf / Wikimedia Commons

The number of ruffed grouse in Wisconsin has declined and some are concerned West Nile virus is to blame. In response to these concerns, the Wisconsin DNR is kicking off a monitoring program this fall.

DNR upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha says they’re collaborating with natural resource agencies in Minnesota and Michigan, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, but they also need help from hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.

WXPR-Dept. of Tourism

The Department of Tourism has given marketing money to the Wisconsin County Forests Association to promote grouse hunting in the forests.

The Assistant Executive Director of the Association is Gary Zimmer. Zimmer says this is the second year of receiving Joint Effort Marketing money with an eye toward getting hunters to use the 29 Wisconsin county forests.

He says the county lands aren't as well known to people outside the region as other forests... Mad tinman

The population of a popular sports hunting bird is down, and researchers are considering why that is the case.

Ruffed Grouse Society Helps Push for Young Forests

Sep 29, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

The Ruffed Grouse Society has signed on to a partnership that hopes to restore more young forest species to the Northwoods. 

Gary Zimmer, coordinating biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, says it’s going to take significant cooperation to encourage habitat that supports certain kinds of wildlife. 

“Pooling resources –both financially and in-kind services, habitat equipment.  Getting more done for less.  It’s tough to do alone.”