Ruffed Grouse populations continue slow rise
MADISON – Each year since 1964, state biologists, foresters, wardens, federal foresters and members of the Ruffed Grouse Society have driven survey routes stopping to listen at predetermined locations for the unmistakable sound of drumming ruffed grouse. These drumming counts and observational data on breeding success are used to estimate grouse population changes and season outlooks
Statewide the ruffed grouse population increased about 7 percent between 2007 and 2008,” said Scott Hull, upland game biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.
“The northern and southeast regions showed the greatest increase in drumming activity over last year, with 12 percent and 33 percent increases, respectively,” says Hull. “The central region showed a slight decrease of 3 percent and the southwest region showed a decline of 20 percent fewer drums than in 2007.”
Ruffed grouse drumming surveys are divided into four regions around the state. A map of the regions can viewed on the ruffed grouse page of the DNR Web site.
Biologists note that while the 7 percent statewide increase over last year supports the idea that the population is growing, the change is statistically not significant and may be due to random chance.
“These are great survey results and I’m very optimistic that we’ll have a great grouse season in 2008,” said Hull.
More birds generally lead to more hunting days in the field and higher success rates, say wildlife managers. During the 2007-08 grouse season, about 101,000 hunters reported spending 826,000 days in the field hunting grouse.
“Hunters reported harvesting roughly 482,000 grouse in 2007,” said Hull. “At the time of the last population peak, back in 1999, they reported taking about 768,000.”
“For reasons not well understood, grouse populations fluctuate on a roughly 8- to 10-year cycle. Wisconsin’s population has been on the upswing for about the past three or four seasons, and that is welcome news for grouse hunters and folks who enjoy hearing the drumming in the woods.”
Ruffed grouse are one of Wisconsin’s most popular upland game birds. The characteristic ‘drumming’ noise is readily recognized and is produced by males during the spring breeding season. The male grouse will stand on drumming logs and rapidly beat their wings with the intention of attracting a female grouse.
Dates for the 2008 Ruffed Grouse hunting seasons are: Zone A – Sept. 13 – Jan. 31, 2009 and Zone B – Oct. 18 – Dec. 8. Additional information is on the ruffed grouse page of the DNR Web site [dnr.wi.gov].
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Hull – (608) 267-7861