Three Wisconsin Counties with Great Grouse Hunting

Wisconsin is arguably the best place in the country for ruffed grouse hunting.  The mix of older forests and newly cut over parcels gives birds the full array of foods they need to thrive. Ruffed grouse are found throughout the Badger State, but northern Wisconsin has the highest concentration. A trip into the northern forests in the fall can be quite rewarding for the grouse hunter.  Here are three of Wisconsin’s top grouse hunting counties.

Vilas County
With 240,000 acres of public forest land, Vilas County is a fantastic place to hunt. Ruffed grouse hunting in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest can be spectacular in the fall. The forest’s diverse, high-quality habitat provides everything grouse need to flourish. The hundreds of miles of old logging roads that run through the forest are the best place to start. When planning your hunt, look for sections of the forest that have areas that have recently been logged. These sections offer the greatest diversity of food sources and attract the most birds.
Oneida County
Oneida County also has a high concentration of ruffed grouse. The Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest dips down into northern Oneida County, offering outstanding hunting opportunities. But the best bet for a grouse hunter in Oneida County is hunting county land. Large tracts are located near the communities of Enterprise, Woodboro and Tripoli. These county lands have forests in various states of growth. Look for the best hunting along logging roads and the edges of large clearings.

County #3 and Complete Wisconsin Travel Best Bets Article

At 76, Minnesota Northland woman still enjoys getting out to hunt grouse

By: Sam Cook

When she was 12, growing up in Hermantown, Carol Nyholm got her first shotgun. It was a Mossberg bolt-action .410.

“That was my recreation after school every day,” Nyholm said. “I’d run home, grab my Irish setter and my gun and go hunting. I’d be shooting grouse, and I could hear the football team practicing.”
She didn’t know it then, but those early years in the woods with her gun and her dogs would shape her life. Now 76 and living near Babbitt with her partner, Chuck Binkowski, Nyholm still is actively hunting and keeps a kennel of 11 dogs. She has spent her life breeding Labrador retrievers and Brittanys, boarding and training dogs, and guiding grouse and woodcock hunters.

On Wednesday afternoon, she put bells on two of her dogs, Skipper and Star, for a couple of hours of grouse hunting before sunset. The dogs’ bells tinkled as they coursed through the leafless stands of aspen.

Nyholm credits her dad, Ernie Nyholm, for grooming her as a hunter.

“I was a girl,” she said, “but it didn’t matter. I was his sidekick for hunting. We went to Willmar and Cold Spring (Minn.) to hunt pheasants. I did a lot of jump-shooting for ducks.”

This was in years just after the Great Depression. Times were tough. Those birds, along with deer, were staples in the Nyholm household. Nyholm and her younger brother learned early on that if you shot something, you ate it. Once, at the family’s cabin, her brother shot several red squirrels, Nyholm said.

“My dad made him go back to the woods and pick ’em all up,” she said. “We all sat around and skun ’em, and we cooked ’em up. Oh, God, were they terrible.”

Getting to the woods
After a year at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Nyholm trained to be a lab technician in Duluth. But she left the job after a year. She needed to be outdoors.

“I had to get there with the dogs and the woods. And I made it,” she said.

In 1965, she bought a yellow Lab from family friend Joe DeLoia, who began training dogs in Duluth after World War II. She was living in Grand Rapids then, divorced and raising two daughters on her own. She built her Roaring Winds Labradors kennel, which she still operates, from Ginger, that first yellow Lab she bought from DeLoia.

“It was my dream always to have a kennel,” Nyholm said. “I hung out at Joe’s kennel a lot, watching him train, listening in on his phone conversations. Joe really mentored me.”

She and the girls had 40 acres outside of Grand Rapids.

“My mom is very independent,” said Christine McKenzie-Burbie, Nyholm’s youngest daughter, who lives in Bovey. “She raised us girls. We never needed for anything, but it was tough for her, being a single parent.”

Besides hunting and raising dogs, Nyholm also harvested wild rice, an activity she still practices every year. And she ran a trapline for a time.

“She gave me my love and passion for the woods,” said her oldest daughter, Paula McKenzie of Babbitt. “She took me on a sled on her muskrat trapline when I was a little baby.”

Becoming a guide - Read the rest of the Duluth News Tribune Article

Despite favorable conditions, Pennsylvania's grouse count low

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania hunters should see an outstanding grouse season, by all indications except one -- the absence of grouse.

As the first leg of a three-part split season opens this weekend, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's go-to person on ruffed grouse said spring research and summer sightings don't add up, resulting in a recent advisory that grouse hunting was expected to be "slightly below average."

"Conditions were good in winter and spring, with a lot of early reports of plenty of broods by June 1. Then as summer came, our people in the field were filing reports saying [grouse] numbers were down, down, down," said Game Commission grouse and woodcock specialist Lisa Williams. "It didn't make sense. I was scratching my head, because my gut still tells me we should see a lot of grouse out there."
Pennsylvania's official state bird is North America's most widely distributed resident game bird. While the grouse population has declined in the state since 1980, and the number of hunters targeting them is down, more than 100,000 Pennsylvania hunters are expected to harvest 75,000 to 100,000 grouse in the 2012-13 seasons, contributing some $79 million to the state's economy, according to a Game Commission report.

Ruffed grouse can be found in most forested areas. But like the woodcock and song birds with whom they share the thickets, grouse are habitat specialists preferring what Williams called "really thick, gnarly stuff." Serious grouse hunters know they'll have to get physical in grape tangles and dense stands of seedlings and saplings to force an adrenaline-inducing flush.

Pennsylvania Grouse Cooperators -- a group of 314 hard-core grouse hunters who keep track of their hunts and report back to the Game Commission -- documented 1.32 flushes per hour last season, the highest flush rate among neighboring states. But Pennsylvania has been tough on grouse.
"Losses of young forest habitat over the last several decades have been bad news for grouse, woodcock and other species that rely on these habitats," said Ian Gregg, Game Commission Game Bird Section supervisor, in a written statement.

Young forests up to 20 years old dropped from nearly 20 percent of total forest acres in 1980 to a little over 10 percent today.

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Grouse hunter kills charging wolf in northern Minnesota

A ruffed grouse hunter in northern Minnesota shot and killed a wolf he said was charging at him and his dog, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR's weekly law enforcement summary includes the following report:
"(Conservation officer) Sam Hunter (of Park Rapids) took a call from a grouse hunter who had shot a timber wolf that was chasing his hunting dog. The dog ran back to the hunter with the wolf on its heels. The hunter shot the wolf at about 8 yards with bird shot as it was coming directly at him/his dog. Proper measures were taken by the hunter to notify the DNR and enforcement action was not necessary. It was a frightening experience during a grouse hunting trip that will not soon be forgotten."

Killing a wolf to protect livestock or pets is legal throughout Minnesota at any time of year, provided the kill is reported to the DNR within 48 hours.

Read the complete Pioneer Press article for more of the story

American Woodcock Migration Mapping System - Reactived

 Woodcock Migration Mapping will be Active from September 2012 through April 2013

Submit Daily Migration Activity Report 

Access Historical Maps and Summaries 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 95
Welcome to the Ruffed Grouse Society’s National American Woodcock Migration Mapping System. In partnership with, the online authority in waterfowl migration tracking, RGS started providing real-time tracking of the annual American woodcock migration in 2006 -- for the first time in history. It has continued each year since. The advanced GIS mapping system relies on daily migration data provided by our members and online readers. Users enter the zip-code for the area they're reporting on, then select if the woodcock activity in that area is Light, Medium, Heavy, or at its Peak.
**The map is a real-time summary of daily (24-hour) entries which reset each midnight, so we encourage our visitors to report each day they encounter woodcock. To view prior 24-hour or longer prior period historical maps, click the Historical Maps and Summaries link.

More Info and Complete RGS Article

Observations from the 2012 Ruffed Grouse Opener

I had the good fortune of celebrating the ruffed grouse hunting opener in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula over the weekend with a large contingent of my immediate family. While we didn’t spend every moment of daylight scouring the woods, four ruffs found their way into our game vests. In the afterglow of barbecued grouse jalapeno poppers, I offer the following observations:
  • The Woods were Grousey! Although all Midwest drumming counts will indicate our slide on the downward side of the grouse cycle, there are absolutely enough birds to keep the aspen and alder woods exciting. Our group averaged 2.5 grouse flushes per hour in four hours of hunting on Saturday and one hour of hunting on Sunday. And our group included me, my brother, his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, my mom, my dad and two shorthairs. In other words, we weren’t exactly a stealth group of grouse hunters.
  • A Special Family Opener. Many folks will complain about the grouse opener being too warm or tough hunting with the woods filled with leaves. The grouse opener is particularly special to me and has become a St.Pierre family tradition. A little over 13 years ago, my dad suffered an aneurysm that nearly took his life. Thanks to medicine and miracles, I am always thankful to spend another walk through the September grouse woods with my dad. This year was extra special as my brother joined us for his first bird hunt in two decades. And, to top it off my niece and nephew slapped on their blaze orange Pheasants Forever gear and joined the family tradition. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
  • Grouse Broods already Dispersed. It seems the grouse family groups had already broken up in the grouse covers we walked. Every flush was a solo bird. Perhaps the early spring in the Northwoods did indeed result in an earlier hatch. If that were to be the case, it’d make sense for the grouse family groups to already be broken.
  • Crazy about Timberdoodles. I was amazed by the number of woodcock we encountered on opening weekend: the most I can ever remember on a grouse opener. Presumably, the migration hasn’t yet begun so these would have been local ‘doodles. We averaged 3.5 woodcock flushes per hour. My older shorthair, Trammell, showed mid-season form pointing numerous woodcock right out of the gates, which presented a number of “honoring” opportunities for my 6-month-old pup, Izzy. NOTE: Michigan’s woodcock hunting season doesn’t up until September 22nd.