MI Grouse Enhanced Management Systems gives hunters better chance

By Ed Golder 

It isn’t every day that you would find Gov. Rick Snyder and Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh working shoulder-to-shoulder in the vast state forest lands of the Upper Peninsula, shovels in hand, planting nannyberry shrubs and crabapple trees.

But on a hot, sunny day in mid-August, that’s exactly what two dozen volunteers and a handful of DNR staff witnessed at the end of a two-track trail just south of Gwinn in Marquette County, where, thanks to the collaborative efforts of all parties mentioned above, a diamond in the rough has gradually become a brilliant gem.

The GEMS — or Grouse Enhanced Management Systems — is a new DNR initiative designed to bring attention to Michigan’s outstanding upland bird hunting opportunities through the creation of a series of walk-in access hunting trails intensively managed for improved ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting.

DNR wildlife division development of the GEMS hinged largely upon the support of the Ruffed Grouse Society and increased revenue from the state’s new license fee package.

“The Ruffed Grouse Society and the American Woodcock Society are both extremely excited about the new GEMS initiative,” said Eric Ellis, the Ruffed Grouse Society East Great Lakes regional biologist. “We see this as an opportunity to get our members in the field, working on habitat improvement projects at the GEMS sites, and using hunting destinations as opportunities to promote grouse and woodcock hunting and conservation in Michigan.”

Grouse, Guns, and Dogs DVD Review

It was hot and humid this weekend in St. Paul, Game Fair was over, and one of my dogs is off at training camp so I needed a boost to my grouse hunting morale.  Fortunately I had just got my DVDs "Grouse, Guns, and Dogs" delivered.  It is a 2 DVD set narrated by Paul Fuller of the Bird Dogs Afield TV show with over 3 hours of grouse hunting information and videos.

Each DVD is broken down to a number of chapters covering a wide range of grouse hunting topics.  My two favorite were both on Disk 2.  Grouse Dog Field Trials and Grouse Hunting Over Pointing Dogs.

The chapter on trialing has videos of actual trials and interviews with some of the participants.  The chapter on hunting had a number of different hunts and showed grouse hunting in varying conditions.

If you need a little something to jump start your grouse season or something to tide you over during the off season I think you will find this DVD set enjoyable.

WY Bird hunters beware of new grouse hunting regulations starting Sept. 1 2014

With the September 1 opener for upland game right around the corner, bird hunters are alerted there are some significant changes in the hunting regulations for this fall.

Beginning September 1 the combined daily bag limit and possession limit for blue and ruffed grouse has been eliminated and upland game bird hunters will be allowed to take a daily bag limit of three blue grouse and a daily bag limit of three ruffed grouse. The possession limit for each species will be nine.

Now that hunters are allowed to take separate daily bag limits of blue grouse, ruffed grouse, chukar partridge, gray (Hungarian) partridge or sharp-tailed grouse, hunters will need to retain evidence of species on all game birds in their possession while in the field.  The new regulation states that, excluding pheasants, one fully-feathered wing shall remain naturally attached to the carcass of ANY upland game bird in the field and during transportation. Hunters have always had to retain evidence of sex and species on each pheasant harvested by having the feathered head, feathered wing or foot naturally attached to the carcass of a pheasant while in the field and during transportation.

2014 Ruffed Grouse Season Forecasts Announced By Ruffed Grouse Society


            Weather conditions were generally favorable for ruffed grouse broods this past spring after a delay in nesting due to the long lasting winter conditions. This followed a winter with excellent overwintering conditions due to the deep fluffy snowpack that persisted in much of the state from mid-November into April (and beyond in many places) making for excellent snow roosting habitat.   

            Information provided by Al Stewart, upland game bird specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, indicated that ruffed grouse drumming counts were conducted statewide along 105 survey routes during April and May 2014. An average of 12.43 drums were heard per route statewide, a 16 percent increase from the 2013 (10.77) average. The highest drumming counts were in Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula; 14.86), followed by Zone 2 (Northern Lower Peninsula; 11.64) and Zone 3 (Southern Lower Peninsula; 4.14).

 Table provided by Al Stewart, MDNR. 

            “In Michigan, we are a step-up from the bottom of the 10-year-cycle based on the 2014 spring drumming grouse survey.” said Stewart. “Our survey data suggests that the Michigan grouse population last peaked in 2010 and the most recent low in grouse abundance occurred during 2004-2005. My prediction is that in 2014, grouse hunters will experience flush rates similar to 2013. If production is good (field biologists are reporting more broods than last year), there may be a slight increase in the number of grouse seen this fall. The opening date for ruffed grouse hunting season is September 15.”
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey data on American woodcock from this past spring indicate that populations were down 4.4 percent along the 95 surveyed routes in Michigan. Stewart pointed out that this was “not unexpected due to a cold, wet spring in 2013” and that “prolonged winter conditions this spring may have impacted 2014 woodcock production in Michigan.”  Based on state and federal survey information, Stewart predicts “that woodcock hunters this fall can expect a season similar to 2013.” The opening date for woodcock hunting in Michigan’s 45-day woodcock season is Saturday, September 20. 


Information from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were significantly higher than last year across most of the bird’s range, according to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

             “Ruffed grouse drums increased 34 percent from the previous year, with the increase happening in the northern part of the state,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “This may signal the start of an upswing in the grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase.”

            The increase is consistent with changes typical of the 10-year grouse cycle. The most recent peak in drum counts occurred in 2009. The cycle is less pronounced in the more southern regions of the state, near the edge of the ruffed grouse range.

            Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting.

            Compared to last year’s survey, 2014 survey results for ruffed grouse indicated increases in the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota, from 0.9 drums per stop in 2013 to 1.3 in 2014. Drumming counts in the northwest increased from 0.7 drums per stop in 2013 to 1.2 in 2014. Drumming counts did not increase in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.8 and 0.3 drums per stop, respectively.

            Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2012 and 2013 were 1.0 and 0.9, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.
            Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer.

            Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, also making it the state’s most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

            One reason for Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

            For the past 65 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 11 organizations surveyed 121 routes across the state. For more information, see www.mndnr.gov.

Ruffed Grouse Society's Dan Dessecker Selected for USDA Advisory Committee

Dessecker was selected by the USDA to the Planning Rule Federal Advisory Committee to help guide future management of public forests.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on August 12, 2014 the selection of Dan Dessecker, Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) director of conservation policy, to the National Advisory Committee for Implementation of the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule (Planning Rule FACA Advisory Committee), a group of 21 members that will provide guidance and recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service on management of America's national forests.

Dessecker was selected to represent the interests of commercial and recreational hunters and anglers on the Committee. "Members of the Planning Rule Advisory Committee help us strengthen ecological, social, economic and cultural sustainability objectives," said Vilsack. "The rule will allow the creation of management plans that will protect and restore National Forest System lands in order to sustain communities and protect natural resources."

The selection demonstrates the value of relationships between RGS professionals and those who craft policies that affect forest wildlife management on our public forest lands. "The Ruffed Grouse Society is very pleased to be able to continue to represent the interests of hunters and anglers as we work with the U.S. Forest Service to help guide fish and wildlife conservation on our nation's national forests," said RGS President and CEO John Eichinger.

Pointing Dog Training on Grouse and Woodcock - Video

Bird Dogs Afield takes you into the field for spring pointing dog training on woodcock and grouse with German shorthaired pointers and an English setter.

Ontario Ruffed Grouse Hunting 2009 with Bird Dogs Afield - Video

Ontario Ruffed Grouse Hunting 2009 is a Bird Dogs Afield oldie but goodie. Paul & Susan visit Gogama Lodge.

Preserving The Future of Grouse, Woodcock and Hunting - Ruffed Grouse Society - Video

The Ruffed Grouse Society is North America's foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forests for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. Without young forest habitat, populations of grouse and woodcock would not flourish and our rich sporting traditions could not be passed on to the next generation. See more about how the Ruffed Grouse Society preserves grouse, woodcock and hunting at, www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.

Some clips for this video were provided courtesy of Michigan State University Extension and Clearwater Media Partners.


Statewide Ruffed Grouse drum counts increased 34%
this year.

Increases were driven by changes in
the northern portion of the state, in the prime ruffed grouse range.

This increase is consistent with changes expected with
the 10 year cycle, with the most recent peak
in drum counts during 2009.

The cycle is less pronounced in the more southern regions of the state, near the edge of their range.

Video Ruffed Grouse Drumming UP CLOSE

When we were Black Bear Hunting in Montana we walked up on a Ruffed Grouse on his drumming log. You can hear him for miles it felt like. 

Ruffed Grouse numbers in Michigan better than what might have been expected

steve griffin

RUFFED GROUSE also come under Stewart’s purview, and he said that while the birds were expected to be nearing the bottom of their typical 10-year cycle of abundance, they may just be starting their rebound.

“Our drumming count was up 16 to 17 percent from last year,” said Stewart of the tally of males drumming wings above logs in hopes of attracting mates.

“There is a big difference between drumming counts, and production of young, and birds available to hunters in the fall,” Stewart pointed out, “but this may be the first year of an upswing” – a good year, maybe, to buy a hunting dog puppy.

“I tell people I think they may see about the same number of grouse as last year,” Stewart said, “maybe a few more.”