Restoring Kentucky Ruffed Grouse A Work In Progress

Gary Garth, Special to The Courier-Journal

Historically many wildlife species, including whitetail deer, elk, turkey and ruffed grouse, were common across Kentucky.

Then following a myriad of disrupting factors, primarily human encroachment and habitat loss, deer, turkey, and grouse numbers plummeted. Native elk were actually eliminated from Kentucky, the last one having been recorded around 1860.

Following decades of restoration work deer and turkey have recovered to near pre-settlement levels and are thriving. Kentucky has become a destination state for both deer and turkey hunters. Elk were re-introduced about 20 years ago and have flourished beyond anyone’s expectations. Kentucky is currently home to the largest free ranging elk herd East of the Mississippi River and, annually, the number of applications for a Kentucky elk tag far exceeds the number of tags available.

Grouse, however, are still struggling.

Zac Danks is working to change that. But he knows that it will be an uphill struggle. And the reason has as much to do with politics and marketing as it does biology and wildlife management.

Read the rest of the Courier-Journal article to find out why and what he is doing.


Each spring, the Minnesota DNR coordinates statewide ruffed grouse ( Bonasa umbellus ) and sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus ) surveys with the help of wildlife managers, cooperating agencies, and organizations (e.g., tribal agencies, U.S. Forest Service,
college wildlife clubs). In 2016, ruffed grouse surveys were conducted between
4 April and 13 May.
Mean ruffed grouse drums per stop (dps) were
1.3 statewide (95% confidence interval = 1.1 – 1.6)
and increased ( 18%) from the previous year, as expected during the increasing phase of the 10-year population cycle.
Ruffed Grouse
Observers from 14 cooperating organizations surveyed routes between
4 April and 13 May 2016. Most routes ( 96%) were surveyed between 12 April and 10 May, with a median survey date of April 29, which is the same median date as last year and the median survey date for the most recent 10 years. Excellent ( 58%) , Good (34%) , and Fair (8%) survey
conditions were reported for 106 routes reporting conditions.
Statewide counts of ruffed grouse drums averaged
1.3 dps (95% confidence interval = 1.1 – 1.6 dps ) during 2016 (Figure 3).
Drum counts were
1.5 (1.2 – 1.8) dps in the Northeast ( n = 93 routes),
1.1 (0.6 – 1.6) dps in the Northwest ( n = 8),
0.8 (0.5 – 1.3) dps in the Central Hardwoods ( n = 16),
and 0.8 (0.4 – 1.4) dps in the Southeast ( n = 6) regions (Figure 4a-d).
Statewide drum counts increased (18%) from last year.
An increase was expected given that the ruffed grouse population is in the increasing phase of the 10-year cycle.

Park Falls Wi Charter school engages students in grouse habitat improvement

JERRY DAVIS For the State Journal

PARK FALLS, Wis. — Ruffed grouse are a difficult gamebird species to manage, in part because their populations cycle even in the best of habitats.

Still, a group of high school students in Price County believed they could make a difference and could find out what the optimal habitat is and how they could help to transform their school forest into that ideal ecosystem. At least they were willing to try.

“The most difficult part, the most challenging part,” according to Dawson Weik, a junior, was, “getting the money, talking to officials about the project. We’re just a group of high school students and they’re important community members.”

The students had to try in earnest because this is part of their high school graduation requirement.

Raymond Yunk, Kristin Pierce, Caleb Armstrong, Trent Curry, Dawson Weik, and Ashley Pankratz are continuing their project. Students come and go as they enter high school and then graduate.

The school forest is in the heart of the Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World. At least that’s what the sign in front of the Park Falls City Hall proclaims.

The Class ACT Charter School, in which these students are enrolled or all or a part of their education, is a branch of the Chequamegan School District. The project received grants from the Ruffed Grouse Society and the school district board to assess the habitat in the school’s forest and improve the habitat based on needs they determined should make a difference.

The students do all the work after finding the money. Then they must tell the sponsoring organizations what they are accomplishing.

Read the rest of the Wi State Journal article

Gladwin Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Field Trial Area marking 100 years with ceremony on Saturday

One hundred years ago, a block of state-owned land in northern Gladwin County drew folks who liked nothing better than to test their bird dogs against those of others, in a setting as natural, and as naturally birdy, as possible.

They’re still doing it at the Gladwin Field Trial Area, about 4,900 acres in northwest Gladwin County dedicated to just those competitions.

DNR wildlife biologist Bruce Barlow, stationed at Gladwin, minces no words, calling it “the best field-trialing venue in the nation.”

Field trials are competitive tests of dogs’ ability and training in seeking, locating and pointing gamebirds.

Two features make the Gladwin area perfect for them.

Suitable and managed for ruffed grouse and American woodcock, the young-forest haunts where the birds thrive are maintained by frequent logging there.

And, except for the Nov. 15-30 firearm deer season, they’re off-limits for other kinds of hunting.

Even when a bird is pointed and flushed during a trial, held in spring and fall and avoiding the early-summer nesting period, the dog handler fires only blanks.

The lands were acquired as a public grouse field trial area in 1916 through tax reversion, or purchased with General Fund, game funds or, later, a Deer Range Improvement Fund fed by deer license fees. (The last is one reason that, while other forms of hunting are off-limits in the GFTA, deer hunting is allowed.)

The sport and the setting are steeped in history. Thomson remembers when May Frucci, matriarch of a three-generation family of dog handlers, would assemble a crew of women who cooked hearty breakfasts and comfort-food lunches, served on china in Alibi Hall at Meredith, a barn that became a trials clubhouse, still decorated with photos of past events and champions.

It’s also the site of a Gladwin Field Trial Area 100th anniversary ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday. Lunch will be served afterward.

Read the full Midland Daily News article