Survey Says… More Grouse

The Wisconsin DNR’s annual Roadside Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey shows a 57 percent increase in statewide drumming activity compared to 2023.

The survey measured drumming activity heard along roadsides throughout Wisconsin this spring. Several agencies and groups, including the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, tribal partners, and volunteers, collected the data.

“The late spring and summer of 2023 were abnormally dry, which resulted in prime nesting and brooding conditions for ruffed grouse. This is likely the most influential factor explaining the increase in the number of drumming grouse this year,” explains Alaina Roth, DNR ruffed grouse specialist. “We are also likely entering the ‘up’ phase of our 10-year population cycle, which may be an influencing factor, too.”

Ruffed grouse typically follow a 10-year population cycle, with peaks occurring in years that end in 0, 1 or 9. The surveys indicate ruffed grouse in Wisconsin are starting to enter the more populous phase of the abundance cycle. The next peak is anticipated to occur in 2029, 2030 or 2031.

Data is not available for 2020, so it is unknown whether 2019 or 2020 was the high point in the cycle, but drumming numbers appeared to wane in the years immediately following 2020.

Since 2021, survey data has been organized and analyzed by ruffed grouse priority areas to help monitor key populations across the state.

The 2024 survey results for priority areas compared to 2023 showed:

  • A 41% increase in drumming in the Central priority area.
  • A 60% increase in drumming in the Northern priority area.
  • A 56% decrease in drumming in the Driftless priority area.

Learn more about grouse hunting or managing habitat for ruffed grouse in Wisconsin: