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The County of Trails Provides Excellent Grouse and Woodcock Hunting Opportunities

August 22, 2022

Al Murray


Avid grouse and woodcock hunters recognize the need for a variety of the young forest habitats required for the production of good numbers of grouse and woodcock broods, providing better harvesting opportunities.

Young forest habitat is extremely important to an entire suite of birds and mammals with declining populations, including ruffed grouse.  The basic principles of management for young forest habitat will also enhance the management area for deer, bear, turkey, and a variety of declining songbirds and mammals.

The key to managing young forests for ruffed grouse is providing habitat components that meet their annual requirements. Reproduction, recruitment, and survival determine year-to -year grouse abundance, and high-quality habitat can improve all of these parameters. Grouse typically begin using an area starting 3-5 years post-timber harvest and remain until stem exclusion begins at 15-20 years post-harvest depending on site quality (forests on better soils grow out of grouse habitat earliest due to accelerated tree growth).

Landscape level planning is required to ensure that young forest habitat remains a component on the landscape, or species will decline over time. It can take up to 10 years of site preparation before a stand is harvested, so careful planning is needed to ensure that no bottlenecks occur (i.e., areas where young stands reach stem exclusion stage yet no new stands are ready for harvest). Site planning and preparation that allows for 10% or more of a compartment to be regenerated every 15 years will ensure that young forest habitats remain on the landscape for species that require them.

With this approach, a balanced age class distribution can be achieved and maintained over the long term. Within a stand, appropriate habitat management practices are determined by site, forest type, tree species composition, stand age, stand history, future desired condition, and the long-term objectives of the landowner/ manager. There are several regeneration methods, and all are not suited for every forest type or situation. Careful consideration should be given to desired stand composition and vegetation structure before silvicultural techniques are prescribed. In general, the greatest degree of overstory removal provides the greatest benefit to ruffed grouse. Clearcuts and two-aged stands provide excellent cover for ruffed grouse.

The Langlade County Forest provides a variety of aspen, white birch, balsam fir, red maple, and white spruce types, totaling nearly 49,000 acres of land. These forest types provide excellent habitat types for birds and animals that require young forest habitat. In fact, for over 30 years the department has cooperated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and groups including the Ruffed Grouse Society and most recently the American Bird Conservancy to maintain a landscape of young forest habitat across the County Forest.

This work has included the installation of walking trails and game openings with seeding of preferred grasses and shrubs, mowing of aspen and alder sites to provide a mosaic of preferred age classes. This work was scheduled to provide areas with 5 separate age classes within each square mile of forest.
This work has resulted in excellent opportunities for grouse hunting on the County Forest. In addition, the County Forest is directly linked to many Wisconsin DNR properties including the Ackley Wildlife Area, the Peters Marsh Wildlife Area, and the Upper Wisconsin River Fisheries Areas, many of which have had similar work to promote habitat beneficial to grouse and other young forest species.

“Don’t overlook the “County of Trails” when you plan your next fall hunting trip!”  For more information on hunting in Langlade County, go to our hunting page by clicking here.

For more information please contact the Langlade County Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department at 715-627-6300 or Al Murray, Forest Administrator at 715-627-6368 or by e-mail at