October 28, 2019

Michigan: Grouse Enhanced Management Sites for Ruffed Grouse Hunters

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager

With the leaves changing colors and the temperatures dropping, many sportsmen and women are excited to have the opportunity to get out in the field. If you happen to be hunting ruffed grouse, you may want to consider heading to Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has made it easy for grouse hunters from anywhere in the country to find public access to quality grouse habitat and hunting through their Grouse Enhanced Management Sites (GEMS).  

Beginning in 2014, the DNR started intensively managing select areas for grouse habitat that were easily accessible by hunters of all ages and skill levels. These sites encourage hunters to try new locations, promote hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation, and aid nearby rural communities through increased tourism by hunters and facilitate timber harvest opportunities.

The program is an innovative partnership between the DNR and local businesses. Sponsors for each GEMS site help pay for the printed materials and marketing, while some businesses even provide discounts for visiting hunters. In return, those businesses get marketing exposure through the DNR website. Today, the GEMS program has 19 sites all of which are supported by businesses across the state.

Last weekend, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s Nick Buggia hunted ruffed grouse and woodcock in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula with staff and members of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) from out-of-state.

“Getting out into the woods and hunting ruffed grouse in the Upper Peninsula was a fantastic experience,” said Buggia. “There is great habitat all over the Upper Peninsula, but the GEMS give you a good place to start and to learn what to look for in other locations. They also help you realize the importance of young forests and the abundance of wildlife that they can hold.”   

The GEMS page of the DNR provides all the information a prospective hunter might need, like maps and location information on each site, the topography, timber types, age of the trees, and even notes on nearby recreational facilities such as forest campgrounds, trails, wildlife areas, and boat launches. In addition, hunters can find local restaurants, sporting goods stores and other accommodations.

In recent years, hunter participation rates have been steadily declining. A lack of access to huntable lands is the most commonly cited reason for hunters giving up their outdoor pursuits. Programs like the Michigan DNR’s GEMS are incredibly important and easy way or keep current hunters active and to provide new hunters with easy opportunities to try upland hunting.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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