News

Meeting & MUCC Event Update

Hi Sharp-tailed Grouse Members, 

The MUCC work bee on Saturday August 20 has been cancelled due to lack of volunteers. BUT—our meeting on the 19th is still on.  Our meeting will be at the Seney township hall, on Railroad St., starting at 10:00am. Lunch will be provided, thanks to Steve Rodak who will be bringing his famous Pork Butts and I’ll bring the rest. Then, we will go on a field trip to look at a recent DNR habitat improvement burn. Our DNR host will be Heather Shaw. If you have not already, please let me know if you plan on attending. 

Marty Sarrault
231-420-8600

2022 Annual Meeting

The Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association (MSGA) will hold its 2022 Annual Meeting on Friday, August 19, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. at the Seney Township Hall in Seney, Michigan. The address is 1576 W. Railroad Street, Seney, Michigan.

There will be a short business meeting followed by a field trip to nearby Michigan DNR management areas, where there have been prescriptive controlled burns that should benefit sharp-tailed grouse, white-tailed deer, and other animals and birds that prefer open and semi-open grassland and early succession forest areas. Lunch will be provided for all attendees either at the township hall or at field sites.

Speakers should include Marty Sarrault, MSGA president, as well as representatives from the Michigan DNR. Recently, there has been a coordinated effort by state, federal and tribal wildlife managers to maintain and expand these open management areas.

The MSGA encourages all interested parties to attend the meeting.

Spring 2022 Newsletter

Hello Members and Friends,

It is hard to believe that we are in 2022, but here we are and hopefully this year will be a little more normal than last year. As it turned out the decision to not have a meeting worked out ok since the DNR personnel were having to meet virtually, which is still kind of the case right now. Also there has been huge changes in the department with all of the retirements and transfers. And of course with the retirement of Al Stewart,we and the Sharp-tailed Grouse lost our main cornerstone of support from Lansing so things have definitely changed.

I am happy to say that the hardest part of doing this newsletter(other than forcing myself to sit down and do it) is the fact that I have so much good information and good news to share. I have been to several meetings and have had many phone conversations over the last couple of months that have me very excited about about our sharp-tailed grouse and their habitat. I will include a few attachments at the end of the newsletter instead of trying to explain them all.

We have several very dedicated Biologists and Techs with the DNR, Feds, and the Sault Tribe that are working very hard for upland game. I bother them quite a bit with questions or concerns and they always help me out and certainly listen. We have also gained a huge advocate for the us and our birds. Heather Shaw, who has attended many of our meetings while she worked for RGS, now works for MDNR in the Cusino office, has an interest in Sharp-tailed Grouse, and already has a few plans that will benefit sharpies including putting the Kingston plains back in the headlights. Heather has also supplied me with material that I will include at the end of the newsletter. One being an MUCC on the ground project for the Bullock Ranch to remove brush and shrubs to enhance lek site conditions. This will be on August 20th,and we will meet at the Seney road side park on M-28 at 9:00am. Bring work clothes and a little ambition. I might also consider doing a meeting after the work bee, we will see. Lunch will be provided, so if you can, try to attend, these kind of projects are fun and very rewarding.

Now to the Hiawatha National Forest, there are many great projects planned in the near future which will benefit Sharpies along with MANY others birds, mammals insects reptiles and whatever else relies on or inhabits grasslands and early succession habitat. They have received a $50,000.00 grant for Sharp-tailed Grouse habitat and $32,000.00 for pollinator habitat, which is directly related to Sharpies. Also planned is a prescribed burn in the Racco area. I have also been involved through the Ruffed Grouse Society on a multi-year, 100 acre plus non commercial aspen cut on the Hiawatha. These cuts are in areas not accessible by logging equipment or the quality of the timber is so poor that it doesn’t have any marketable value, but we do not want to lose the aspen stand. Just a quick explanation, in case someone is not aware, if an aspen stand gets old too where it starts to fall down and die the stand will die out forever, but if cut it will reproduce and regenerate. so they are having to be hand cut these stands to save them. And although the pretense was for Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock, it will certainly benefit Sharp-tailed Grouse as well. I am also enclosing a long term lek survey from the Hiawatha that is not great news, this downward trend is disturbing, extremely complicated and it would take me pages to try and explain it with my very limited knowledge of the subject. I can assure you though that the issue is being looked at very closely by the Hiawatha, MDNR and the Sault Tribe personnel.

Speaking of the Sault Tribe, Biologist Eric Clark informed me of all the great research they are doing including a project this year using GPS solar transmitters on some birds. They have also been focusing on habitat needs for our birds. It was also great news to learn that they now have Danielle Fegan a Student @ MSU doing her dissertation on sharp-tailed grouse habitat needs. She was so kind as to send me a short explanation of her work but instead I just included it as an attachment so I don’t mess it up.

One thing I have found to be so ironic this year is that the three involved entities, State Federal & Tribal are all focusing in the same direction, and to the best of my knowledge, they did not plan it that way. That is Habitat, ie, warm season grasses, pollinators, and early succession aspen. So between fire, cutting and re-introduction of native grasses, flowers/ pollinators I see a lot of exciting work being done.

Now on to the State level, It is getting close to Spring and the Spring lek surveys. The last two years have been messed up because of the bug. This year SHOULD be back to normal. If you would like to volunteer you may call Jayne Roohr at the Newberry office at 906-293-5131. Please remember that Jayne or Dave Jentoff biologist at the Sault St Marie office 906-635-6161 are not Tour guides, they will be happy to point you in a direction but they don’t have the time to guide or bring you to a lek site. Thank you. Dave also managed to burn 300 plus acres at the Munuscong pot holes. Definitely a great long needed project.
Last year they found more birds on occupied sites, but they cautioned me to not read to much into that. Using volunteers is great and needed but it also puts an uncertain variable into any scientific study.
Dave Jentoff also has some habitat plans for the eastern end. Though we do not have a harvest report for the last couple of seasons we do know that the number of hunters has been on a steady increase. but I do not remember if those are licenses purchased or hunters signing in at the HAP projects.

On a personal note I have spoken to many hunters and property owners that have given me encouraging news. As far as hunters go, the few I talked to who hunted this year were extremely happy about the amount of birds that they had seen. Friends have also told me about the number a birds hanging around Moran. The reports from Duck Lake fire area is, lots of birds. I met with a private landowner south of the Sault and he feeds a couple dozen birds all winter. I meet with a lot of people through the year and I am very encouraged with the anecdotal reports. Other encouraging reports were Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock hunters moving many Sharp-tails while hunting typical young aspen stands.

We are accepting 2022 dues they are still $25.00. I have spent a few dollars on my RGS habitat project north of St Ignace, and will want to provide lunch for the folks who attend the August on the ground event. Currently we have $1600.00 plus in the bank and although it is never much I will like to support a few youth, and habitat projects when possible. We have had a couple of requests asking if dues can be paid online, unfortunately the answer is no. To be honest most of the people I send this out to are not members nor pay dues, but I keep trying. As far as Facebook or any other social media, again I will beg anyone that sees a posting to respond because I never do.

I know it is hard on those of you down south, but I would like to try and have a meeting in the UP this year, I know that many biologists in our area would probably attend if it were here, but would not be able to drive downstate, so we will have to see about that.

Well two pages is enough, I put in quite a few facts and figures so if I mixed something up I apologize ahead of time. Hopefully I don’t have too many mistakes. My wife has found many of them, but I’m sure there are more.

Any questions or comments please call me @ 231-420-8600

Marty Sarrault
President Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association

Attachments

Sharp-Tailed Grouse Hunting in Michigan

A Personal Account Written by Bruce Basom

In 1961, I made my first trip to the Michigan Upper Peninsula (U.P.) to hunt ruffed grouse, woodcock and waterfowl. However, it did not take me long to discover the other grouse that could be hunted in Michigan – the sharp-tailed grouse (STG). Originally, my STG hunting was primarily centered west of Seney in Schoolcraft County on the Bullock Ranch management area on both sides of M-28. There it was possible to pursue and harvest both STG and ruffed grouse all within the same basic habitat type – brush, willow and light aspen. Later, my hunting was expanded north and east to the Danaher Plains, and north and west to the Kingston Plains and Prairie Creek Marsh in Alger County. Birds were consistently flushed and harvested on all these areas until the open season was closed. Over the time that these public land areas were hunted, the habitat type was largely flat or lightly rolling pine plains, with poor sandy soil. The Michigan DNR completed some active management largely through timber sales that continue today, but the large expansive open and semi-open areas needed by STG gradually became reduced in size and largely fragmented from each other. During the time that STG were hunted there, my flush rate was probably 3 or 4 birds per hour, but the likelihood of obtaining an opportunity to actually harvest a bird within 50 yards of me was about one opportunity every four hours. Much of the best cover was semi-open with clumps of brush, short aspen and pine, so the birds would not flush and fly a long distance. As a consequence, a fair number of birds could be re-flushed.

Beginning in the early to mid 1980s, one of my friends lived in the eastern U.P. and I had some opportunities to hunt STG on hay and small grain private farms, primarily in Chippewa County south of Sault Ste. Marie. The habitat type tended to be relatively large hay fields consisting of clover and birdsfoot trefoil. The clay soil delayed hay cutting until perhaps mid-July or later. Often there was just one cutting, and never more than two per year. With some brush and/or abandoned farms nearby, the habitat was suitable habitat for STG. Additionally, and unlike the public land areas further to the west that required active management efforts, the hay fields were kept open by private ownership with a business interest. On these areas, an experienced hunter could expect to average 5 or 6 bird sightings per hour, maybe more, but unfortunately the birds consistently flushed at a distance well outside the effective range of a shotgun and were apt to fly long distances. Consequently, opportunities to re-flush the birds were not very frequent. It might take six hours on the average for an opportunity to harvest a bird. In the eastern U.P., my flush rate per hour has not changed much from the 1980s. If anything, my flush rate is higher now than it was in the 1980s, but this may be due to more experience and knowing where to find birds on my part as opposed to significant habitat changes.

Unlike pheasants that are often found in higher and reasonably dense grass cover, STG prefer short grass of mixed height and density, usually between the top of a hunter’s ankle and the bottom of the hunter’s knee. As a result, with or without dogs, the birds are difficult to approach. For that reason, I hunt with a well-weathered 1967 Browning Over and Under 12 gauge shotgun chambered for 3 inch shells and choked Full and Full. It is kind of a sorry looking gun with a beat-up slip-on recoil pad that extends the length of the pull 3/4ths of an inch and is held together with “gorilla tape,” but it has never failed to fire and has assisted in the harvest of a lot of upland game birds. I use turkey loads with 1 and 7/8ths or 2 ounces of #5 or #6 size lead shot because it takes a lot of energy to knock down a STG, and more pellets just increase the chances of success at the maximum ranges where harvest can be reasonably anticipated by an accurate firing.

In terms of weather, I prefer overcast days with high daily temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees F with little or no wind. Wind speeds over 10 mph are counter productive and winds greater than 20 mph may keep the birds out of the open fields. A little dew in the morning is okay, but rain is mostly not good and snow is just plain bad. My best luck at flushing birds is clearly in the morning from dawn until about 9:30 a.m., but for purposes of harvest, midday and evenings are probably just as productive. During these times, the birds can be found in light brush, potholes, along the edges of hay fields so long as the trees are less than 20 to 25 feet high and on abandoned farms. Finally, another likely place to find STG is a pasture where cattle are actively grazing. The cattle tend to keep the grasses down, but there is still some cover to conceal the birds from predators. Unfortunately, the farmer pasturing cattle is not likely to allow hunting, which just encourages STG to use these areas as safe sanctuaries from hunters.

In terms of land availability for STG hunting, there is very little public land where STG are consistently present. For that reason, The Michigan DNR has leased 5,000 plus acres of private land under the Hunting Access Program (HAP). These private lands are located in Chippewa County and are all lands where STG can regularly be found, both east and west of I-75. Any prospective STG hunter should be willing to walk at least 5 miles per day and 10 miles would be better. A hunter must also be patient, because it is not unusual to go several hours between flushes. Even so, from the 2010 hunting season through the 2021 season, I have not personally gone more than about a half day without flushing birds. Finally, prospective STG hunters should be satisfied with the quality of the experience as opposed to the flush rate per hour or the quantity of the harvest. Good luck and successful hunting.

For more information about the Hunting Access Program (HAP), including dates for hunting sharptails, visit our Recreation page or the DNR’s official page.

2021 Michigan DNR Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Survey

The Michigan DNR is reinstating the annual Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Survey this year after a one year hiatus in 2020.  This year, the DNR is requesting that volunteers who wish to participate in the annual survey be limited to the time period of April 1st to April 14th.  Normally, volunteers are able to participate during the full lek survey period of April 1st to May 15th.  It is also possible that the volunteer period may be extended by the DNR to May 15th, but as of now, the volunteer period is limited to April 1st to April 14th.  From a practical standpoint, volunteers typically survey leks or suspected leks in relatively remote mostly public areas in the central Upper Peninsula near Lake Superior in Alger, Schoolcraft and Luce counties or in or near the Seney Swamp areas north of Manistique.  In these areas, access is often limited by snow pack until late April to May.  While the DNR would probably find any volunteer information regarding sharp-tailed grouse important based upon sightings at any time of the year, only information received from the April 1st To April 14th time period can be included in the official survey results.

Those sharp-tailed grouse enthusiasts who are interested in participating in the 2021 Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Survey should contact:

Jayne Meinhard (now Roohr)
Wildlife Technician
Michigan DNR Wildlife Division
Newberry, Michigan
office telephone # (906)293-5131 ex: 4030
cell phone # (906)291-0004 (call/text)


There are two experiences that all outdoor enthusiasts should experience in their lifetime:  ( 1) sharp-tailed grouse on an active lek in the spring; and (2) elk bugling in the early fall.  In Michigan, we have an opportunity to experience both right here within our own state.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in the wonders of nature, to participate in this survey.  Most participants will find that the birds are usually heard (cooing that can be heard from up to a quarter of a mile or maybe a little further) before being seen.  Consequently, most observations will be made by counting the number of birds flushing from the lek.

At this time, all volunteers will be required to fill out a daily health screening form and a volunteer waiver form in addition to the 2021 Michigan DNR Lek Survey Form.  Ms. Meinhard (now Roohr) will be able to provide all participating volunteers with the required forms.

Summer 2020 Newsletter

Annual Business Meeting

The annual business meeting has been cancelled for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  While it probably would be possible to have a virtual meeting, the likelihood of getting a lot of interest in that kind of a meeting is probably not very high, participation would be limited and not without technical problems.  We expect to have a meeting next August.


Annual Membership

Our annual Membership Application/Renewal Form can be found here and sent with dues to Marty Sarrault, whose address is noted on the form.


Habitat Management

The federal wildlife biologist stationed in Saint Ignace is still actively creating open land management in the Hiawatha National Forest, primarily in the Raco area of Chippewa county west of Sault Ste. Marie.  The Raco management area has several sections of land that have been clear cut over the last few years.  The Michigan DNR also maintains an active forest management program of clear cuts and thinnings based upon its timber management schedule, which can be found on the DNR website.  Unfortunately, the DNR timber management areas are typically not very large and can be relatively few and far between.  A large management area would be in the neighborhood of 200 acres.  Most are in the order of 40 acres or so.  Clear cut areas may be followed up with tree plantings, which makes for just a few years of good open land habitat.  Prescribed burns are also used as a management tool, but can be expensive and fairly high labor intensive because the fire cannot be allowed to exceed established parameters.  Additionally, weather conditions and access must be favorable.  If all of these conditions are not met, the management might need to be postponed for a year or more.


Hunting Access Program

There is some question as to how long the Hunting Access Program will be continued in the eastern Upper Peninsula due to possible budget shortfalls.  Hopefully, adequate funding will be found to continue this program, which has been very successful and utilized by sharp-tailed grouse hunters.


Spring 2020 Newsletter

2020 Michigan DNR Annual Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Survey

The 2020 Michigan DNR Annual Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Survey will not be conducted this year due to the COVID-19 virus. It is anticipated that the annual lek survey will be conducted again in 2021, at which time the DNR will be looking for volunteers to assist in the survey. Our MSGA normally has volunteers who participate. At this time, all the survey areas are located in the Upper Peninsula in the counties of Chippewa, Mackinac, Luce, Schoolcraft, Alger and Delta. Chippewa and Schoolcraft counties normally have the most birds.


Sharp-tailed Grouse Translocation to Suitable Areas in the Lower Peninsula

The Michigan DNR terminated this multi-year project at the end of 2019 or shortly after the beginning of 2020. The translocation (bird releases) called for birds to be trapped in North Dakota and subsequently released in Michigan at the rate of seventy-five (75) or so birds per year in the years 2020, 2021 and 2022. The birds were to be released in suitable areas of the Lower Peninsula, probably north of M-20. Both public open land areas as well as private low intensity farming areas were being considered as potential release sites. This project was heavily encouraged and supported by our MSGA. Other project partners included Michigan State University, several private contributors and some non-profit conservation minded organizations. The birds and their progeny would have been closely monitored by the DNR, resulting in much valuable scientific information as well as presenting recreational opportunities for Michigan citizens. It is very disappointing to our MSGA that the Michigan DNR decided to cancel the project. No explanation was given for the action, but there was no indication that the cancellation was COVID-19 related.


2020 MSGA Annual Business Meeting

The meeting is typically scheduled for the last Friday in August, but the site, date and time this year have not yet been finalized. The COVID-19 virus may play a large role in this determination, but the meeting will be posted on our website as soon as it can be finalized.


2020 MSGA Annual Membership Dues

These dues may be paid as directed by membership form that can be accessed from our website. The MSGA is always interested in recruiting new members.


 

Annual Meeting Summary 2019

On Friday, August 23, 2019, the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association (MSGA) held its annual meeting in the conference meeting room at the Jay’s Sporting Goods store in Clare, Michigan.  Presenters included Jayne Meinhard, Wildlife Technician from the DNR Wildlife Division office in Newberry; Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist, DNR Wildlife Division in Lansing; Bruce Barlow, Wildlife Biologist, from the DNR Wildlife Division in Gladwin; David Williams, Fish and Wildlife professor, Michigan State University; Kade Lazenby, Ph.D. candidate, Michigan State University and Marty Sarrault, president, Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association, Cheboygan.  About twenty or so individuals attended the meeting, including Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) official, Nick Green.

The meeting was called to order around 9:30 a.m. by Mr. Sarrault, who made a few opening remarks.  Ms. Meinhard then gave a report of the results of the 2019 Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek (breeding grounds) Survey.  In 2018, 31 leks were surveyed.  In 2019, 52 leks were surveyed.  The number of occupied leks increased from 28 in 2018, to 36 in 2019.  The total number of birds observed was 96 in 2018, and 226 in 2019 – an increase of 130 more birds.  Typically, Chippewa and Schoolcraft counties are the leading counties for finding sharp-tailed grouse, as was the case this year, though this year Luce county observers also found a lot of birds.  Birds were also located in Mackinac and Alger counties, but no birds were found this year in Delta county.  No other Upper Peninsula counties were surveyed.  Sharp-tailed grouse in the Upper Peninsula are difficult to survey because many of the places where they can be found are rather isolated and remote, where access is also limited by adverse weather conditions.  The DNR is always looking for volunteers who might be interested in participating in the survey, which is performed between April 1st and May 15th each year.

Al Stewart then reviewed the hunting survey report from the 2018 sharp-tailed grouse hunting season conducted each year in Chippewa and Mackinac counties.  The survey results estimated that about 250 or so hunters participated in hunting sharp-tailed grouse during the 2018 hunting season.  These hunters harvested 137 sharp-tailed grouse during the 22 day season beginning on October 10th and continuing through October 31st.  The participation numbers and harvest figures have varied between roughly 250 – 350 hunters who harvest 135 to 215 or so birds each year, since the sharp-tailed grouse hunting season was re-established in 2010.

Mr. Stewart also discussed with the attendees the DNR plan to re-establish a viable and huntable population of sharp-tailed grouse in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  Basically, the DNR, working with Michigan State University and several other management project partners, plans to release 75 plus birds a year for three years (2020, 2021 and 2022).  The DNR already has a written agreement with the state of North Dakota as a source of birds and is attempting to find additional birds in the Canadian province of Ontario.  Because much of Michigan consists largely of fragmented areas of suitable sharp-tailed grouse habitat, finding two sources of birds allows the DNR to better establish and maintain viable populations through genetic stochasticity/randomness.  When population fragmentation disrupts gene flow, those populations tend towards population extinction.  Basically, by avoiding “inbreeding,” the DNR hopes to build up a more healthy and secure sharp-tailed grouse population.  Unfortunately, the sharp-tailed grouse restoration project will be expensive, with the three year project’s estimated cost to be a little over $650,000.00.  Substantial, though not complete, funding has already been secured, and it is expected that all of the financial resources can be obtained.  The DNR, Michigan State University along with their other partners, fully support the restoration effort.

Michigan State University Fish and Wildlife professor David Williams and Michigan State University Ph.D. candidate, Kade Lazenby, explained some of the technical issues concerning the trapping and release of birds.  Mr. Lazenby has successfully trapped and relocated sage grouse out West.  He will be directing the trapping and release efforts, which will include adults (male and female) as well as chicks.  Relocated sharp-tailed grouse will be monitored with GPS and VHF transmitters.  The details of the restoration project can be found in the attachment to this newsletter.

Mr. Barlow, the DNR wildlife biologist out of Gladwin, guided our group through a prospective release site located north and east of Clare.  The site includes two or three townships, or roughly between 72 and 108 sections of land, in Clare and Gladwin counties.  The area is made up of largely low intensity family farms of corn, soybeans, small grains (wheat and oats) and hay, along with streams and wetlands mixed with some early, middle and late forest succession units.  This combination forms a matrix of suitable habitat where it is believed that sharp-tailed grouse can be both established and maintained.  The restoration effort is being made with the intent to provide hunters and wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to observe sharp-tailed grouse in Michigan.  Hopefully, the bird will eventually make its way into any areas in Michigan where suitable habitat for the species is available.  The guided tour ended with a visit to the Gladwin Field Trial Area where field trials involving ruffed grouse are conducted on a regular basis.  The Gladwin Field Trial Area is one of the leading areas for this type of activity in the United States.


We encourage all members and other interested people to become involved in association activities.  To become a member of the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association please print and mail the application with annual membership fee:

2019 Annual Meeting & Summer Update

The 2019 Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association Annual Business Meeting will be held at the Jay’s Sporting Goods store in Clare, Michigan at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, August 23, 2019.

Items scheduled for discussion are as follows:

(1) Habitat Work

State- The DNR completed a prescribed burn at the Munuscong State Wildlife Management Area located north and east of Pickford. This area is often referred to as the “Potholes” and is about the only public land area where sharp-tailed grouse can be regularly found in Chippewa county. The Munuscong State Wildlife Management Area also includes land along the western edge of Munuscong Bay and or in close proximity to it. In addition, approximately 200 acres were burned at the old sheep ranch on Drummond Island.

Federal – the U.S. Forest Service has burned about 800 acres on the Hiawatha National Forest located near Raco, 20 miles or so south and west of Sault Ste. Marie. Putting this in perspective, one square mile of land equals 640 acres, so the burn is quite large. Birds were actually seen “dancing” just a couple of weeks after the burn.

(2) Translocation Project(s)/(Bird Releases)

The formerly proposed release in the western Upper Peninsula has been postponed for the time being. The DNR has not given up on the idea of releases, but has changed the translocation priority to the Lower Peninsula. According to our MSGA president, Marty Sarrault, starting in 2020, the DNR plans to release 80 plus birds a year whose origin is from North Dakota and/or Ontario. Al Stewart, Michigan Upland Bird Specialist has stated that there is currently a signed agreement with North Dakota, and that there are currently discussions with Ontario. The releases are proposed for the northern Lower Peninsula using the habitat model developed by Heather Porter – Michigan State University Fisheries and Wildlife-Master of Science – thesis – “Resource Selection and Viability of Sharp-tailed Grouse in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (2016).

The proposed release site(s) will be discussed at our meeting by representatives from the DNR. The project calls for birds to be released at 80 plus birds a year for three consecutive years. Released birds will be monitored with GPS and VHF transmitters. Confirmed partners include the Michigan DNR, Crocket Quantitative Wildlife Center at Michigan State University, the Ruffed Grouse Society, our MSGA and the Safari Club International – Michigan Involvement Committee. The project will be reasonably expensive. A possible source of revenue includes a recently reintroduced piece of legislation called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which has some bipartisan support from Congress, including at least one U.S. Representative from Michigan. This potential source of revenue would include $27 million dollars for Michigan, but with all the apparent rancor and feuding in Washington D.C., the support is purely speculative at this point in terms of whether or not the proposed bill will ever become law.

(3) 2019 Membership Fees

The annual $25.00 membership fees will be collected at the meeting if they have not already been paid. We encourage all current members and interested parties to pay their membership fees so that we can give the DNR some financial support for their projects involving sharp-tailed grouse management in Michigan.


Hope to see you all at the annual meeting, followed by a likely field trip to proposed translocation release sites.

Winter 2019 Newsletter

Translocation of Sharp-tailed Grouse into the Western U.P. (Bird Releases)

According to Terry Minzey, Upper Peninsula Regional Wildlife Supervisor, the DNR has postponed indefinitely planned releases for 2019.  Evidently,  the potential supply of birds in the eastern Upper Peninsula to which the DNR has access is not sufficient to adequately move birds to the western Upper Peninsula.  On a more positive note, the DNR is in active contact with several states and Canadian provinces in an effort to locate birds for Michigan sharp-tailed grouse restoration activities.  Al Stewart, Michigan Upland Game Bird Specialist, stated:  “We have applied the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Habitat Model that was developed through Michigan State University to the Lower Peninsula.  We are examining various areas of the Northern Lower Peninsula for sharp-tail suitability.  There are some sites that look good that involve  both public and private lands.”  Stewart further stated that the DNR was still in the preliminary stages of the project but was excited about future opportunities.  Specific information regarding the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Habitat Model can be obtained by the following research thesis –   “Resource Selection and Viability of Sharp-tailed Grouse in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan”, by Heather M. Porter, a thesis submitted to Michigan State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Fisheries and Wildlife-Master of Science (2016).  The thesis of Ms. Porter is a seventy-five (75) page research study concerning sharp-tailed grouse in Michigan using statistical analysis, landscape habitat variables and predictive modeling as they influence sharp-tailed grouse management in Michigan.  Even though the research study was limited to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the same factors would apply to prospective sharp-tailed grouse management areas in the Lower Peninsula as well.  As much as the northern two-thirds of the Lower Peninsula has been identified as possible sharp-tailed grouse habitat, and in the 1930s and 1940s, the DNR actually made releases at many sites in the Lower Peninsula as far south as Gladwin county.  Not all releases were considered to be successful, but sharp-tailed grouse were actually hunted legally in the Lower Peninsula  south of Grayling until the early to mid 1950s.  Anecdotal reports of vestigial populations still existing are heard from time to time, but no confirmed sightings have been made by the DNR for many years.

Unfortunately, with the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) problem in white-tailed deer, and the new pheasant release program, DNR financial and human resources that can be devoted to sharp-tailed grouse restoration are rather limited.  Even so, it is likely that sharp-tailed grouse restoration management efforts will be continued on both Michigan peninsulas; open land management activities are still a relatively high DNR priority on public land.  Consequently, large openings will likely be maintained through timber harvest rotations, prescriptive burnings and other natural conflagrations.  Sharp-tailed grouse should also benefit from early seral stage forest development (i.e. cool season grasses, brush and small trees) resulting from Kirtland warbler management efforts on federal forests, as well as relatively low intensity hay and small grain farming by local farmers on private lands.  Whether prospective restoration efforts will result in enhanced hunting opportunities is debatable, but most research studies indicate that harvest rates ranging from up to twenty-five percent (25%) of the early fall population (or maybe even higher in areas of optimal habitat), do not lead to population extinction.  Anthropogenic/human caused habitat destruction and/or natural forest regeneration are more likely causes of any local population extinction of sharp-tailed grouse when compared with losses due to hunting activities.  However, when populations become fragmented, relatively small and too far apart, hunting opportunities must be closed.  Optimally, prospective sharp-tailed grouse management areas should probably be as much as twelve thousand (12,000) acres or more in size with at least half of it made up of relatively permanent grass cover, brush or light density early forest, with over half probably better yet. Some small grain farming may substitute for grass cover, and actually benefit the birds.  Overall, however, the challenge in Michigan as well as the other Great Lakes States is to maintain a matrix of large openings so as to retain genetic stochasticity/randomness and avoid “inbreeding” resulting from population fragmentation.  In some quarters, the DNR may be criticized for replanting trees following clear cuts or prescribed burns, but in an historically forested state such as Michigan, if there is not direct human intervention, the trees will gradually return via normal forest succession irregardless of whether they are planted by the DNR.  Through a combination of public and private management coordinated efforts, it is hoped that the DNR will be able to restore and/or introduce relatively permanent sharp-tailed grouse populations on both peninsulas.


2019 Lek (Breeding Ground) Survey

For those of you that are interested, the DNR is always looking for volunteers to assist in its annual survey.  Weather and access variables are always challenging, but watching actively performing males or even just flushing a dozen or more birds from an active lek is a very interesting and exciting wildlife experience.  While prior experience is valuable, even first-time volunteers are usually able to find birds on established leks.  Continuous walking for up to two and a half hours is common, but most of the time, the terrain is relatively flat and largely open. The birds are usually active in the Upper Peninsula from about April 1st until May 15th or maybe a little later depending on how close the lek is to Lake Superior.  Volunteers are especially encouraged to look for and find birds in Luce county north of Newberry near Pike Lake and at 8 Mile Corner, and at the Danaher Plains area north and east of Seney.  Interested volunteers should contact Bruce Basom through this website.  For those folks not able to walk long distances, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge has an observation blind on the Diversion Farm at the north end of the unit not far south of M-28.  The blind may be reserved by contacting the Seney National Wildlife Refuge directly.  Access to the observation blind is via motor vehicle to within maybe 200 to 300 meters along a diversion ditch for those who may be physically unable to walk very far.  For stronger walkers, the distance is about one mile (each way), along flat open ground.  Access under unusually snowy conditions could present a problem, but the blind is easy to find and much like a deer shack with a roof that could house two adults.  Success at finding birds under anything but extremely inclement weather is nearly one hundred percent (100%).  The best time for observation is from 6:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.


2019 Annual Business Meeting

The annual business meeting for our Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association (MSGA) is scheduled for Friday, August 23, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare.  Presenters are scheduled to be Al Stewart, DNR Upland Game Bird Specialist, out of the Lansing Central Office and Bruce Barlow, DNR Wildlife Biologist, out of the Gladwin Field Office.  They will talk about grouse management in the Central Lower Peninsula.  Al Stewart has indicated that there may be a chance to view some possible sharp-tailed grouse release sites during the field trip part of the business meeting.  The business part of the annual meeting will probably be some discussion regarding the expenditure of funds for grouse management projects in both peninsulas.  Matching funds are often available through the DNR Wildlife Habitat Program and our organization can apply for these funds perhaps in conjunction with the DNR, Ruffed Grouse Society or even one of the federal government entities.  Unlike most of our annual business meetings, which are normally held in the Upper Peninsula, the 2019 meeting should be closer to where most of our Lower Peninsula members live.  It is hoped that the field trip will give us all a chance to see habitat in the Lower Peninsula where sharp-tailed grouse can either be restored or newly established.


2019 MSGA Membership Annual Dues

For 2019, annual membership dues will remain at twenty five dollars ($25.00).  The dues are payable now and will be good until the end of December, 2019.  Membership applications should be made as shown on our website.  Those paying by check should make the check out to the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association and sent to Marty Sarrault, our MSGA president, at his address in Cheboygan.  Even though we are a relatively small organization, we now have one hundred sixty-six (166) followers on our website.  The DNR continues to show interest in the bird both as a game bird and for bird watching observation.  We should do everything reasonably possible to support the DNR in its endeavor, both through volunteer activity and through whatever we can do financially.  Please consider being an active member of our organization.