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Plan now for your Michigan bird hunt in the fall

It may feel like fall is a long way off, but for those who intend to try some upland bird hunting this fall or who are looking for a new hunting location, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources suggests that now is the time to start planning a fall adventure.

“Preseason planning is a great way to maximize your days in the field,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist. “Michigan is nationally known for great ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting, but with millions of acres of public land to explore, how do you get started? Michigan’s 17 GEMS are great places to start!”

Grouse Enhanced Management Sites (GEMS), found across the Upper and northern Lower peninsulas, are large blocks of land open to hunting that are managed for young forests. Young forests offer excellent spots to hunt and see wildlife because of the thick cover and great food sources provided.

“GEMS are ideal places to get started for nonresidents unfamiliar with the area, new bird hunters or folks who just thought they’d try a new spot,” Stewart said.

Stewart suggested the following steps:

Visit for an interactive map, information about individual GEMS and custom maps.

Pick out a GEMS location or two you want to visit, and use the GPS points or general directions and a county atlas to get a feel for the area.

Print off the detailed GEMS maps or save them to your phone.

Drive to the informational parking area and get your bearings. At the kiosk, read about grouse and woodcock, timber activity and the acres of land nearby that you could also hunt. Note that there are businesses (listed on the kiosk) that offer a great discount because they support GEMS.

Get out and explore.

Repeat over and over, and take others with you.
Michigan’s grouse season runs Sept. 15 to Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. Woodcock, a migratory bird, have an abbreviated season, Sept. 23 to Nov. 6. To hunt grouse and woodcock in Michigan, hunters need a base license. To target woodcock, they also need the free woodcock stamp. Everything can be purchased online at E-License or at one of the many license agents across the state.

Millions of acres are open to public hunting in Michigan, and there are many more locations to hunt beyond GEMS. Use, an interactive map application, to plan adventures anywhere around the state.

If you have questions, call a DNR Customer Service Center or contact the DNR Wildlife Division at