Department of Natural Resources
Winter ruffed grouse hunting season has arrived! From Dec. 1 - Jan 1, head to Michigan and visit one of our Grouse Enhanced Management Sites (GEMS) – areas managed for prime grouse habitat and hunting.
We have multiple license options for non-Michigan residents!
You can purchase either the annual base license OR a short-term small game license:
Check out Michigan’s grouse enhanced management sites (GEMS) for premier bird hunting locations. Walking trails give added comfort to those getting out for their first time or those with mobility challenges.
Here is a brief look at some of Michigan's Grouse Enhanced Management Sites. For more details including photos, maps and more, check out each of these locations on the GEMS map.
Backus Creek: Approximately 10 miles south of Roscommon and east of Houghton Lake
Nearly 60 percent of the Backus Creek State Game Area’s 4,380 acres of huntable land and 12 miles of hunter walking trails in Roscommon County, include upland areas that are actively managed aspen. Additionally, nearby lowland conifer and tag alder offer year-round cover for use by ruffed grouse and woodcock. Backus Creek and 1,830 acres of managed wetlands divide the area, offering the opportunity to view migrating and breeding water birds throughout the year. This abundance of wet edge offers additional opportunities for hunting grouse and woodcock along creeks and tag alder swamps. Other hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities also exist; hunter walking trails pass through numerous native prairies, wildlife openings of perennial clover, and annual food plots of corn and millet.
Bill Rollo Memorial GEMS: Approximately 7 miles south of Gwinn
One of the largest sites, at 5,000 acres of huntable land in Marquette County, a hunter walking trail guides you down most of the aspen that is available. This site includes county road access and beautiful rivers and streams. Many partner habitat projects have taken place here, helping to provide great alternative food sources for wildlife.
Blue Bill Creek: Approximately 10 miles southeast of Marenisico, or 20 miles southwest of Watersmeet
Offering 3,000 acres of huntable land, this site located in the Ottawa National Forest in Gogebic County, is the first U.S. Forest Service GEMS location. Thirteen miles of hunter walking trails are mowed annually. Trumpeter swans can sometimes be observed nesting in the spring on a beaver pond on Bluebill Creek, and moose are known to frequent the area. Great camping can be found on the north end of Pomeroy Lake, which also is known for its walleye fishing.
Cedar River: Approximately 4.5 miles northwest of Cedar River
At 3,083 acres of huntable land, this state land site is several miles northwest of Lake Michigan in Menominee County. Eight miles of hunter walking trails, hundreds of acres of aspen, and miles of beautiful rivers and streams will make spending a few days hunting this location easy.
Drummond: Approximately 16 miles northeast of ferry on Drummond Island
On the north end of Drummond Island near the Maxton Plains area in Chippewa County, this site offers 2,800 acres of huntable land. This is the only GEMS that you must take a car ferry to access. Thousands of acres of aspen and 9.5 miles of hunter walking trails can be found within a mile of Scott Bay.
Garden Grade: Approximately 5 miles northeast of Garden
With a heavy aspen presence, this approximately 7,000-acre area of state forest land will give you plenty of space to venture at the top of the Garden Peninsula in Delta County. There’s also 12 miles of hunter walking trails.
Gold Mine: Approximately 10 miles north of Iron River
At 890 acres of huntable land in Iron County, this site is the only private land GEMS. The land, owned by Weyerhaeuser forest products company, provides 2.5 miles of hunter walking trails.
Greasy Creek - Approximately 10 miles north of Fairview
This site includes 1,100 acres of public land in Montmorency County with over 6 miles of hunter walking trails. All trails within this location can have vehicles present because it is currently used for natural gas and oil extraction, which plays an important role for funding wildlife and recreation.
Halifax: Approximately 20 miles north of Newberry and 20 miles west of Paradise
Just over 12 miles of hunter walking trails in stands of aspen are available to hunt in over 2,600 acres of state land in Luce County.
Hazel Swamp: Approximately 15 miles northwest of Baraga, north of M38
This unique 3,000-acre hunting experience is located on state land in Baraga County and offers hundreds of acres of aspen and miles of beautiful rivers and streams. Ten miles of hunter walking trails will lead you through changing elevation.
Lame Duck Foot Access Area: Approximately 15 miles northeast of Gladwin and 3 miles southwest of Alger
This 11,000-acre site provides a great mix of habitat in both Gladwin and Arenac counties. Several county roads run through 5 miles of hunter walking trails, which provide numerous access points. In addition to the thousands of acres of aspen there are planted wildlife openings and managed floodings.
Lee Grand Ranch: Approximately 12 miles east of Indian River and 16 miles south of Cheboygan
This site provides 2,400 acres of state land and 8 miles of hunter walking trails in Cheboygan County, which include about 300 acres of hay and about 40 acres of corn that are enjoyed by wildlife and are also sharecropped with a local farmer. Hundreds of acres of aspen are onsite, as well as shrubs which have been planted in the last couple years to provide greater food diversity for wildlife. Additionally, the location has a group of elk that are in or around – giving you the potential to see one when hunting.
Little Betsie: Approximately 1 mile east of Thompsonville and 15 miles west of Mesick
This site provides 4,100 acres of high aspen profile huntable land and 2.5 miles of hunter walking trails on state land in Benzie County.
Mark Knee Memorial GEMS: Approximately 10 miles northeast of Reed City and 10 miles northwest of Evart
With more than 70 percent aspen cover, this 4,090-acre huntable land site on state land in Osceola County provides 14.5 miles of hunter walking trails. Although this GEMS was established in 2016, the area has historically been targeted by bird hunters for decades due to excellent habitat.
Melstrand: Approximately 10 miles northeast of Munising
This 1,900-acre site is located just south of Lake Superior shoreline in Alger County, providing a unique hunting experience. You’ll find 4.7 miles of hunter walking trails but breaking off the trail will take you through stands of aspen to explore additional bird habitat.
Mosinee: Approximately 8 miles south of Wakefield
This site provides 1,136 acres of huntable land, including 5 miles of hunter walking trails. It is managed and maintained by the Gogebic County Forestry and Parks Commission.
Norwich: Approximately 5 miles north of Matchwood and 18 miles south of Ontonagon
Two access points are available to get you to the interior of this 4,400-acre hunting site in Ontonagon County, however, be prepared to use your compass and GPS unit, as there are no maintained trails. Managed to emphasize woodcock habitat, the area is made up of a combination of upland openings, wet meadows, waterfowl impoundments, alder glades, and aspen groves of varying ages. Additionally, the Ottawa National Forest is developing GEMS in this area to emphasize woodcock management through the diverse habitats that provide plenty of area for ruffed grouse, deer, bear and the rare golden-winged warbler.
Ralph: Approximately 1.3 miles west of Ralph
Offering 5,350 acres of huntable state land in Dickinson County, county access roads make this site accessible. Seventeen miles of hunter walking trails guide access into many thousands of acres of aspen. The northern boundary of this GEMS skirts the majestic North Branch Ford River and some rolling hardwoods give way to great views.
Strickler: Approximately 8 miles east of Naubinway and 7 miles west of Epoufette
Located on state land in Mackinaw County just off of US 2, this site offers 2,100 acres of huntable state land with easy access. Seven miles of hunter walking trails guides you into different aspen stands, and Hog Island Creek skirts the east side for a unique experience.