The Lake Mille Lacs area is home to many bird species, including the ruffed grouse, Minnesota’s most popular upland game bird, and the sharp-tailed grouse.
The unmistakable muffled drumming sounds of the ruffed grouse can be heard during spring mating season, as well as displays of their fan-shaped tails and the males’ neck ruffs, which give the ruffed grouse its name.
Public areas where grouse can be found around Lake Mille Lacs include wildlife management areas, state lands, and hunting preserves.
Wildlife management areas provide habitat for grouse and other forest game birds and hunting is allowed in accordance with current hunting regulations. The Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area is located on the south end of the lake. The Mille Lacs WMA covers more than 38,700 acres, with 60% forested, and includes many fields planted with corn and hay by local farmers. Ruffed grouse prefer the cover and habitat provided by its forest openings and edges.
The Aitkin Wildlife Management Area is on the north end of the lake and is 3,000 acres of mixed upland and low terrain. Forest upland timber is managed for ruffed grouse and low grassy areas are managed for species including sharp-tailed grouse.
Camping in WMAs is permitted only during hunting season in the WMA’s Designated Overnight Use areas and must be permitted.