MY QUEST to get more than still shots of a male ruffed grouse on his favorite drumming log, during spring breeding season, has been fulfilled.

I love those nature photos of a fanned grouse at his best, don’t get me wrong, but they just don’t show enough to our readers about the exact manner in which the drumming sound is created.

People have told me they beat their wings together. They’ve said they pound their wings on their chest to make that drumming sound. It appears that neither is correct.

They make a percussion sound by simply creating a collision between two streams of air. Using their cupped wings, they push air at incredible speeds and the two masses collide right in front of their elongated body.

Sounds crazy, but when you see the video footage that is now available on the News-Review website, you will understand a lot more about the origin of the thump, thump, thump coming from the woods in spring.

What you will see is the bird pictured here in full splendor, sneaking down a moss-covered log in the early morning hours to reach that favorite location for its springtime ritual.

Being an extremely wary bird, you’ll sense its caution on every step it takes — ready to take flight with split-second notice should a predator or some other potential threat appear.

And for good reason, for what other bird stands on a log for hours on end and announces its presence for all predators to hear? 

That’s why a lot of these logs are tucked into thickets and heavy balsams, so the grouse have some protection from avian predators.

Next, the grouse will take a stance, stretch its body upward and drop its wings to the side and back, sort of cupping them around what is now a long, slender chest.

The black ruff on its neck, for which grouse are named, will suddenly be very visible. Its tail is usually fanned in some way, almost like a rudder for balance.

The drum roll starts slowly, speeds up to medium, and ends on a note so high that you’d think the bird would lift right off the log.

But all the energy goes into producing the percussion noise of the drum. The wings never touch. The wings don’t even hit the elongated body. It’s just air hitting air.

An assist on this video goes to Dan Tomasoski of Eagle River, a professional photographer who borrowed me some equipment and lent his video-making expertise to the project.

It took many mornings of walking in predawn darkness to a camouflaged tent that was set up 10 yards from a drumming log in a heavy stand of young aspen.

You’d think that arriving at a blind well before sunrise in total darkness would ensure a clean entrance without worry of spooking a grouse from its favorite log, but half the time the bird was already there.

The trick is to make sure you enter the area in a way that the bird will be forced to run or fly outside its territory, so that when it returns the log you’ve chosen ends up being the destination.

If not, you’ll soon discover that the grouse has second­ary drumming locations with­in its territory. That’s a game changer because the bird is not likely to return anytime soon, as long as it has a place to drum.

Getting video and audio together brings a whole new challenge to the project, for the distance between the tent and bird demands the use of a remote microphone.

Did I say grouse are wary? The first time that grouse saw a small “shotgun” microphone stuck at ground level in front of its favorite log, it spooked and didn’t return for the two hours I waited. They really know their surroundings.

Drumming is heard mostly in the spring, but it’s not exclusive to one season. Fall drumming occurs when males are establishing territories or trying to impress young-of-the-year hens that they hope to breed the next spring.

Besides old logs, grouse will drum on rocks and other high points in the forest that project their mating call. I’ve seen them drum from a moss-covered mound that overlooked a steep valley in an old gravel pit.

The favorite drumming location of a male grouse will contain numerous droppings, which are light brown in color but contain a white tip on one end. You can always tell which way a drummer likes to face — the opposite way of where you find the largest pile of droppings.

When the drumming attracts a female grouse to the male’s location, he then “struts his stuff” with neck ruff circled around his entire head and his tail fanned, much like a strutting turkey.

The grouse is a true Wisconsin treasure, its population here matching or beating any other area of the United States. Nearby Park Falls has claimed for decades to be the Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.

This is a bird I happily chase with a dog and a shotgun in the fall, for it is the fastest, most elusive woodland game bird in the country. 

But quite honestly, getting a good photo is better than shooting one — even better than bagging a limit. And now I can add video footage to that claim.

Keep your ears open in spring for the drumroll of a male grouse could turn up anywhere. The St. Germain Golf Course has several drummers located not far from greens.

If you have them near your house or in your neighborhood, you will notice that they often start drumming before dawn. No doubt their testosterone levels run high in spring, for they will drum about every three minutes — all day long.

See below to check out the new video.