Turkey Population Is Strong

The DNR has the season outlook for ruffed grouse, woodcock and wild turkey, plus essential updates for hunters to be in the know ahead of the Sept. 25 season opener.

Ruffed Grouse

The ruffed grouse season is open in Zone A through Jan. 9. This earlier closure than previous years follows the DNR’s 10-year ruffed grouse management plan. In Zone B, the season is open Oct. 16 through Dec. 8.

Statewide drumming survey results indicate a decrease of 6 percent in breeding grouse compared to 2019. Surveys were not completed in 2020 due to the pandemic. In Wisconsin, the 10-year ruffed grouse population cycle typically peaks in years that end in 0, 9 or 1. This likely indicates the state is entering the typical “down-phase” of the 10-year cycle.

To help track West Nile virus impacts in ruffed grouse, hunters are encouraged to participate in the final year of the DNR’s West Nile virus sampling project this fall.


Wisconsin’s woodcock hunting season is open Sept. 25 through Nov. 8. Like waterfowl and mourning doves, woodcock are migratory game birds, so hunters who plan to pursue them must register annually with the Harvest Information Program.

A small game license is required to hunt woodcock and ruffed grouse. Small game licenses and HIP registration are available online through Go Wild or at any license agent.


The fall turkey season is on. Closing dates for the fall turkey season vary by management zone. In zones 1-5, the season closes Jan. 9. In zones 6 and 7, the season closes Nov. 19.

Overall, Wisconsin’s statewide wild turkey population remains strong. Following 30 years of sustained population growth and expansion across the state, wild turkeys are now found statewide. Wild turkey numbers appear to have stabilized at levels suitable to available habitat and will likely ebb and flow around those levels in response to weather, food availability and other natural factors.

Biologists closely monitor harvest, as excessive hen harvest can affect turkey populations. Recent hen harvests in Wisconsin have been very low, and current hen harvest rates do not play a significant role in Wisconsin’s turkey flock dynamics.

“Last winter was relatively mild with low snow levels statewide and few long-lasting cold snaps,” explains Alaina Gerrits, DNR Marinette County wildlife biologist. “Mild winter conditions paired with an early spring green-up and dry weather point to favorable brooding conditions for 2021. All field reports suggest a healthy and robust turkey population providing many opportunities for fall hunting.”

Licenses, stamps and bonus turkey harvest authorizations are available online at Go Wild or any license agent.

See free online mapping tools to identify habitat types and public land open to hunting upland game birds. The online Fields and Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool provides upland gamebird hunters with an interactive way to locate cover suitable for ruffed grouse and woodcock, managed dove fields and properties stocked with game farm pheasants. On the go, hunters can use the DNR’s free Hunt Wild Wisconsin mobile app.