Hunting Participation And Turkey Harvests Decline Across Midwest This Year

A person holding a bear

Wisconsin residents have more than Aaron Rogers lack of interest in playing for the Green Bay Packers to be bummed out about now.

It was a slow turkey season in the Badger State. So slow in fact, that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed that the state’s turkey harvest this year was the worst it’s been in more than two decades.

Speculation as to way is underway, and some state officials believe that the lifting pandemic lockdowns could be too blame, as people who may have otherwise been hunting were now more enamored with other options, but the lowest spring harvest in more than 20 years will undoubtedly raise questions about whether the population experienced a decline over the past year.

The state did not conduct its typical summer population surveys last year do to pandemic restrictions, but that research should likely resume this summer and provide clarity on the population levels.

Turkey hunters in Wisconsin bagged 37,179, which is down almost 20% from last years harvest and the lowest state total since 1999. Hunters shot more than 50,000 birds each season from 2007 to 2009, including a state record 52,880 in 2008.

The state reportedly sold 16,000 less “bonus tags” to prospective hunters this year, which in part explains the dip in harvests. Information on the total number of hunting licenses sold this spring will be available in the near future, and could further explain such a sharp drop in harvest rates.

Alaina Gerrits, an ecologist for the Wisconsin DNR explained the decline in license purchases to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Last spring, 2020,  we were at the height of the safer-at-home order and many more hunters were available to hunt as there wasn’t much else to do. This can be seen through a large decrease in over-the-counter tags purchased in 2021.”

Wild turkeys were historically driven out of the state due to unregulated hunting in the 1800s.

After several unsuccessful attempts at restoring the birds, a population finally took hold in the state during the 1970s thanks to dedicated efforts from the Wisconsin DNR, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Missouri Department of Conservation who provided the birds that were trapped and transferred between the states.

Turkeys are now present in every county in the state.

Wisconsin is not expected to be the only Midwestern state with a less than stellar harvest report this spring though.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources already reported a 15% drop in their harvest this spring, and anecdotal evidence indicates numbers could be down across the region this year.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock