Spring Turkey Hunting Options Abound in Minnesota, Wisconsin – Twin Cities

Hunters across the United States are heading for wild turkeys this month in what has become a modern-day phenomenon, a spring hunting season that has reached most states and farther north than expected.

Hunters in Minnesota started on Wednesday, those in Wisconsin on April 20, and hunters in both states will have the chance to catch a tom turkey through May.

Although national wild turkey numbers have declined somewhat from current highs of a decade ago, they are still high in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and no major changes have been made to the availability of permits or hunting regulations in the two states. In fact, Wisconsin’s 2021 spring crop appears to have been the highest of any state.

If you haven’t purchased a license yet, don’t despair. Minnesota’s system lets you choose from one of five one-week sessions (they run Wednesday through Tuesday) and a sixth two-week season at the end of May. You can hunt anywhere in the state, with unlimited total licenses, and hunters can purchase the license anytime up to the day before the hunt.

Wisconsin limits the number of licenses based on the estimated abundance of turkeys in certain areas. As of midweek, there were still plenty of licenses available for later in May in areas of southern Wisconsin. Or consider a road trip to another state where licenses are still available.

Last year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sold 58,084 spring turkey permits, with 12,070 toms harvested. Both were the second highest on record, trailing only 2020 when 63,194 licenses were sold and 13,996 turkeys registered at the height of the pandemic, with many returning from school and work and looking for a way out of the House. (That compares to the state’s first turkey season 44 years ago, when 420 hunters logged 94 turkeys.)

Bob Butzler, left, helped guide Jesse Anderson to a successful first turkey hunt on April 9, 2022 near Wascott, Wis., as part of the Learn to Hunt weekend sponsored by the Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. (Courtesy of the Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation)

The overall hunter success rate in 2021 was 20.8%. Take out youth and archery hunters and the adult firearms hit rate was 25.8%. The first three seven-day hunting sessions in Minnesota are by far the most popular and successful, with 41% of all birds captured in session A and 75% of the season’s total captured in A, B, and C .

The big jump in hunter numbers and the increase in the number of turkeys killed over the past two seasons isn’t too much of a concern for MNR wildlife staff, said Leslie McInenly, MNR’s wildlife populations and regulations officer.

“There’s been a pretty big increase in the harvest, and that’s partly due to the pandemic outbreak (people going outside) and maybe also the fact that we no longer have a lottery for the most permit areas,” McInenly noted. . “It’s something we’re watching quite closely. But so far, we haven’t seen anything that would indicate a major downward trend in the turkey population like some other states have seen.

McInenly said the DNR is monitoring the potential impact of deep snow on wild turkeys in northern Minnesota this year, as well as highly pathogenic avian flu that is wreaking havoc on domestic poultry in the state. (The disease is not known to spread in wild turkeys, as it sometimes does in wild waterfowl.)

Given that the harvest has increased in the first seven-day season – from 34% of the pre-lottery season total to 41% in 2021 – McInenly noted that the DNR may ask hunters about the possibility of returning to a limited lottery for the early seasons to spread. on hunting pressure. But that probably won’t happen until 2024 or later, if at all.

Some hunters who purchase a turkey license in 2022 will be randomly selected to participate in a survey this year that will ask hunters about turkey abundance as MNR tries to come up with a formula to estimate turkey levels and trends. population.

In Wisconsin, turkey hunters recorded 37,179 birds during the spring 2021 turkey hunting season, a 17% decrease from the 44,982 birds recorded in spring 2020. Hunters had a by 16.9% in 2021.

Wild turkeys in both states began to recover half a century ago, starting in the south and slowly moving north, thanks in large part to state and National Wild trapping and transport efforts. Turkish Federation. The turkeys have also started moving north on their own and have now colonized every county in both states, surprising wildlife biologists with how far they can live and how much snow and cold they can get. they can bear.


There is no evidence that bird flu can be transmitted to humans by ingesting contaminated poultry. Thoroughly cooking poultry meat will destroy the virus. Epidemiological evidence suggests that infection in humans occurs rarely and only after very close contact with infected animals. To be extra careful, wear rubber gloves when dressing birds in the field.


A flock of turkeys seen in rural Carlton County, Minn.
A flock of turkeys seen in rural Carlton County, Minnesota (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)


Season dates: Five seven-day sessions (AE) and one 14-day session (F) from April 13 to May 31.

Spring harvest 2021: 12,070 harvested (21% success rate).

You can choose any seven-day session: You must declare an area where you are most likely to hunt, but you do not have to hunt there. The DNR just wants to know where you are likely to hunt to gauge hunting pressure. All turkey hunters with firearms can hunt again during session F if they have an unused tag from one of the previous hunting periods.

Bag limit: One bird (male or bearded hen) per hunter per season.

License cost: $26 for resident adult; $96 for a non-resident adult.

More information: dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/turkey/index.html


Season dates: The youth hunt runs from April 16-17, followed by six seven-day sessions from April 20-May 31.

In the middle of the week, many tags were still available for zones 1 and 3, for sessions E and F at the end of May. All other permits are reserved.

Harvest 2021: 37,366 (17% success rate).

Bag limit: One bearded turkey or male per harvest authorization. If available, you can purchase additional permissions.

License cost: Resident: spring turkey permit, $15; turkey stamp, $5.25; spring turkey hunting permit, $10. Non-resident: spring turkey permit, $60; turkey stamp, $5.25; spring turkey hunting permit, $15.

More information: dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/turkey

Sharon P. Juarez