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Game bird brood production unchanged or down in 2018 from 2017 levels

Published by Central Office September 11, 2018

Contact(s): Mark Witecha, DNR upland game ecologist, 608-267-7861; Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife survey coordinator, 608-221-6342

MADISON - Game bird brood rearing conditions should have been good in much of the state with temperatures above normal and precipitation normal to slightly above for much of the state during the month of June, though nesting may have been impacted by late snowfall.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff and cooperating agency employees opportunistically collect observations of game bird (ruffed grouse, wild turkey and pheasant) broods for a 10-week period in June through August each year.

"While no large scale statewide event should have too adversely affected brood survival early in the brood rearing season, there were some localized events, particularly in the northwestern part of the state, that could have caused brood losses," added Dhuey. "Favorable conditions persisted into July and August with temperature and precipitation amounts at their averages or only slightly above. Again, there were a few localized events that may have led to brood losses in South Central Wisconsin, but nothing wide spread or prolonged."

Ruffed Grouse

Statewide, ruffed grouse broods seen per observer hour were up 1 percent compared to 2017, but 23 percent below the long term mean. Ruffed grouse production in their primary range of the central (-18 percent), and northern (-3 percent) forests were down from the previous year. While brood counts were up in other parts of the state, these areas are likely to have insignificant impact on grouse numbers hunters see this fall. Ruffed grouse brood size did rise from 3.6 in 2017 to 4.3 young per brood in 2018.

"Spring breeding grouse numbers were down in 2018, and brood production was down some in the primary ruffed grouse range. While some areas of the primary ruffed grouse range will be better than others, it appears that ruffed grouse numbers will be similar to last year and or down in some areas", said Dhuey.

Ruffed Grouse season opens in the primary portion of their range, Zone A, Sept. 15. For more information regarding ruffed grouse management in Wisconsin, search the DNR website,, keywords "ruffed grouse."

Wild Turkey

"Statewide, wild turkeys saw a decrease in brood production, with a statewide decrease of 11 percent in the number of broods seen per observer-hour over last year's level. Two of the five turkey regions saw increases, northeast (2 percent), southcentral (83 percent), while the northern (-23 percent), southeast (-34 percent), and western (-15 percent) regions saw a decrease. The size of those broods did show an increase though, from 4.1 in 2017 to 4.5 this year," Dhuey said.

The fall turkey season opens statewide in all zones Sept. 15. Each fall turkey license or conservation patron license now includes a fall turkey harvest authorization. Hunters must choose the zone for which their harvest authorization will be valid at the time of purchase. Bonus fall turkey authorizations went on sale August 18; for information on availability, please visit the Fall Turkey Bonus Authorization page. For more information regarding wild turkey management in Wisconsin, search for keywords "wild turkey management."


The number of pheasant broods seen per observer-hour was down 34 percent in 2018 compared to last year and well below the long term mean. Pheasant brood production was down in both the primary (-40 percent) and secondary (-19 percent) pheasant range from 2017 levels. Pheasant brood size was down as well, with an average of 3.5 young per brood in 2018, down from 4.9 in 2017.

"Breeding pheasant numbers were down a bit in 2018 and brood production numbers were too, overall breeding numbers have been declining for several years and pheasant numbers are down from the highs of the 1990s," said Dhuey. "Overall pheasant numbers are likely impacted by losses in Conservation Reserve Program grassland acres throughout the pheasant range."

Pheasant season opens statewide Oct. 20 at 9 a.m. For more information regarding pheasant management in Wisconsin, search keyword "pheasant."

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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