In Wisconsin, bird hunting is as lush and alive as the state’s natural beauty.
Wisconsin’s natural beauty caught my eye as a young child. Images of Devil’s Lake State Park and Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area are still vivid in my mind, even though I haven’t been to either of those places in over a decade.
I continued to admire southern Wisconsin’s humble beauty while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During my junior year, I helped a PhD student named Amy with her ruffed grouse research project. We took a trip up to the Sandhill State Wildlife Area to collect grouse scat one weekend, and while hiking around, Amy pointed out several drumming logs she’d found while working on her research project. Although I didn’t lay eyes on the king of the uplands while helping her with data collection, just being in its presence was enough to excite me.
I volunteered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in my senior year of undergrad. I stocked pheasants for them in Dane County’s public lands, something I will never forget. I know planted birds are a completely different deal than wild ones; however, watching roosters explode out of my truck and coast all the way to the treeline is a glorious sight for any bird nerd to behold.
As a future bird hunter, I aspire to return to my home state to hunt ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and pheasant someday. I’d love to take another look at the natural areas that were important to me as a kid through the lens of a bird hunter. It’ll be an honor to join the ranks of other midwestern bird hunters who see Wisconsin’s incredible value.
Download: Wisconsin 2023 Hunting Regulations
|Species*||Season||Daily / Possession Limit||Notes|
|Pheasant||Oct. 14 (9 a.m.)–Jan. 7, 2024||1;2/4||One rooster daily on opening weekend; two roosters daily for remainder of|
|Bobwhite Quail||Oct. 14 (9 a.m.)–Dec. 6, 2023||5/15|
|Ruffed Grouse||Zone A: Sept. 16–Jan. 7, 2024|
Zone B: Oct. 14–Dec. 8
|Zone A: 5/15|
Zone B: 2/6
|Gray (Hungarian) Partridge||Oct. 14 (9 a.m.)–Jan. 7, 2024||3/9||Hungarian partridge season is CLOSED in Clark, Marathon, and Taylor counties.|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse||No season in 2023||N/A||Permit availability is currently under review.|
|American Woodcock||Sept. 23–Nov. 6||3/9|
|Mourning Dove||Sept. 1–Nov. 29||15/45|
|Crow||Sept. 16–Nov. 16 and Jan. 19–|
March 20, 2024
|Squirrels: Gray and Fox||Sept. 16–Feb. 29, 2024||5/15|
|Snowshoe Hare||Year-round open season||Unlimited|
|Cottontail Rabbit||Northern Zone: Sept. 16–Feb. 29, 2024|
Southern Zone: Oct. 14 (9 a.m.)–Feb. 29, 2024
|Northern Zone: 3/9|
Southern Zone: 3/9
|Northern Zone: North of Hwy. 10 to|
Waupaca and north of
Hwy. 54 to Algoma.
Southern Zone: South of Hwy. 10 to
Waupaca and south of
Hwy. 54 to Algoma
Ruffed grouse are one of the most popular species to hunt in Wisconsin. They fill the state’s northern forests. One of the best areas to hunt for ruffed grouse is Price County. Price County and its 300,000 acres of hunting land is known to many as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” There are other places to hunt ruffed grouse in Wisconsin, of course. However, it’s worth making it up to Price County if you’re hunting birds in Wisconsin.
The ruffed grouse season is broken up into two zones. Zone A, which is west of U.S. Highway 151, is open from September 16 through January 7, 2024. The daily bag limit is five birds, and the possession limit is 15 birds. Zone B is in the southeastern corner of the state. It is open from October 14 through December 8 with a daily bag limit of two birds and a possession limit of six birds.
American woodcock is another great species for bird hunting in Wisconsin. They’re usually hunted in the same locations as ruffed grouse. Like the ruffed grouse, they are found predominantly in the northern portion of Wisconsin.
The American woodcock season runs from September 23 through November 6, 2023, with a daily bag limit of three birds and a possession limit of nine birds.
(American woodcock are governed by federal migratory bird laws. A HIP survey is required)
Ring-necked pheasant can be found in the same area that is the southeastern Zone B for ruffed grouse. Other populations of ring-necked pheasant are common in the west-central region. In the 2017 season, 90 properties were stocked with pheasant each week. Check out the Mud Lake Wildlife Area or the Brooklyn Wildlife Area.
The ring-necked pheasant season runs from October 14 at 9 a.m. through January 7, 2024. There’s a one-rooster limit on opening weekend and a limit of two roosters daily for the remainder of the season. An additional fee of $10 is required for a pheasant stamp.
The mourning dove is abundant across Wisconsin. The strongest populations are in the southeastern parts of Wisconsin. The numbers decrease a bit the farther north you get, but the west-central areas are good, as well. They only become uncommon once you get into the far northern Lake Superior lowlands.
The mourning dove season runs from September 1 to November 29. There is a daily bag limit of 15.
(Mourning doves are governed by federal migratory bird laws. A HIP survey is required.)
Other Species for Bird Hunting in Wisconsin
There are plenty of other species for bird hunting in Wisconsin. Snipes, rails, and gallinules are prevalent, but keep in mind they are both governed by federal migratory bird laws. Snipe season runs from September 1 through November 9 and has a daily bag limit of eight birds. Virginia rail and sora hunting is open from September 1 through November 9 and has a daily bag limit of 25 birds. Gallinule season also runs from September 1 through November 9 and has a bag limit of 15 birds.
The bobwhite quail season is open for hunting in Wisconsin from October 14 at 9 a.m. through December 6 with a daily bag limit of five quail. Hungarian partridge season runs from October 14 at 9 a.m. through January 7, 2024, but keep in mind that you cannot hunt them in Clark, Marathon, and Taylor counties. Wisconsin’s crow season runs from September 16 through November 16 and January 19 through March 20, 2024 with a daily bag limit of 15 crows.
There is no sharp-tailed grouse hunting in 2023. While there is no season this year and there was sharptail season in 2022, there might be in the future. A collaboration between the MN DNR and the Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Society aims to bring good hunting populations back to Wisconsin. If you want to hunt sharp-tailed grouse in the future, you must fill out an application with a fee of $3.
Upland bird licensing fees for Wisconsin
|Small game hunting license||$18||$90|
|Junior small game license ages 12–17||$9||$36|
|Mentored small game license||$7||$7|
|Senior citizen small game license (65+)||$9|
|5-day small game license||N/A||$60|
|Mentored pheasant stamp||$4.50||$4.50|
The Wisconsin Hunter Safety Course, Blaze Orange, and Dog Training
Anyone who wants to hunt birds in Wisconsin needs to have completed a hunter education class first. Once you’ve acquired a hunter education certificate, you will be able to use it to hunt in every state. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers hunter education classes. Online classes are available, too. Depending on where you look online, the course costs $24.50.
The Wisconsin DNR states that when and where a firearm deer season is in progress, it is illegal to hunt game besides waterfowl unless at least 50 percent of the hunter’s outer clothing above the waist is colored blaze orange or fluorescent pink. A hat or other head covering, if worn, must be at least 50 percent blaze orange or fluorescent pink. Project Upland recommends that you always wear blaze orange while hunting.
From August 1 to April 14, you can train your dog for bird hunting in Wisconsin on Class I and Class II dog training grounds found throughout the state. Class I and some Class II grounds are open year-round. You will need a bird dog training license for training on captive-bred quail, gray partridge, chukar, red-legged partridge, and pheasant.
Related Conservation and Non-Profit Organizations for Wisconsin Bird Hunting
The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the most up-to-date information on bird hunting in Wisconsin.
Gabby Zaldumbide is Project Upland's managing editor. After growing up in southern Wisconsin, she now lives in Gunnison, Colorado, with seven dogs, three horses, and a wobbly cat. She guides hunting and fishing trips with Uncharted Outdoorswomen and herds cows for a local rancher on the side.