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MADISON – Despite a long and severe winter, Wisconsin turkey hunters registered a total of 41,815 birds during the 2014 spring turkey hunting season. This is a 10.7 percent increase from the 2013 spring season.
“I think many hunters were pleasantly surprised by the number of birds they were seeing in the field, given the prolonged winter weather,” said Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “It certainly appears that impacts were localized, with winter flocks inhabiting areas without access to food likely seeing the greatest impacts.”
Zone 1 produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 12,188 birds, followed by zones 3 and 2, where hunters registered 10,519 and 10,363 turkeys respectively. Success rates were up in zones 1-5 and down only slightly in zones 6 and 7, where winter weather likely had some impact on overall turkey numbers. In 2014, the statewide success rate was 19.9 percent, compared to 17.9 in 2013.
“Decent weather for hunting throughout much of the season certainly allowed hunters to hit the woods hard this spring and likely contributed to the increase in harvest,” said Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist. “The fact that we saw an increase also paints a picture of a turkey population that’s still in good shape.”
The National Wild Turkey Federation has identified a large portion of the heavily wooded northern region as a focus area. NWTF will concentrate funding and management efforts to address habitat-limiting factors within these focus areas.
“In the northern forest we need to provide foods that can sustain turkeys through harsh winters and brood habitat to increase productivity so that flocks can quickly recover from severe winters”, said Rick Horton, NWTF conservation field supervisor.
The number of permits issued for this year’s hunt decreased slightly (by less than 0.5 percent), from 211,307 to 210,496. This decline in part reflects a department decision to reduce over-the-counter permit availability by 25 percent in zones 4 and 5 and eliminate leftover permits entirely in zones 6 and 7.
“I think the modest permit reduction was a nice compromise that allowed us to respond to hunter concerns,” said Walter.
2014 fall season
The fall turkey season will require many hunters to employ a different hunting strategy compared to the spring season. In the fall, hunters generally try to ambush turkeys moving between roosting and feeding sites or break up flocks and try to call in a bird as the flock reassembles.
The number of birds available for hunters to pursue this fall will depend to some extent on weather conditions experienced over the next month.
“Thus far, we’ve had a fairly wet spring,” said Walter. “Warm, dry weather over the next month or so will help to ensure that a good crop of young turkeys is produced.”
The fall 2014 wild turkey season will run from Sept. 13 to Nov. 20, with an extended season in Turkey Management Zones 1 through 5, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 31. The deadline for applying for a fall permit through the lottery process is Aug. 1. Applications cost $3 and can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center, at license sales locations or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4263).
The 2014 Fall Turkey and 2015 Spring Turkey regulations are included in the 2014 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations pamphlet and will be available soon on the hunting regulations page of the DNR website. For a hard copy, visit DNR service centers and license vendors. For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “turkey.”