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MADISON -— State turkey hunters registered a total of 40,975 birds during the 2015 spring turkey hunting season. According to Department of Natural Resources officials, this is a 2 percent decrease from the spring 2014 season.
“We heard from many hunters who were seeing good numbers of birds this spring,” said Scott Walter, Upland Wildlife Ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “Weather across the state was excellent for hunting throughout much of the season. Total statewide spring turkey harvest has been between 37,000 and 43,000 turkeys for the past five years. Wisconsin’s wild turkey populations have stabilized across the state after 30 years of continuous growth and expansion. Looking forward, we expect that weather during winter and the critical spring breeding period will cause some annual population fluctuations. We have very good turkey hunting in Wisconsin and the future looks bright and stable for turkey hunters.”
Zone 1 again produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 11,558 birds, followed by zones 2 and 3, where hunters registered 10,344 and 9,960 turkeys, respectively. The highest hunter success was in zone 2 with a success rate of 23 percent, followed by zone 3 at 19.9 percent, and zone 1 at 18.9 percent. Success rates were between 14.5 percent and 18.2 percent for zones 4 through 7. Overall, the statewide success rate was 19.7 percent, similar to the 19.9 percent success rate reported by hunters last year.
“There were some lingering concerns about turkey populations in the north following the very severe winter of 2013-2014. The good news is that we saw the highest harvests and success rates in the northern zones of 6 and 7 since 2012,” said Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist. “It was clear last year that our northern turkey flock made it through the winter in better shape than many expected, and good production levels last spring seem to have gotten northern turkeys right back on track.”
The number of permits issued for this year’s hunt decreased slightly (by approximately 1 percent), from 210,496 to 208,250.
A key objective of Wisconsin’s Wild Turkey Management Plan [PDF] is to maximize opportunities for hunters while ensuring that harvest does not lead to population declines. Biologists in Wisconsin closely monitor harvest and other information to track turkey populations through time, and are always vigilant that harvests be sustainable.
2015 fall season permit applications are available
A strong spring season should provide state hunters good reason for optimism regarding the upcoming fall hunt. The fall turkey season provides Wisconsin hunters with a very different type of hunt from the spring season. In the fall, hunters generally try to catch turkeys moving between roosting and feeding sites, or scatter a flock and try to call in a bird as the flock reassembles.
“We try to meet hunter demand for permits, so that these folks can engage in an activity they are passionate about,” noted McGinley. For the fall 2015 season, permit levels will be identical to 2014 across most of the state. However, the DNR is addressing high hunter demand for permits in zone 2 by allocating an additional 4,000 permits for this zone. According to McGinley, “we felt this adjustment would help meet hunting demand in Zone 2 without harming the long term stability of this population of birds. Zone 2 harvests have been stable, and success rates are typically the highest in the state. This is reflective of a healthy local turkey population. This adjustment should also translate into more leftover permits being available over the counter. We think our most dedicated fall hunters will appreciate this additional opportunity.”
The number of turkeys hunters are likely to encounter this fall will be, in part, determined by production levels this spring. “Thus far, we’ve had a fairly wet spring,” noted Walter. “Turkey nests aren’t significantly impacted by wet weather because the hen will continue to incubate the eggs, unless the nests are in lowland areas prone to flooding. However, once the eggs hatch, poults can become chilled easily. Warm, dry weather over the remainder of the early brood-rearing period will help to ensure a good crop of young turkeys is produced.”
The fall 2015 wild turkey season will run from Sept. 12 through Nov. 19, with an extended season only in Turkey Management Zones 1 through 5 running from Nov. 30 through 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, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays).
The 2015 Fall Turkey and 2016 Spring Turkey regulations are included in the 2015 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations pamphlet, available now on the hunting regulations page of the DNR website and in hard copy at DNR service centers and license vendors. For more information, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword “turkey.”