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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 570 days

Weekly News Published - March 29, 2016 by the Central Office

 

Panfish regulations set to change on 93 lakes starting April 1

MADISON - In an effort to improve panfish size on 93 Wisconsin lakes with the potential for bigger fish, new regulations take effect on April 1.

A pile of panfish is a welcome sight to many Wisconsin anglers.
A pile of panfish is a welcome sight to many Wisconsin anglers.
Photo Credit: WDNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is putting the experimental regulations in place following a process that involved more than 3,500 survey responses, more than 30 public meetings, multiple questions on two spring hearing questionnaires before the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and approval by the Natural Resources Board. Max Wolter, DNR senior fisheries biologist and panfish team leader, said the rules are part of a 10-year management plan that also focuses on habitat improvement and predator management to boost panfish on specific lakes across Wisconsin.

There is no change to bag limits on most general inland waters, which will still have the statewide bag limit that provides for a harvest of 25 fish per day for species including bluegill, pumpkinseed, sunfish, crappie and yellow perch.

"Panfish are the target of more anglers in Wisconsin than any other group of fish and through our fisheries survey work, we've identified key lakes where panfish size has declined over time," Wolter said. "We appreciate the support we've received from anglers throughout this process and we believe the new regulations will produce positive results on the lakes we've identified together."

With panfish, fewer, larger fish can produce significantly more fillet meat than many smaller fish. In fact, just four 8 inch bluegills produce more fillet meat than 25 bluegills measuring 5 to 6 inches. It takes panfish about six or seven years to reach that 8 inch size, at which point their rate of growth slows. In Wisconsin, bluegills 9 to 10 inches (which are often male) can be as old as 14 to 16 years.

Heavy harvesting on some lakes and chains of lakes currently prevents most panfish from surviving beyond age 4 (when they measure in at 5 inches).

Three different experimental bag limits are being applied to 93 lakes to determine which is most efficient at improving panfish size. The new rules will be evaluated initially in five years and again in 10 years to determine whether they are improving panfish size as well as whether anglers continue to support the changes.

The daily limits on the high potential lakes will take one of the following forms:

DNR fisheries biologists are currently posting signs at boat landings and public fishing spots on the affected lakes in anticipation of the rule change on April 1. Although the general inland fishing season opens Saturday, May 7 this year, panfish have a year round season and the change in regulations coincides with the timing of the new fishing license year.

"A good way for anglers to think about it is to look for the new regulations in the 2016-17 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations when they get their new licenses," Wolter said.

For a complete list of lakes that will be governed by the experimental regulations, check out the factsheet. To learn more about the plan and experimental regulations, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for "panfish plan."

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Trumpeter swan numbers soar - from zero to 4,700 in a generation

2015 estimates six times higher than last aerial survey

MADISON -- The number of trumpeter swans in Wisconsin has zoomed from zero to nearly 4,700 a generation after the Department of Natural Resources and partners launched recovery efforts, national surveys results show.

Wisconsin's trumpeter swan recovery program has been a great success and numbers of the beautiful bird continue to grow.
Wisconsin's trumpeter swan recovery program has been a great success and numbers of the beautiful bird continue to grow.
Photo Credit: Ryan Brady

Population estimates from aerial surveys of interior North America peg Wisconsin's number of adult and "sub-adult" trumpeter swans at 4,695 birds in 2015, more than six times as many as the 672 estimated during the last survey five years ago, and up from 24 in 1990.

"Working with many partners, Wisconsin DNR over the past quarter century has used the tax check off and other funding sources to restore a healthy and growing population of trumpeter swans that is part of a regional resurgence," says Sumner Matteson, an avian ecologist for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program and the biologist who collected the first egg from Alaska in 1989 that launched the Wisconsin recovery program. "It's gratifying for all the partners involved that we've had this success."


Trumpeter swans soar in Wisconsin
Video Credit: WDNR

Matteson said that it had not been for the support and interest of the public in restoring species through the tax check off, private donations and federal grants, the recovery of trumpeter swans in Wisconsin would not have happened.

"This has been a model of success between the public and private sector to restore part of our heritage once lost," he says. "It's also a good example of persistence and patience, which is especially important with the restoration of endangered birds."

Market hunting and demand for the feathers of trumpeter swans brought these birds, one of North America's largest, to near elimination from Wisconsin and other upper Midwest states by the 1880s.

Wisconsin put the species on the state's endangered species list in the 1980s, which made it illegal to kill, transport, possess, process or sell them, and launched a recovery effort that collected eggs from the wilds of Alaska, hatched them at the Milwaukee Zoo, and reared the young in the wild using decoys, and in captivity, before releasing them.

Scores of organizations, businesses and private individuals worked to carry out the recovery effort with state wildlife managers, technicians, research scientists, University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife ecologists, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff. Two of the private partners, Mary and Terry Kohler of Sheboygan, were honored in 2012 by the state Natural Resources Board for their role in helping transport the eggs used in the recovery program from Alaska, and for their financial help.

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin helped secure much needed funding, while the Endangered Resources Fund and the bird's protected status under the endangered species law both significantly aided outreach efforts and helped to fund Wisconsin's monitoring efforts.

Trumpeter swans reached the recovery goal early -- more than doubling the 20 breeding pairs hoped for by 2000 --and Wisconsin removed it from the endangered species list in 2009. Trumpeter swans remain protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Annual DNR surveys to monitor trumpeter swan nests and to band new hatchlings ended in 2012. The national aerial survey, conducted once every five years, is now the main way Wisconsin keeps tabs on trumpeters. This survey counts all the white trumpeter swans seen along transect routes, not just the number of adults actively sitting on nests, so the numbers are much higher in the aerial surveys than the nesting surveys.

The 2015 North American survey was conducted in Wisconsin in mid-May by DNR biologists, research scientists and pilots who flew along established routes to count ducks and other waterfowl, with special additional routes established to focus only on adult and "sub-adult" swans. Sub-adults or nonbreeding swans are white like the adults.

Other states' recovery efforts have been working as well, particularly in Minnesota, which launched the first Midwestern efforts, and where the 2015 surveys estimated 17,021 birds. Together, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan (3,021 birds) comprise most of the 27,000 birds in what is known as the Interior Trumpeter Swan Population, which is comprised largely of restoration flocks. For management purposes, there are considered to be two other trumpeter swan populations: the Pacific Coast Population and the Rocky Mountain Population.

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Frog and toad survey celebrates 35 years; thousands of volunteers have heard the call

MADISON - Volunteers power the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this spring as North America's longest running frog calling survey, and organizers hope even more people will hop at the chance to listen to frogs at a wetland near them to see if frogs are beginning their calls earlier.


Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey

"People often wonder how they can help conserve frogs because they have fond memories of catching frogs in their childhood," says Andrew Badje, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist who coordinates volunteers for the frog survey. "The traditional surveys and our newer phenology research are great ways to help frogs and we are looking for volunteers for both efforts this spring."

Open routes for the traditional survey (exit) are found on the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey web page. Volunteers drive specific roadside routes to listen and document the calls they hear. Participants stop at 10 locations a night in each of three periods: early spring, late spring and summer.

Listening during the three periods helps assure volunteers are surveying frogs during the peak calling windows for each of species. Volunteers record the relative abundance of different species' calls and information about the weather conditions at the time, Badje says.

The newer effort, tracking frog and toad phenology, is open to anyone and can take place anywhere in the state, unlike with the traditional survey, which is generally limited to two routes per county, Badje says.

"We're asking volunteers to help us listen at their backyard pond for five minutes a night to help the DNR understand when frog and toads begin calling each year," he says. "Ideally, surveys would be completed every day, but fewer visits per week will still provide valuable information.

"We're hoping this information will tell us if we need to change these calling windows for the driving survey and to decipher how frogs are adapting, if they are adapting."

New information has been added to the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey website to help people join in the phenology research (exit DNR).

Concern about declining frog populations spurred survey

The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey is known as the longest running frog calling survey in the world and is also notable because the survey is primarily conducted by volunteers, says Rori Paloski, a DNR conservation biologist whose story about the survey is featured in the April 2016 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, soon available at newsstands and online.

"It's a great example of how citizens can get involved in the outdoors and of how much professional biologists rely on the information they contribute," Paloski says.

The survey was created in 1981 by DNR scientists Ruth Hine and Mike Mossman over concerns over declining frog populations, primarily northern leopard frogs, Blanchard's cricket frogs, pickerel frogs and American bullfrogs.

Mossman was involved with amphibian research at the time and Hine, a wildlife ecologist, had just finished editing Dick Vogt's classic book, "Natural History of Amphibians and Reptiles of Wisconsin." Hine decided to create a roadside survey to monitor frogs, similar to the highly successful federal Breeding Bird Survey, Paloski says.

Since then, thousands of people have been involved in the survey and their information has helped conservation biologists determine the status, distribution, and long-term population trends of Wisconsin's frogs and toads. DNR creates annual reports sharing the data, has produced several peer-reviewed papers from that information, and uses it to steer management actions, Paloski says.

"The information from the frog and toad survey helps us pinpoint which species are having problems," she says. Then, department staff can follow up with specific monitoring, research and management strategies to better understand what is contributing to the declines. "Volunteers are our eyes and ears to target where we should be going" in terms of monitoring, research, and management.

Those long-term data are particularly important for understanding what is going on with frogs because their populations can naturally fluctuate significantly in response to weather and other short-term environmental conditions, Paloski says. Having long-term data enables the DNR to tease out whether the population is a short-term fluctuation or a trend.

Volunteers have helped the survey detect long-term increases in spring peepers, gray treefrogs, and American bullfrogs and detect declines in populations of northern leopard frogs, pickerel frogs, American toads and mink frogs, she says.

Globally, frog and toad populations have drastically declined in recent decades as a result of habitat fragmentation, wetland loss and emerging diseases including the chytrid fungus.

Find more information about each of these species on the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey website www.wiatri.net/inventory/frogtoadsurvey/ and view videos on each on the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network Youtube channel www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9D56BECB996C4012 (both links exit DNR).

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"Citizen scientists" celebrated in Stevens Point March 30-April 2

Wisconsin Lakes Convention, Water Action Volunteers, Citizen-Based Monitoring Network

MADISON - The important role volunteers play in Wisconsin in assessing water quality in lakes and rivers and keeping tabs on wildlife from frogs to owls to dragonflies, takes center stage this week in Stevens Point.

Hundreds of lake association members, volunteer stream monitors and other citizen scientists are gathering for their annual conferences March 30-April 2, and this year, they'll be meeting together at one time and one place to celebrate volunteers and mark some special milestones.

Thousands of volunteers help assess the health of lakes and streams in Wisconsin and track wildlife.
Thousands of volunteers help assess the health of lakes and streams in Wisconsin and track wildlife.
Photo Credit: WDNR

The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey turns 35, the Wisconsin Citizen Lake Monitoring Network turns 30, and the Water Action Volunteers celebrate their 20th anniversary.

"Wisconsin is a national leader in citizen science and we are fortunate to have so many great volunteers," says Sanjay Olson, administrator of the DNR Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division.

"Their information and insight are critical to keeping Wisconsin's lakes and rivers healthy and protecting our native plants and wildlife. We couldn't do the job without them and we are glad to have this opportunity to celebrate them and thank them."

Fittingly, on March 31, the longtime leader of the Water Action Volunteers and a founder of a fledgling national citizen science organization, will return to Wisconsin to give the keynote address.

Kris Stepenuck, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, will be Thursday's keynote speaker. From 2001-2015, she coordinated Wisconsin's Water Action Volunteers Stream Monitoring Program and currently serves as secretary of the national Citizen Science Association. Stepenuck will share her research on the impacts of citizen volunteer efforts on water quality and other issues.

The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention runs March 30- April 1 and the Water Action Volunteers and Wisconsin Citizen Based Monitoring Network meet April 1-2. All are at the Stevens Point Holiday Inn and Convention Center. Find agendas, register and more online.

Citizen Lake Monitoring Network

Four volunteers who started monitoring water clarity in 1986 with the launch of the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, then called the Self-Help Lake Monitoring Program, are still monitoring today and will be among the amazing volunteers recognized at Stevens Point for their contributions. DNR, the University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin Lakes sponsor this program and provide training and equipment for volunteers.

Over the life of the program, thousands of volunteers have helped monitor conditions on more than 1,400 lakes in Wisconsin. Several times a year volunteers measure water clarity, and collect water samples for chemical analysis to track oxygen, phosphorus and other water quality indicators. n more recent years, volunteers have recorded ice-on and ice off dates and searched for aquatic invasive species or helped identify and document native plants, according to Tim Asplund, who leads DNR's water resources monitoring staff.

In 2015, 934 volunteers collected data on 725 lakes. Annual reports are generated for each lake, and DNR, local governments and lake associations use the information to inform a variety of management decisions on those lakes. Also, the citizen volunteers have enabled Wisconsin to be one of the first states to use satellite technology to estimate water quality on lakes where there are no people monitoring.

Water Action Volunteers

Wisconsin's Water Action Volunteers has grown steadily throughout its 20 year history, with more than 500 adults and families conducting stream monitoring and more than 2,000 students participating under the guidance of a teacher. In 2015, volunteers monitored a record 751 unique stream sites in 59 counties. Since 2012, volunteers have been monitoring total phosphorus in streams, monitoring tasks that otherwise would have been carried out by DNR staff. Such monitoring resulted in an estimated savings of more than $93,000 from 2012 through the 2015 monitoring season, according to Peggy Compton, the interim coordinator of WAV for UW-Extension.

Program administration comes from UW-Extension and DNR statewide coordinators with support from local program coordinators who are often affiliated with other agencies or non-profit organizations.

Citizen based monitoring network of Wisconsin

More than 150 organizations in Wisconsin, including DNR, put volunteers to work every year monitoring water quality and the numbers, distribution and habitat of native and invasive species. DNR and organizations with monitoring programs formed a loose affiliation called the Citizen-based Monitoring Network of Wisconsin (exit DNR) in 2004 to improve their effectiveness by providing communications, resources, and recognition.

Since then, Wisconsin has been one of the few states with a full-time staff member working with citizen-based monitoring projects, and the DNR has annually awarded up to $100,000 in seed money to help organizations and programs advance citizen-based monitoring projects that address priority data needs for the department, according to Owen Boyle, who leads DNR's species management staff in the Natural Heritage Conservation program.

One such example on display this weekend will be a statewide effort to recruit volunteers to help complete a comprehensive update of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey. Thousands of volunteers are expected to participate in the five-year survey, which holds its kickoff meeting April 1-3 in nearby Rothschild.

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National Archery in the Schools state tournament will showcase more than 1,500 students from throughout Wisconsin

Students participating in the National Archery in the Schools Program

MADISON - About 1,500 youth archers from across the state will travel to Wisconsin Dells this weekend to take their aim at the 2016 Wisconsin National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament at Wisconsin Dells.

Students participating in the 2015 NASP tournament
Students participating in the 2015 NASP tournament
Photo Credit: WDNR

The annual athletic event is slated for April 1-2 at the Woodside Convention and Expo center in Wisconsin Dells.

This year's event will feature athletes in grades 3 through 12 from 64 state schools. Currently, more than 1,500 students have registered for the event, with more than 700 female archers planning to participate. The event will feature a 3-D animal range, flying or rolling discs, a bow fishing exhibit, several exhibitors and BB gun ranges. Many schools have been attending local school and club tournaments the past few months in preparation for the state tournament.

"The National Archery in the Schools Program provides a great opportunity to try a new sport for these kids," Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said. "Schools throughout the state have been great partners in helping the program grow and reach more students of all ages."

Students at this year's state tournament will compete for individual and team awards in elementary, middle and high school divisions, as well as a chance to qualify for the NASP national tournament in Louisville, Ky. That tournament is expected to attract more than 12,000 archers from all over the U.S.

Through NASP, archery is typically taught during the school day as part of a physical education curriculum. Every student uses identical, universal fit, equipment and is taught safety, proper form, shooting and scoring arrows and much more. Interested teachers can attend a one-day training session to receive Basic Archery Instructors certification. Archery equipment and a teaching curriculum is provided and grants are available to help offset any initial startup costs for schools. With the grants, schools can get started with minimal investment and budget strain.

For more information, visit the DNR web site, dnr.wi.gov and search for keyword "NASP" or visit naspschools.org (exit DNR).

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Natural Resources Board to meet April 13 in Madison

MADISON - Approval of the 2016 Wisconsin migratory game bird hunting season structure and proposed rule changes governing activities, visitor use and management of state properties including parks, forests, trails, shooting ranges and other recreation areas are among the items the state Natural Resources Board will address when it meets April 13 in Madison.

The migratory game bird season structure [PDF] that the Department of Natural Resources is proposing for board approval includes seasons for duck, geese, dove, woodcock and other migratory game birds that are nearly identical to last year's structure as a result of substantial public support for the current seasons.

The only change reflects a simplification in the Horicon Canada goose hunting zone where goose hunters would be allowed to hunt on any day of a continuous 92-day season instead of selecting a specific period as they have in the past.

As a result of changes in the federal process for setting annual waterfowl hunting seasons, all migratory game bird hunting seasons will now be approved in April rather than the longstanding August decision. This gives hunters more time to plan and prepare for the fall seasons.

The board will also consider a broad range of changes to Chapter NR 45, Wis. Admin. Code [PDF], the principal rule governing activities on and use of properties it manages. Proposed rule changes include modifications to the campsite reservation process, updates to language regarding the state trails system, updates to fee structures, and amending existing language to clarify that all-terrain and utility terrain vehicles can be operated on designated roads open to motor vehicles on DNR properties a as authorized through a master planning process. The rule also creates general rules for department shooting ranges, including restricting the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages at ranges and limiting what materials may be used as target.

Other items on the agenda include:

The complete April board agenda is available by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for keyword "NRB" and clicking on the button for "view agendas."

The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, in Room G09, State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 South Webster St., Madison.

The public must pre-register with Laurie Ross, board liaison, to testify at the board meeting. Registration information is available on the agenda on the DNR website.

The deadline to register to testify or submit written comments for this business meeting is 11 a.m. on Friday, April 8, 2016. More information is available on the DNR website.

Board meetings are webcast live. People can watch the meeting over the Internet by going to the NRB agenda page of the DNR website and clicking on webcasts in the Related Links column on the right. Then click on this month's meeting. After each meeting, the webcast will be permanently available on demand.

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Protect oak trees, avoid oak wilt by waiting until after July to prune

MADISON - To protect oak trees and help prevent oak wilt, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources advises people to avoid pruning oaks on their property from April through July.

Oak wilt can cause leaf drop and defoliation. Often leaves with the characteristic brown margins and green center can be found on the ground underneath infected trees. Oaks in the red oak group get the disease most easily while oaks in the white oak group (those with rounded leaf edges) are less susceptible.
Oak wilt can cause leaf drop and defoliation. Often leaves with the characteristic brown margins and green center can be found on the ground underneath infected trees. Oaks in the red oak group get the disease most easily while oaks in the white oak group (those with rounded leaf edges) are less susceptible.
Photo Credit: WDNR

Spring and early summer pruning makes oak trees vulnerable to oak wilt, a fatal fungal disease. Any tree damage during this time creates an opening that exposes live tree tissue and provides an opportunity for the oak wilt fungus to invade and establish itself in the tree.

Don Kissinger, a DNR urban forester in Wausau, said beyond concerns about oak wilt, there are other important reasons to avoid pruning deciduous trees in spring.

"Spring is the time when tree buds and leaves are growing, leaving the tree's food reserves low," Kissinger said. In general, the best time to prune trees is in winter.

The use of tree paint or a wound dressing is not normally recommended on pruning cuts or wounded surfaces on most trees. These products are recommended for damaged oaks from April through July. An immediate light painting of wounds on oak trees during this time helps protect against the spread of oak wilt by beetles.

"Just 15 minutes could be enough time for beetles that are carrying oak wilt spores to land on a fresh wound and infect your tree," said Kyoko Scanlon, DNR statewide forest pathologist.

Property owners with oak trees are encouraged to check with their municipality to find out if there are local oak wilt ordinances.

Oak wilt is found in all Wisconsin counties except Ashland, Bayfield, Calumet, Door, Douglas, Forest, Iron, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Price, Sheboygan and Taylor counties.

More information about oak wilt is available online. Visit sbe.wi.gov, and search for "oak wilt." Additional information about proper pruning techniques is available from community foresters or by searching for "tree pruning."

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Law enforcement range will add weekend public access for a fee

MADISON - Through an agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Dane County Sheriff's Office, the public will again have weekend access to the Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center Range near Waunakee on weekends from Saturday, April 9, through Nov. 5 for a $10 daily fee.

DNR Hunting and Shooting Sports Coordinator Keith Warnke said the county-state agency agreement, now in its fourth year, is good news for area hunters and shooters looking for a safe, convenient facility to prepare for the hunting seasons or simply to enjoy the sport.

Funding for this project comes from shooters and hunters through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration grant program. The grant revenues are taxes paid by shooters and hunters on ammunition and firearms equipment. "Partnering with Dane County to increase access to the range is an appropriate use of these dollars," Warnke said.

The Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center is equipped with five firearm shooting ranges. Each of the five ranges provides a different type of shooting environment. Its primary function is to provide Law Enforcement Officers with realistic and functional training; however, it also offers a great opportunity for hunters and shooters to practice and sight-in firearms.

Under the terms of the agreement, the range will be open the following dates and times:

Target stands will be provided at the range. Shooters should bring ear and eye protection, targets and their own ammunition.

Fees of $10 per person per day will be charged by the Dane County Sheriff's Department. Fees must be paid with cash or personal check. Credit cards are not accepted.

Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. A minor must be at least 12 years old and present proof of enrollment or completion of the DNR Hunter Safety Program in order to shoot at the range.

The Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center is located at 5184 Highway 19 in the Town of Westport, one mile east of the intersection of Highway 113 and County Trunk I.

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Tune in to Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin and set the stage for another exciting spring turkey hunt in Wisconsin

MADISON - This April, tune in to Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin and make sure you are prepared for another exciting spring hunt.

Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin is an hour-long special designed to help hunters prepare for the upcoming season and learn more about one of Wisconsin's most popular wildlife species. Host Dan Small will interview Wisconsin turkey management experts to discuss this year's hunt and offer helpful tips and tricks as you gear up and head out into the woods.

Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin will air on the following stations this spring:

Thursday, April 7

Friday, April 8

Saturday, April 9

Sunday, April 10

Friday, April 15

Monday, April 25

Stay tuned for additional viewing opportunities - segments will also be available on the following websites:

For more general information regarding this year's spring turkey hunt, search keyword "turkey."

Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin 2016 is a production of the Outdoor Heritage Education Center in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Contact information

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James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773