MADISON - Turkey hunters interested in hunting in a Wisconsin state park during the 2013 Wisconsin spring turkey hunting season should note that the 16 state parks that were open to spring turkey hunting prior to 2013 are still designated as special turkey hunting zones.
"To hunt in state park turkey zones, a person must have a turkey hunting permit that is issued specifically for that zone," said Scott Loomans, wildlife regulations specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. "The new law opening state park properties to hunting did not eliminate the established state park turkey zones that are set in current administrative codes."
All state park properties, including state park turkey zones, are only open for the first three turkey hunting periods, which end April 30; they are not open for the last three periods. Under its authority under Act 168 to restrict hunting in parks for safety reasons, the state Natural Resources Board limited hunting in the spring from April 1 through the Tuesday nearest May 3.
State park spring turkey zone permits are issued through the same permit application process as permits for regular turkey zones. Hunters had to apply for those permits by the Dec. 10 application deadline, and all available permits for state park units were issued through the application process, so there are no general state parks zone permits available for over-the-counter sales.
Loomans says any of the new state parks that will be open beginning in the spring of 2013 for turkey hunting will not have their own special zone number assigned. These parks will be open to hunting by any person who holds a turkey hunting permit for the general turkey hunting zone (zones 1-7) which that particular state park is located within.
Wisconsin State Park Director Dan Schuller said the eventual goal will be to eliminate the existing state park turkey zones.
"Until those rules are changed, people interested in hunting in any of the 16 established state park turkey zones will have to continue to apply for a permit to hunt in any of those state parks," Schuller said.
State parks that have turkey zones include: Belmont Mound, Buckhorn, Devil's Lake, Governor Dodge, Hartman Creek, Interstate, Mirror Lake, Natural Bridge, Nelson Dewey, New Glarus Woods, Newport, Rocky Arbor, Straight Lake, Wildcat Mountain, Willow River and Wyalusing, and the Loew Lake Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest. Some of those state park zones are only open to hunters with disabilities who have been issued either a Class A or Class C Disabled Hunter Permit.
A list of the state parks which have their own special zone designation, as well as a map of the state turkey management zones can be found in the Small Game and Turkey Hunting regulations pamphlet [PDF].
The Wisconsin Legislature approved Act 168, known as the Sporting Heritage Bill, last year with a broad goal of increasing participating in hunting, fishing and trapping. Among other things, Act 168: provided first-time hunters, anglers and trappers discounts on licenses; provided incentives for people who recruit others into buying licenses; and increased safety education opportunities. It also expanded hunting opportunities and allowed trapping for the first time on Wisconsin state park system properties.
Hunting is only allowed within the parks in areas designated as open. Closed areas include within 100 feet of designated use areas, such as parking lots, campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as within 100 feet of certain trails. Additional areas within parks may be closed due to safety concerns. Also some state parks have property that is within municipal boundaries where the discharge of firearms is prohibited.
"It is each hunter's responsibility to know what areas within a park are open to hunting and which areas are closed," Loomans said. Maps indicating closed and open areas are available on the DNR website, at park offices, and will be posted at parking areas and other locations within parks.
Schuller notes that while early spring is a lower use time at state parks, it is also a very popular time for many bird watchers to visit parks to observe migrating spring birds, so hunters should expect to encounter other people using the park during spring turkey hunting periods.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Loomans - 608- 267-2452 or Paul Holtan, state parks, forest, trails and recreation public affairs manager - 608-267-7517