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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 8, 2015

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Fall wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock seasons set to open

MADISON - Prospects are good for fall wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting seasons, according to state wildlife officials who say hunters should look forward to another exciting year in the field.

Wild turkey

"It's a great time of year to be out in the woods, and fall turkey hunting offers some enjoyable challenges compared to the spring season," said Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We anticipate good numbers for this fall's hunt, especially given favorable weather conditions during the winter and the spring breeding and nesting seasons."

The fall turkey season runs from Sept. 12 to Nov. 19 statewide, with an extended fall season in turkey management zones 1-5 from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31.

Overall, Wisconsin's statewide wild turkey population remains strong. After 30 years of sustained population growth and expansion across the state, wild turkeys are now found statewide. Wild turkey numbers appear to be stabilizing at levels suitable to available habitat - they will likely ebb and flow around those levels in response to weather, food availability, and other natural factors.

Biologists closely monitor harvest during the either-sex fall turkey hunting season, as excessive hen harvest can affect turkey populations. Recent hen harvests in Wisconsin have been very low, and current hen harvest rates do not play a significant role in the dynamics of Wisconsin's turkey flock.

"While this spring's turkey harvest was down slightly compared to 2014, weather has been favorable across the state for much of the year, and hunters should see good recruitment of young birds into the population," said McGinley. "Above all, we encourage hunters to enjoy the time spent in Wisconsin's woods, and to always keep safety in mind."

Turkey hunters are reminded that they are subject to the blaze orange requirement for ground blinds erected on DNR lands during any gun deer season. Ground blinds on DNR lands left unattended during legal hunting hours must display the owner's name and address or DNR Customer ID Number near the door opening. Ground blinds may not be left out overnight, and must be removed entirely from the property at the close of hunting hours each day.

Turkey ground blind rules do not apply to ground blinds being used for hunting waterfowl, or blinds built using only natural vegetation found on DNR property. However, all waterfowl blinds on state-owned property and used for waterfowl hunting must permanently display the name of the owner in lettering one-inch square or larger, including when a hunter is using the blind.

As in recent years, the use of dogs to hunt wild turkey is allowed statewide.

Ruffed Grouse

In zone A, the ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 12 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016. In zone B, the season will open Oct. 17 and close Dec. 8.

Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 to help monitor ruffed grouse population trends. "While we did see some continuing regional declines, our roadside survey index to track ruffed grouse populations is essentially unchanged from 2014," said DNR wildlife surveys coordinator Brian Dhuey. "Ruffed grouse populations are known to rise and fall over a nine to 11-year cycle, and the last peak in Wisconsin's cycle occurred in 2011. Survey results suggest that we have reached the low point in the population cycle and we should start to see increases in the next few years as our grouse population starts to move toward the next peak."

Grouse hunters are reminded to register with the Harvest Information Program if they plan to pursue woodcock, mourning doves or other migratory game birds. Registration is free and is available through all license vendors, as well as online.

In 2015, woodcock season will be open from Sept. 19 to Nov. 2.

Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool

Those interested in hunting on DNR managed lands and discovering new favorite spots are reminded to check out the department's Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool. FFLIGHT helps hunters of all types locate young aspen and alder habitat, pheasant-stocked public hunting grounds, and managed dove fields.

Features available within FFLIGHT can help hunters locate DNR public parking areas, overlay township descriptions, and view topographic maps or aerial photos of prospective hunting areas. Users can choose which type of habitat to highlight - FFLIGHT can help you find the best grouse and woodcock cover in the woods near your cabin.

The FFLIGHT mapping application is compatible with all major desktop and mobile web browsers (internet access required). To learn more and start your search for hunting land, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "FFLIGHT."

Grouse and turkey hunters must wear blaze orange clothing during any gun or muzzleloader deer season. A hat, if worn, must be at least 50 percent blaze orange.

Hunters are encouraged to check out the 2015 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF] for further season information and hunting previews for Wisconsin. The fall forecast provides a great deal of information and helpful tips for all types of hunting and trapping.

For more information regarding wild turkeys and ruffed grouse in Wisconsin, search keywords "turkey" and "ruffed grouse."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, at 608-261-8458

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Game bird brood production sees increase from 2014 levels

MADISON - The numbers are looking good for ruffed grouse, pheasant and wild turkey breeding and nesting conditions in Wisconsin this year, according to state wildlife officials who attribute it to more normal winter conditions for temperature and snowfall during the winter of 2014-15, combined with a slightly earlier-than-normal spring green-up.

Average temperature and precipitation during the month of June led to normal nesting and early brood-rearing conditions for Wisconsin's game bird species - this may have led to an increase in brood production for pheasants, ruffed grouse and wild turkey.

"Brood production surveys for ruffed grouse, pheasants and turkeys were conducted during June, July and August by DNR staff as they went about their normal work duties," said Brian Dhuey, wildlife survey coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "These data are still preliminary and may change, but they can be used as an index to production and help to forecast fall hunting prospects."

According to Dhuey, while most of the winter was below normal for temperature and snowfall, a lack of heavy snow cover may have led to an early spring green-up. Timing of spring green-up can affect game bird survival and physical condition going into the breeding and nesting season and in turn effect brood survival.

Wisconsin's 2015 brood-rearing conditions were average for temperature, with much of the state seeing temperatures close to average for the month of June and average to slightly below average for July and August. Precipitation was close to normal, with no large or prolonged rain events followed by cold weather. Early June weather is the most critical for turkey, pheasant and grouse broods - this is when recently-hatched chicks are most susceptible to hypothermia if they get wet. Weather during July and August was excellent for brood-rearing and survival.

Ruffed Grouse

Statewide, ruffed grouse broods seen per observer-hour increased 18 percent compared to 2014 levels. Ruffed grouse production was up 132 percent in the central region and 20 percent in the northern region - these areas compose two-thirds of primary range for ruffed grouse in Wisconsin. Ruffed grouse production declined 41 percent in the southwestern region. Overall, ruffed grouse brood size rose from 4.1 young per brood in 2014 to 4.2 in 2015.

"Breeding grouse numbers were down slightly this spring, while brood production in the primary ruffed grouse range showed a notable increase," said Dhuey. "Ruffed grouse are currently in their cyclic low period, and while an increase in production is a positive sign, it will likely still be a few years until Wisconsin is at its cyclic high. While some areas of the primary ruffed grouse range will be better than others, it appears that ruffed grouse numbers will be similar or slightly better than last year."

The ruffed grouse season opens in the zone comprising their primary range, Zone A, on Sept. 12. For more information regarding ruffed grouse in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "ruffed grouse."

Pheasant

The number of pheasant broods seen per observer-hour was up 67 percent in 2015 compared to last year. Pheasant production was up in both the primary (41 percent) and secondary (47 percent) pheasant range compared to 2014 levels. However, pheasant brood size was down, with an average of 4 young per brood in 2015 in comparison to 4.9 in 2014.

"While pheasant brood numbers have rebounded in 2014 and 2015, overall breeding numbers have been declining for several years and overall pheasant numbers are down from the highs of the 1990s," said Dhuey. "While brood-rearing conditions saw an improvement in 2015 compared to 2014, overall pheasant numbers are likely impacted by declining grassland habitat due to losses in Conservation Reserve Program enrollment and increases in commodity prices throughout the pheasant range."

The pheasant season opens statewide Oct. 17 at noon. For more information regarding pheasants in Wisconsin, search keyword "pheasant."

Turkey

Wild turkeys saw a nine percent increase in the number of broods seen per observer-hour, while brood size experienced an overall decrease in 2015.

Four of the five turkey regions saw an increase in observation rate in 2015 compared 2014, with the largest changes occurring in the south-central (196 percent increase), southeast (195 increase), western (43 percent increase), and northern regions (0.2 percent increase), while the northeast region experienced a decrease 43 percent decrease.

The statewide wild turkey observation rate was 14 percent below the long-term mean, and average brood size in 2015 was 4.3 young per brood (down slightly from the 4.5 young per brood seen in 2014).

"Winter conditions in the forested central and northern regions were more normal compared to the past two years of harsh winter weather, which may have caused increased mortality and/or decreased production in the following spring," said Dhuey.

Fall turkey permits have been issued via mail, and leftover tags went on sale beginning Aug. 22. Hunters can view remaining fall permit availability on the DNR website.

The fall turkey season opens statewide in all zones Sept. 12. For more information regarding wild turkeys in Wisconsin, search keyword "turkey."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey, wildlife surveys coordinator, 608-221-6342; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458

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Youth Waterfowl and regular season Canada goose hunts about to open

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated to correct information on the opening of the goose season. The season opens Wednesday, Sept. 16.

MADISON -Regular season Canada goose hunting in the Exterior and Horicon zones opens Wednesday Sept. 16, followed by a two-day Youth Waterfowl Hunt Sept 19-20.

Youth waterfowl hunt

This year's youth waterfowl hunt will be held Sept. 19-20. This special hunt offers youth age 12-15 (or those 10 or over hunting under the mentored hunting law) the opportunity to learn skills from an adult without the increased hunting pressure encountered during the regular season.

"While many youth hunters enjoy this special hunt alongside a parent or relative, each year about one out of very seven youth are able to participate solely because a family friend, neighbor or volunteer mentor was generous enough to take the time to teach them the tradition of waterfowl hunting," said Van Horn."

Normal season bag limits apply, but all license and stamp requirements are waived for the youth hunt. However, participants still need to be HIP registered (free of charge) and possess a regular season goose permit for the zone in which they are hunting if they wish to hunt geese during this time. Licensed adults may also hunt geese since the Exterior and Horicon Zone goose seasons are open during these dates.

Individuals of all ages and skill levels are reminded to check out a Learn to Hunt waterfowl clinic in their area to learn more about hunting and its role within conservation.

Regular goose season

With resident Canada goose breeding numbers similar to recent years and average production of the Ontario breeders, hunters should have ample opportunities this year, and will again enjoy a full 92 days of hunting in the Exterior zone with a two bird daily bag limit.

"When combined with the 15 days of the early season, this puts WI at 107 days of Canada goose hunting, and the maximum season length allowed by federal law," said Kent Van Horn, migratory game bird ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources .

Exterior Zone Canada goose season structure is as follows:

Hunters should note that the goose season is closed during the duck season split in both the South Zone (closed Oct. 12-16) and Mississippi River Subzone (closed Oct. 10-16).

The Horicon Zone Canada goose season structure is as follows:

The daily bag limit for Canada geese in the Horicon Zone remains at two. In 2014, the season harvest limit in this zone was increased to 12 total Canada geese. It is important to remember that locations west of Hwy 73 and north of Hwy 23 are no longer part of the Horicon Zone, but rather part of the Exterior Zone.

Goose reporting requirements were changed in 2014 for the Horicon Zone, permits require the hunter who harvested the goose to punch/slit the permit for the date of kill (the total may not exceed the season limit). In addition to the early goose season and Exterior Zone, Horicon Zone hunters are also required to report each goose harvested within the Horicon Zone within 48 hours of kill by calling 1-800-99-GOOSE (1-800-994-6673).

New for 2015, the cost of the federal duck stamp will now cost $25 (an increase from $15 dollars). This increase in cost was suggested and supported by waterfowl hunters nationwide. There has not been an increase in the federal waterfowl stamp since the 1990s - the $10 increase will help protect additional upland and wetland waterfowl habitat.For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "waterfowl management." Several federal agencies are working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to collect samples related to the research and surveillance of avian influenza in wild birds. This surveillance will help monitor for the virus during fall migration. Wild birds from targeted areas throughout the state will be sampled between now and spring 2016.

Avian influenza is a viral disease common in wild bird populations with many different subtypes - most do not cause obvious signs of disease in wild birds or have the ability to infect animals other than birds. While strains currently detected in the U.S. have caused mortality of domestic birds, they have not resulted in any illness in humans.

Samples will be collected from live-captured birds during DNR banding efforts and from hunter-harvested dabbling ducks, such as blue-winged teal, mallard, wood duck and Northern pintail. Federal staff will also be located at boat landings and other hunter access points this fall to sample ducks from willing hunters.

To learn more, search keywords "bird diseases."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841

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DNR asks for hunters to record their wildlife observations

MADISON -- With the start of deer hunting in Wisconsin for 2015 when the archery season opens Sept. 12, state wildlife officials are kicking off the seventh annual Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey, an easy-to-do survey where hunters can record their observations of deer and other wildlife while out hunting. Survey results help track population trends for Wisconsin's deer herd and other wildlife.

"The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is a fun opportunity for hunters to share their enthusiasm for wildlife while helping survey efforts," says Jes Rees Lohr, wildlife research scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR asks hunters to record all of their hunting activity throughout the deer season, even if no wildlife sightings were made during a hunt. The observations provide the DNR with an index to abundance for many wildlife species. In 2014, there were more than 15,000 trips logged totaling more than 66,000 hours of observations. In addition, hunters reported a total of 5,634 bucks, 13,419 does and 8,253 fawns. Since starting in 2009, the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey has reported more than 80,000 hunting trips from hunters all around the state.

At the end of each year, participants will receive a personalized summary of all recorded wildlife from that season. Participants can access the survey webpage by going to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keywords "Deer Hunter Wildlife." Tally sheets can be filled out either electronically or printed from the site. The survey period ends January 2016

Lastly, don't forget to keep sending in your trail camera photos. The trail camera gallery can be accessed through the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey webpage. Check back often as the site is updated as soon as new photos are sent in.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jessica Rees Lohr, wildlife research scientist, 608-221-6349.

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Wisconsin deer hunters have the opportunity to get their deer tested and help with CWD surveillance

MADISON - State wildlife officials will continue testing harvested white-tailed deer for chronic wasting disease this year. This testing is part of the DNR's ongoing efforts to monitor the status and spread of the disease in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be testing deer from select areas of the state. Surveillance will focus on adult deer, since older deer are more likely to have the disease.

"We provide testing as a service to deer hunters, but it is also important in our efforts to monitor the distribution and prevalence of the disease," said Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief. "We will continue testing and tracking this disease within our long-term monitoring areas in southern Wisconsin where CWD is regularly found. Long-term monitoring provides useful data that increases our understanding of CWD dynamics and impacts."

A map of the 2015 CWD sampling area [PDF] can be found at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "CWD."

The department will continue to collect samples from deer harvested in Dane, Iowa, Rock, Walworth, Washburn, Juneau, Adams, Portage and Marathon counties.

New for 2015, wildlife staff will be sampling in the Fairchild/Augusta area in Eau Claire County, where the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection discovered a CWD-positive deer on a private deer farm earlier this year.

In Marquette and Green Lake counties, samples will be collected at select taxidermists throughout the deer hunting season. "We know that CWD is found at higher prevalence rates in adult males than in other deer sex and age classes," said Ryan. "Working with taxidermists is a cost-efficient surveillance method to increase our sampling of older age bucks, and is our best method for detecting new disease locations."

CWD sampling will be offered at various other locations throughout southern, central, and northwest Wisconsin. For information regarding where to take your deer for sampling, search keywords "CWD sampling" or contact the DNR call center at 888-936-7463. Hunters are reminded to contact sampling stations in advance to verify hours of operation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief, 608-266-3143

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Text-a-tip? DNR's Violation Hotline gets an upgrade to take citizens info

MADISON - For people who prefer texting instead of calling, the Department of Natural Resources has made it easy to pass on valuable tips of suspected violations in the public's effort to protect Wisconsin's natural resources.

Text-a-tip was made possible this year thanks to a system upgrade to the DNR Violation Hotline that allows users to CALL or TEXT the toll free number -- 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. Kevin Barman who coordinates the hotline says phone calls remain an effective way to reach the 24-7 hotline, but texting provides our customers the flexibility to relay information when a phone call is not possible. Texting also provides the opportunity to include a photo.

Chief Conservation Warden Todd Schaller says the Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers seriously consider every tip that comes from the citizens on the Hotline. "The protection of Wisconsin's natural resources and ensuring people are safely enjoying the resources is the duty and the responsibility of all citizens," Schaller says. "It takes a team effort between the citizens and the department. We can't be everywhere, so we value the eyes and ears of citizens who care deeply about Wisconsin's resources."

"We have trained dispatchers who can take your information and pass it on to the conservation wardens," Barman said. "Remember, anyone who calls the hotline and provides info can remain anonymous."

There also is an online violation report, which also maintains anonymity, that can be found by searching the DNR website for keywords "report a violation."

Barman says the hotline is part of Wisconsin's membership in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which holds violators accountable for their actions and can result in privileges being withheld in all members states in some cases. Nearly all states are members.

The concept of the interstate violator compact was first created in the 1980s when law enforcement agencies were looking for a way to deal with individuals who violated wildlife and resource laws outside of their home state. Colorado and Nevada worked independently to draft the first compact documents. They merged the draft documents and in 1989 legislation was passed into law in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon to form the official Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Barman, Hotline Coordinator, 608-381-9428, kevin.barman@wisconsin.gov or Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, 608-209-8147, joanne.haas@wisconsin.gov

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 08, 2015




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