September 2, 2014
MADISON - Prospects are good for both the fall wild turkey and ruffed grouse hunting seasons, both of which open Saturday, Sept. 13.
In 2014, Wisconsin has seen continued strong interest in the fall turkey hunt. More than 80,000 hunters applied for a fall permit in each of the past two years, compared to just under 60,000 applications in 2012.
"It's great to see this increased interest in fall turkey hunting, which offers some enjoyable challenges compared to the spring season," said Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "We are anticipating good numbers for this fall's hunt, even with the wet weather we experienced early this spring and summer."
The fall turkey season runs through Nov. 20 statewide, while an extended fall season in Turkey Management zones 1-5 runs from Dec. 1-31.
As in recent years, the use dogs to hunt wild turkey this fall is allowed statewide.
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, and turkey numbers appear to be stabilizing at levels suitable to available habitat. Those numbers will likely ebb and flow around those levels in response to natural factors such as weather and food availability.
While this past winter was fairly severe, negative impacts were most likely limited to local turkey populations where deep snow limited mobility. As long as flocks have access to standing corn, fruit-bearing shrubs, or other suitable foods near roost sites, Wisconsin turkeys are able to fare quite well.
"The number of birds seen in the field this spring was a pleasant surprise, especially given the prolonged harsh winter conditions," said Walter. "The hardiness of wild turkeys and their ability to survive in northern areas not historically considered suitable for turkeys is amazing. July was warm and dry, and as long as young birds are able to find sufficient food, they should be fine going into the upcoming winter."
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.
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 also 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 the DNR property. However, all waterfowl blinds situated on state-owned property and used in hunting waterfowl must permanently display the name of the owner in lettering one-inch square or larger, even when a hunter is using said blind.
In Zone A, the ruffed grouse season Opens Sept. 13 and runs through Jan. 31, 2014. In Zone B, located in southeastern Wisconsin, the season will open Oct. 19 and close Dec. 8.
Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 in order to help monitor ruffed grouse population trends. Statewide, a similar number of drumming grouse were heard (0.84 per stop) in 2014 as were heard during the 2013 survey (0.83). Wisconsin's primary ruffed grouse range, the Central and Northern Forest regions, showed mixed results. The Central Forest experienced a 24 percent decrease in breeding grouse this spring, while the Northern Forest yielded a 3 percent increase.
While cold temperatures and deep snow are generally hard on resident wildlife populations, ruffed grouse often thrive in winters like the one Wisconsin just experienced, Walter noted. Grouse roost under the snow, this can serve as a blanket to hide them from predators' view and keep them warm even during very cold periods.
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.
Those interested in hunting on DNR managed lands and discovering new favorite spots are reminded to check out the department's new FFLIGHT 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 will help hunters locate DNR public parking areas, overlay township descriptions, and view topographic maps or aerial photos of prospective hunting areas. Each user 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 2014 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, CONTACT: Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist, at 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, at 608-261-8458