Contact(s): Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Jaqi Christopher, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458
MADISON - Preliminary totals show turkey hunters registered 43,341 birds during the 2017 spring turkey hunting season in Wisconsin, a slight decrease from the spring 2016 season.
"Overall, turkey hunters experienced another successful spring season," said Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "The spring turkey harvest exceeded my expectations considering the persistent, rainy conditions in the second week of the season and an estimated 27 percent decline in turkey production in 2016."
A total of 212,088 permits were issued for the spring 2017 spring turkey season, compared to 212,772 in 2016.
Zone 1 produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 12,573 birds, followed by zones 2 and 3, where hunters registered 10,675 and 9,925 turkeys respectively. Overall, the statewide success rate was 20.4 percent, compared to 21.3 percent in 2016.
The highest hunter success rate was seen in Zone 2, with a rate of 22.2 percent, followed by Zone 4 at 21 percent and Zone 1 at 20.4 percent. Success rates were between 14 and 19 percent for the remaining zones.
"We are very happy with the high success rates seen across the state this spring," said DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist Jaqi Christopher. "It's clear that Wisconsin's turkey population has enjoyed milder winters recently, and hunters were rewarded for their efforts in the woods this year."
The Youth Turkey Hunt and Learn to Hunt events were again offered in 2017. Youth and novice hunters enjoyed an early onset of spring and decent weather conditions in the pre-season, which helped increase the harvest during the Youth Turkey Hunt and Learn to Hunt events by 17 percent from 2016. These efforts are aimed at recruiting new turkey hunters.
A key objective of Wisconsin's Wild Turkey Management Plan is to maximize opportunities for hunters with a minimum amount of interference, while ensuring that harvest does not lead to population declines. Biologists in Wisconsin closely monitor harvest, hunter interference rates, and hunter satisfaction along with turkey populations through time, to maintain a successful and enjoyable spring turkey hunt.
"Following another mild winter, hens have entered the breeding season in good condition," said Witecha. "If we can avoid cold, rainy weather during the critical nesting and brood rearing periods, we should see good numbers heading into the fall season."
For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."