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 38,885 birds during the 2018 spring turkey hunting season in Wisconsin, a 10 percent decrease from the spring 2017 season.
Weather this spring played a significant role in the decreased harvest numbers. With much of the state covered in snow at the beginning of the season, we saw a steep decline in the number of turkeys registered during the Youth Hunt and Period A. The remaining time periods had similar harvest to last year, with a slight decline in Period F when record high temperatures were recorded throughout the state.
"Unfortunately, turkey hunters experienced less-than-ideal conditions during the Youth Hunt and first period," said Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We saw declines in hunter participation in all zones early in the season, so it appears many were deterred by late winter weather that impacted the state."
A total of 138,544 harvest authorizations were awarded through the drawing and 74,237 were sold over the counter. Overall, there were 325 more harvest authorizations issued this season than in the 2017 spring season.
Zone 1 produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 11,235 birds, followed by Zones 2 and 3, where hunters registered 9,471 and 8,699 turkeys respectively. Overall, the statewide success rate was 18.3 percent, compared to 20.4 percent in 2017.
The 2018 spring season started on April 14 with the Youth Hunt. The regular season ran from April 18 to May 29 with six separate time periods. Having separate time periods allows for maximum hunter opportunities, 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 other information to track turkey populations through time, to maintain a successful and enjoyable spring turkey hunt, and are always vigilant that harvests be sustainable.
Starting in 2018, the fall turkey drawing has been waived. A fall turkey harvest authorization will be issued with every fall turkey or conservation patron license purchase. Hunters will choose a zone at the time of purchase for which their harvest authorization will be valid. Bonus harvest authorizations, formerly known as leftover tags, will be available for purchase in select zones starting Aug. 18 at 10 a.m.
The fall 2018 wild turkey season for Zones 1-5 is September 15 to January 6, 2019. For Zones 6 and 7, the season is September 15- November 16.
The 2018 Fall Turkey and 2019 Spring Turkey regulations are included in the 2018 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations [PDF], available now online and at license vendors around the state.
Be sure to check out the Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record podcast featuring the department's upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha. The podcast covers everything from the history of wild turkeys in Wisconsin to current management and hunting opportunities. You can find this episode and much more on both iTunes (you can subscribe to the DNR channel to receive updates when new episodes are available) and YouTube.