Contact(s): Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Jaqi Christopher, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458; Taylor Finger, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841; Trent Rohrer, DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist 608-261-6458
MADISON - Hunters can expect another exciting fall hunting season for wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock.
The fall turkey season runs from Sept. 15 to Jan. 6 in Turkey Management zones 1-5, and Sept. 15 to Nov. 16 in zones 6 and 7. The use of dogs to hunt wild turkey is allowed statewide for the fall seasons.
"Fall turkey hunters can look forward to good opportunities this year," said Mark Witecha, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "The fall turkey season definitely offers some variety in hunting tactics and strategy compared to the spring season, and you can't beat the backdrop of a Wisconsin autumn."
Overall, Wisconsin's statewide wild turkey population remains strong. Following 30 years of sustained population growth and expansion across the state, wild turkeys are now found statewide. Wild turkey numbers appear to have stabilized 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.
"We saw a 10 percent decrease in harvest this spring compared to 2017, largely due to the late winter weather we experienced." said Witecha. "That late snowfall likely impacted nesting hens as well, so there may be fewer juvenile birds on the landscape in parts of the state."
Although a fall turkey license, fall turkey harvest authorization and annual Wild Turkey Stamp is required to hunt turkeys, hunters are reminded that for the first time, the fall turkey drawing has been waived. Each fall turkey license or conservation patron license now includes a fall turkey harvest authorization. Hunters must choose the zone for which their harvest authorization will be valid at the time of purchase. If more than one fall turkey harvest authorization is desired, hunters may purchase bonus turkey harvest authorizations in select zones while inventory remains. Licenses, stamps and bonus turkey harvest authorizations are available for purchase online at Go Wild or at any license agent.
Turkey hunters are reminded that ground blinds on DNR lands are subject to highly visible color requirements during any gun deer season. All unoccupied ground blinds must have the owner's name and address or DNR customer ID number near the door opening. Blinds and elevated devices can be left overnight September 1 to January 31 on DNR managed properties north of Highway 64. Blinds and elevated devices south of Highway 64 on DNR managed lands may not be left out overnight and must be removed daily at the close of shooting hours. Binds used for waterfowl hunting and blinds constructed entirely of vegetation do not have to be removed daily.
In Zone A, the ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 15 and ends Jan. 31, 2019. In Zone B, the season will open Oct. 20 and close Dec. 8.
"Statewide ruffed grouse drumming activity was down 34 percent this spring compared to last year," said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife survey coordinator. "While this decline does not follow the generally predictable nine to 11-year ruffed grouse population cycle, the 2018 drumming observations do fall within the normal range of variability for the population."
Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 to help monitor ruffed grouse population trends.
This year, the DNR will be collecting West Nile virus samples from harvested ruffed grouse. Hunters interested in testing their bird for West Nile virus can request a self-sampling kit through their county wildlife biologist. The DNR is also asking for hunters to report and submit sick or dead grouse found in the field. More information on West Nile virus monitoring in ruffed grouse can be found here.
To address concerns over a noted decrease activity in drumming activity, a decrease in fall harvest last year and concerns regarding disease risk, the Natural Resources Board is considering an emergency rule to shorten the ruffed grouse season in zones A and B to end Nov. 30, 2018. The final decision to shorten the season will be made at the Sept. 25-26 Natural Resources Board meeting in Hayward. For more information on the Natural Resources Board, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "NRB."
For more information regarding ruffed grouse, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "ruffed grouse."
Wisconsin's woodcock hunting season is open from Sept. 22 to Nov. 5.
Hunters are reminded to register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) if they plan to pursue woodcock, mourning doves or other migratory game birds. Hunters must be HIP registered annually and can conveniently do this free of charge when purchasing their hunting license each year. For more information on HIP registration, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "HIP registration."
The Fields and Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool gives hunters an interactive summary of young aspen and alder habitat to find woodcock and ruffed grouse hunting areas, pheasant-stocked public hunting grounds and dove fields found on public hunting lands throughout Wisconsin
Features available within the program help hunters locate DNR public parking areas, overlay township descriptions, and provide access to maps and aerial photos of prospective hunting areas. Users can also print maps and find GPS coordinates to assist in navigation and estimate acreage and walking distance.
The mapping application is compatible with all major desktop and mobile web browsers (internet access is required). Mobile users can use FFLIGHT on-the-go to find habitat suitable for the species they wish to pursue. To learn more, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "FFLIGHT."