March 31, 2015
MADISON - April marks the beginning of another spring turkey hunt, and a strong year of turkey production in 2014 means hunters should look forward to a good season.
"We had a nice year of production in 2014," said Scott Walter, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "Though some parts of the state saw large rainfall events in June, July and August were excellent for brood rearing and survival, and our statewide surveys reported a 22 percent increase in the number of broods seen per observer hour, as well as an increase in brood size."
Turkey populations rise or fall from one year to the next, largely in response to weather conditions during critical nesting and brood-rearing periods. According to Walter, we are likely still seeing the benefits of an outstanding year of production in 2012.
Despite severe weather conditions during the winter of 2013-14 and a late spring, many reports noted turkey broods with small chicks late in the brood observation period - an indication of successful late nesting or re-nesting activity.
Hunters harvested 41,815 turkeys during the 2014 spring season - this was a 10 percent increase from the 37,804 birds harvested in 2013. Spring hunter success rates in the past few years have ranged from 17 to 22 percent.
The 2015 spring turkey season will consist of six seven-day time periods. Each time period will begin on a Wednesday and run through the following Tuesday. In total, 237,768 permits were made available for this spring's hunt, essentially the same number made available for the 2014 spring season. More than 134,000 permits were issued in the drawing for the spring 2015 season - this left just under 104,000 available for over-the-counter purchase. Leftover permits went on sale on a zone-per-day basis March 23, and will be available for purchase until they are sold out or the season ends. The 2015 season closes May 26.
Join Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources experts for a spring turkey hunt online chat April 7 at noon. Visit the DNR web site at dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "chat" to submit questions and view responses from DNR experts. Here, you can also view past chats and sign up to receive email notifications.
Wisconsin's state park turkey management zones have been eliminated - this change became effective Sept. 1, 2014. Beginning in spring 2015, hunters are no longer able to apply for spring turkey permits in any of the previously listed state park hunting zones. However, Wisconsin's state parks will remain open for spring turkey hunting and have been absorbed into the larger turkey management zones. For example, a hunter wishing to hunt Zone 1A (Governor Dodge State Park) may still do so with a Zone 1 permit.
Spring turkey hunting within state parks is permitted during the Youth Turkey Hunt and the first three time periods of the regular spring turkey season. For more information regarding hunting within state parks, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "state park hunting."
The 2015 Spring Turkey Youth Hunt will be open statewide April 11-12; this two-day hunt, which began in 2007, provides for one-on-one mentoring for future hunters in a relaxed atmosphere without competition for hunting spots from regular season hunters.
Through the Mentored Hunting Program, hunters ages 10 through 15 may hunt during the two-day youth turkey hunt without first having completed hunter education, so long as they do so with a qualified adult mentor and follow the program's rules.
Youth ages 12 through 15 who have already completed hunter education may hunt during the youth hunt while accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. Each youth must have a valid spring 2015 turkey harvest permit, license and stamp.
"The mentored hunt is a great chance for all of us adults, parents and hunters to grab a rookie and get in the game," said Keith Warnke, DNR hunter recruitment coordinator. "Now is the time to take the opportunity to mentor a new hunter."
Youth are allowed to hunt on April 11-12 in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period their permit shows, and may harvest only one male or bearded turkey during the two-day hunt.
A youth hunter who does not successfully harvest a turkey during the two-day hunt may use an unfilled permit during the time period and in the zone for which the permit was issued. There is no special application procedure for the youth hunt, but these hunters must either receive a tag through the drawing or purchase a leftover tag. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.
DNR statistics show that 80 percent of accidents during turkey hunting seasons involve hunters mistaking other hunters for game or hunters failing to positively identify their target, while the remaining 20 percent are self-inflicted.
"The two most critical ingredients for a successful spring hunt are a detailed hunting plan in one hand and a firm grip on firearm safety in the other," said Jon King, DNR conservation warden and hunter education administrator. "Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be sure of your target and what's beyond it and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot."
A Conservation Patron license provides all the basic fishing and hunting privileges at a great price - $165 for Wisconsin residents, a price reduction of nearly one-half when compared to the value for each item included. For Wisconsin residents under the age of 18, a Conservation Patron license costs only $75.
Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, and at DNR Service Centers (hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays).
For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458; Keith Warnke, hunter recruitment coordinator, 608-576-5243; Jon King, hunter education administrator, 608-575-2294