Contact(s): Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista Pham, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458
MADISON - Prospects are good for fall wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting seasons, according to state wildlife officials who say hunters should look forward to another exciting year in the field.
"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."
The fall turkey season runs from Sept. 17 to Nov. 18 statewide, with an extended fall season in Turkey Management Zones 1-5 continuing through Dec. 31.
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. Wild turkey numbers appear to be stabilizing 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 Witecha says current hen harvest rates do not play a significant role in the dynamics of Wisconsin's turkey flock.
"We saw a 10 percent increase in harvest this spring compared to 2015, and hunters enjoyed high success rates across the state," said Witecha. "With the exception of a couple of heavy rain events in the northern part of the state earlier this summer, weather has been favorable across the state for much of the year, so the population should remain stable."
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 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 DNR property. However, all waterfowl blinds on state-owned property and used for waterfowl hunting must permanently display the name of the owner in lettering one-inch square or larger, including when a hunter is using the blind.
As in recent years, the use of dogs to hunt wild turkey is allowed statewide for the fall seasons.
To receive email updates regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "wild turkey" distribution list (found within the "hunting" list).
In Zone A, the ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 17 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016. In Zone B, the season will open Oct. 15 and close Dec. 8.
Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 to help monitor ruffed grouse population trends in Wisconsin.
"While statewide trends were essentially stable, the two regions that make up the primary grouse habitat in the state showed increased drumming activity in 2016," said Brian Dhuey, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife survey coordinator. "Ruffed grouse populations are known to rise and fall over a nine- to 11-year cycle, and the last peak in Wisconsin's cycle occurred in 2011 -- survey results suggest that we have reached the low point in the population cycle and may have started the building phase, which should continue the next few years as the grouse population increases toward the next peak."
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.
In 2016, the woodcock season will be open from Sept. 24 to Nov. 7.
Hunters who are still interested in obtaining fall turkey permits can check availability online at dnr.wi.gov, by searching for "fall turkey permits" or contact the DNR Customer Call Center, open 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463). For more information regarding Go Wild, visit GoWild.WI.Gov.
All harvested turkeys and sharp-tailed grouse will be registered electronically [PDF] in 2016. GameReg is simple, fast and convenient for hunters. The system will prompt hunters to answer a series of questions, beginning with the carcass tag number and date of birth.
GameReg will generate a 10-character confirmation number, which must be written on the paper carcass tag that accompanies the harvested animal. Hunters are reminded to carry a pen or pencil to write the 10-character number on the tag. When this registration number is written on the tag, the animal is considered legally registered.
Hunters will have two options for registering their turkey or sharp-tailed grouse:
All turkeys and sharp-tailed grouse must be registered by 5 p.m. the day after harvest, and hunters must retain the tag with confirmation number as proof of registration until the meat has been consumed. A link to the GameReg system is available through the Pocket Ranger app for mobile devices. For more information regarding electronic registration, search "GameReg."
Many fall hunting and trapping seasons in Wisconsin are just around the corner, and this year's Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF] is now available.
To view this year's hunting and trapping forecast, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "forecast [PDF]."
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, search keyword "FFLIGHT."