Contact(s): Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist, (608) 267-7861; Jaqi Christopher, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, (608) 261-8458
MADISON -- Prospects are good for fall wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting seasons, and hunters should look forward to another exciting year in the field.
The fall turkey season runs from Sept. 16 to Nov. 17 statewide, with an extended fall season in Turkey Management Zones 1-5 continuing through Dec. 31.
"Fall turkey hunters can look forward to good opportunities this year," said Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "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. 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 current hen harvest rates do not play a significant role in the dynamics of Wisconsin's turkey flock.
"We saw a five percent decrease in harvest this spring compared to 2016," said Witecha. "With the exception of frequent rains throughout the spring and summer, the weather has been favorable 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. New for this season, blinds can be left overnight Sept. 1 to Jan. 31, 2018 on DNR managed properties north of Highway 64. Blinds south of Highway 64 on DNR managed lands may not be left out overnight, and must be removed entirely from the property at the close of hunting hours each day. Blinds used for waterfowl hunting and blinds constructed entirely of vegetation do not have to be removed daily.
The use of dogs to hunt wild turkey is allowed statewide for the fall seasons.
In Zone A, the ruffed grouse season opens Sept. 16, 2017 and runs through Jan. 31, 2018. In Zone B, the season will open Oct. 14 and close Dec. 8.
Ruffed grouse drumming surveys have been used since 1964 to help monitor ruffed grouse population trends.
"Statewide ruffed grouse drumming activity was up 17 percent this spring compared to last year," said Brian Dhuey, DNR 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 surpasses the low point in the population cycle and population numbers should continue to increase until they hit the next peak in the coming years."
Grouse hunters are reminded to register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) 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 2017, the woodcock season will be open from Sept. 23 to Nov. 6.
Leftover fall turkey permits can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center, license agents, and DNR Service Centers. Hunters with any questions regarding permits can 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.
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."