Contact(s): Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista Pham, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458
MADISON - Preliminary totals show turkey hunters registered 45,496 birds during the 2016 spring turkey hunting season in Wisconsin, an 11 percent increase from the spring 2015 season.
"It was a very successful spring season for turkey hunters, with many positive reports coming in from throughout Wisconsin," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha. "Turkeys went into the breeding season in excellent condition following a mild winter, the weather cooperated with hunters for the most part, and breeding activity appeared to stay strong throughout the entire season."
A total of 213,672 permits were issued for the spring 2016 spring turkey season, compared to 208,250 in 2015.
Zone 1 produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 13,862 birds, followed by zones 2 and 3, where hunters registered 11,083 and 10,348 turkeys respectively. Overall, the statewide success rate was 21.3 percent, compared to 19.7 percent in 2015.
The highest hunter success rate was seen in Zone 2, with a rate of 23 percent, followed by Zone 1 at 22 percent and Zone 4 at 21 percent. Success rates were between 14 percent and 20 percent for the remaining zones.
"We are very happy with the high success rates seen across the state this spring," said DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist Krista Pham. "It's clear that Wisconsin's turkey population has enjoyed milder winters and good brood-rearing conditions recently, and hunters were rewarded for their efforts in the woods this year."
A key objective of Wisconsin's Wild Turkey Management Plan is to maximize opportunities for hunters 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 turkey populations through time, to maintain a successful and enjoyable spring turkey hunt.
2016 fall season permit applications now available
A strong spring season indicates a healthy turkey population, which should provide hunters with a strong fall turkey hunt. The fall season presents a very different experience compared to the spring hunt - hunters generally try to catch turkeys moving between roosting and feeding sites or scatter a flock and try to call in a bird as the flock reassembles.
For the fall 2016 season, permit levels are expected to be similar to 2015 across the state, including the 4,000 additional permits that were added to Zone 2 in 2015. This adjustment will help meet hunting demand in Zone 2 without harming the long term stability of this population of birds. Zone 2 typically offers the highest success rates, and harvests have been stable. This adjustment should also translate into more leftover permits being available over the counter.
"The foundation is set for an excellent fall turkey hunt," said Witecha. "If there is suitable weather during the crucial nesting and brood-rearing periods, we should continue to see strong turkey numbers into the fall."
The fall 2016 wild turkey season will run from Sept. 17 to Nov. 18 - the deadline to apply for a fall permit through the lottery process is Aug. 1. Applications cost $3 and can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center or at any of the more than 1,100 Go Wild license sales locations.
The 2016 Fall Turkey and 2017 Spring Turkey regulations are included in the 2016 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations pamphlet, available now on thehunting regulations website and at DNR Service Centers.
For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."