Spring Wild Turkey Season Opens April 12

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2006 marks the 30th anniversary of the reintroduction of wild turkey in Wisconsin, and several “firsts” this year highlight the successful effort to re-establish this native species.

For the first time this spring, the entire state will be open to turkey hunting. For the first time, more than 200,000 turkey permits were available for the spring season. And for the first time turkey hunters are able to buy turkey permits that remained after the initial drawing over-the-counter. Previously if the number of spring turkey permits exceeded the number of applications for a specific zone and time period, remaining permits were issued through a preference drawing.

“Turkey hunters can again look forward to high quality year of turkey hunting,” said Andrea Mezera, an upland wildlife ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources. “Populations were good heading into winter, which was mild to moderate in severity depending on location, and we expect a good survival rate.”

The spring turkey hunting season in Wisconsin runs from April 12 through May 21 with six 5-day (Wednesday through Sunday) time periods.

More than 40,000 additional turkey permits went on sale at noon Saturday, March 25, and were initially selling at a rate of 95 permits per minute and only about 8,600 permits remained for sale as of Monday night.

Permits cost $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. The limit is one permit purchase per person, per day. The majority of tags were for the last three hunting periods – May 3-7, May 10-14 and May 17-21.

“Hunters are required to purchase a turkey license and stamp at the time they buy an over-the-counter turkey permit,” Mezera said.

A resident turkey license costs $15 and a turkey stamp $5.25.

Besides all 46 turkey hunting zones, 15 state parks and Fort McCoy will be open for hunting. Fort McCoy conducts its own spring turkey hunt, independent of the state season. In order to hunt at Fort McCoy, hunters must have already received permit authorization from Fort McCoy.

The state’s turkey reintroduction program began in 1976 when the Wisconsin wildlife biologists worked out a deal with the Missouri Department of Conservation to trade two-to-one Wisconsin wild trapped Coulee Region ruffed grouse for Missouri wild trapped turkey.

The first release of turkeys from Missouri occurred in the Bad Axe Watershed of Vernon County in 1976, and over nine years, 334 wild turkeys were released into the southwestern part of the state. Once their population expanded, turkeys were trapped in areas of higher densities and relocated to other areas around the state that had suitable habitat.

The first turkey hunting season took place in the spring of 1983; 1,200 permits were issued, and the hunt was limited to four zones in southwest Wisconsin. Hunters that spring harvested 182 turkeys for a 15 percent success rate. During the spring 2005 turkey hunt, 193,316 permits were issued and hunters bagged 46,159 birds for a 24 percent success rate.