Wisconsin Hunters Register 5,433 Birds in 2011 Fall Wild Turkey Hunt

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Wisconsin wild turkey hunters registered a combined 5,433 birds during the regular fall 2011 wild turkey season and the extended season in Turkey Management Zones 1-5.

The 5,433 registered birds compute to a success rate of 10 percent, a slight decrease from the 12 percent success rate for hunters during the 2010 fall season.

“The fall turkey season, along with our spring season, continues to provide important recreational opportunities for Wisconsin’s hunters,” says Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "Hunters that pursue turkeys during both the spring and fall seasons are really treated to two very distinctive outdoor experiences, and get to enjoy turkeys during very different phases of their annual cycle.”

Hunting turkeys in the fall is quite different than taking part in the spring hunt, where hunters use the breeding behavior of gobblers to call one into range, he says. Fall hunters learn that the key to success is to pattern turkey flocks, and locating roost sites and feeding locations in order to get close to turkeys.

The decline in harvest between the 2010 and 2011 fall seasons continues a downward trend in fall turkey harvest over the past seven years and likely reflects turkey numbers and hunting trends, Walter says.

“Certainly, the previous three winters have stressed turkeys, and recent wet springs have likely limited production," he says. "Long-term, turkey populations – and the number of turkeys hunters encounter in the field – will ebb and flow in response to weather conditions that determine production levels."

The fact that there are so many opportunities available to hunters in the fall also seems to have resulted in fewer hunters pursuing turkeys recently, with the number of fall permits sold declining steeply the past few years. This also has reduced the total number of birds harvested in the fall season, Walter says.

Not including Fort McCoy, the total number of permits available statewide for the fall 2011 season was 95,700, the same as in 2010. A total of 54,949 permits were sold, including 41,332 via the drawing with another 13,617 permits sold over-the-counter after the drawing had been completed.

Turkey permit levels for fall 2012 to be set this summer

Permit levels for the 2012 fall season will be set this summer once harvest data for the spring 2012 season is available and biologists can assess spring production levels, Walter says. Permit applications for the 2012 fall season are due August 1st, 2012

“Statewide, the population of turkeys remains strong,” says Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist. “Long-term, turkey numbers are primarily driven by the quality of habitat available and weather during the critical nesting brood-rearing period.

"We’ve got excellent turkey habitat across the state, this winter’s been mild for turkeys and, given good production this spring, hunters should have an excellent opportunity to see turkeys and perhaps harvest a bird this coming spring and fall.”

The number of permits available to hunters in each of the state’s seven Turkey Management Zones is recommended by members of the Wild Turkey Management Committee, who consider recent trends in harvest, hunter success, and turkey reproduction, as well as hunter densities and field reports of turkey abundance, when deciding on final permit numbers.