Wisconsin Spring Turkey Season Opens April 11

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The April 11 opening of the 2012 spring wild turkey hunting season is just around the corner, and state wildlife officials say hunters can look forward to a good spring hunt. They also are encouraging experienced hunters to consider taking a youth out during the April 7 and 8 statewide spring turkey youth hunt.

"Turkey populations should have come through the relatively mild 2011-12 winter in good shape," said Scott Walter, upland game biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "As long as the critical nesting and early brood-rearing season remains dry and warm, populations can be expected to approach naturally occurring population limits imposed by habitat and predators, all good news for turkey hunters."

Wisconsin has seen record breaking spring weather, but biologists say the early warm weather won’t have much effect on turkeys.

“Spring turkey seasons are set so that toms can breed many of the hens in a given zone before the opening date for that zone,” said Walter. “This timing limits accidental harvest of hens but the toms are still active and coming in to hunters’ calls and decoys.

“This shouldn’t change since breeding activity is influenced by daylight and not so much by temperatures. Breeding and breeding behavior occurs about the same time every year. What could impact hunters is the amount of foliage in the woods. From what I’ve seen, leaf development is running three weeks or more ahead. The landscape during the first hunting period will look like third period on opening day.”

Permits remaining in zones 1, 3, 4 and 5

More than 233,500 permits were made available for this spring’s hunt, a slight increase from the number offered a year ago. More than 137,500 of those permits were issued in the preference drawing for the spring 2012 season, leaving 90,000 tags available for sale. Remaining permits went on sale March 19.

As of March 30, all permits were sold for zones 2, 6 & 7. There are permits remaining in zones 1, 3, 4 and 5 in later hunting periods. Remaining permits can be purchased until they are sold out or the season ends. Visit the spring turkey leftover permit availability page for up-to-date information. Go to DNR's spring turkey leftover permit page.

Spring hunting periods now seven days

Hunters can look forward to more days in the woods in 2012 as the hunting periods have been extended to seven days each. This evens out weather effects and offers a little more opportunity for time in the woods, Walter said.

The six 7-day 2012 spring turkey hunting periods start on April 11 and end on May 22. Find out more by going to the DNR website (search keywords “turkey meetings”) or visiting the DNR's turkey hunting page.

Self-registration process in effect for spring 2012 season

First tried during the fall 2011 turkey hunting season with great success, self-registration is now in place for the spring season as well. Hunters no longer have to present their bird at a registration station. They must register the kill but they can do it by telephone 1-888-HUNT-WIS (1-888-486-8947) (this only works with a touch-tone phoe) or over the internet by going to the DNR's Wild Turkey Harvest Registration webpages.

In addition to harvest date, time, and location information, you will be asked to determine the age (adult or juvenile) and the sex (gobbler or hen) of your harvested turkey, according to Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist. Please note that only male turkeys may be harvested during the spring wild turkey season. In the field, refer to the Wisconsin Small Game & Wild Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet for a graphic guiding you through the aging and sexing process, she said.

Hunters will also be asked to record a harvest confirmation number on their hunting permit at the end of the call or online session. Hunters will still have until 5 p.m. on the day after harvest to register their turkey.

Turkey Youth Hunt set for April 7 and 8

The 2012 Spring Turkey Youth Hunt will occur statewide April 7 and 8. The two-day spring youth hunt, successfully initiated in 2007, allows one-on-one mentoring of future hunters in a relaxed atmosphere without competition for hunting spots from regular season hunters.

Thanks to the Mentored Hunting Program that took effect starting with the 2009 fall season, youth hunters aged 10 and 11, in addition to youth ages 12 through 15, also may now participate in the 2012 youth turkey hunt.

Under the Mentored Hunting Program, youngsters ages 10 through 15 may hunt during the two-day youth turkey hunt without first having completed hunter education, so long as they do so with a qualified adult mentor and follow the rules of the program. Youth ages 12 through 15 who have already completed hunter education may hunt during the youth hunt while accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. Each youth must have a valid spring 2012 turkey harvest permit, license, and stamp, McGinley said.

Youth are allowed to hunt on April 7 and 8 in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period their permit is issued for, and may harvest only one male or bearded turkey during the two-day hunt, McGinley said.

A youth who does not successfully harvest a turkey during the two-day hunt may use the unfilled permit during the time period and in the zone for which the permit was issued. There is no special application procedure for the youth hunt, but young hunters must either be issued a tag through the drawing or purchase a leftover tag. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.