Prospects impressive for spring turkey hunt

Editor

Madison Turkey brood success the past two years and the current
mild winter have the state’s turkey ecologist excited about the
prospects for the 2003 spring hunt.

“The winter has been mild, and when you look at what dictates
good spring turkey hunting, several things are lining up in our
favor,” said Keith Warnke, DNR upland game ecologist. “We had good
productivity in 2002, and in 2001 we had reasonable productivity in
most areas and very good productivity in a few locations. So, with
mild winters, we should have plenty of turkeys out there.”

Warnke’s expectations are backed by turkey sightings around the
state. The DNR’s sharpshooters in the CWD Eradication Zone have
been spending a lot of time in the field the past few weeks and it
wouldn’t be a stretch to say they’re seeing more turkeys than deer
these days. Warnke is one of the sharpshooters and once he started
seeing lots of turkeys, he checked with fellow gunners to see if
they were seeing the same thing.

“We’re all seeing large flocks of turkeys. They’re still grouped
by sex, but I’m sure they’ll be breaking up soon,” he said.

Plenty of turkeys are being seen outside of the Eradication
Zone, too. From La Crosse County to Sheboygan County, and most
points in between, DNR wildlife managers and sport shop owners
report seeing plenty of turkeys.

Some hunters attending recent sport shows wondered whether cold
temperatures this winter could cause some birds to die, but Warnke
said turkeys are more susceptible to deep snow or frozen snow than
they are sub-zero temps.

“Yes, it has been cold, but the winter has been very mild as far
as snow cover goes. Cold isn’t an issue as long as turkeys have
access to food, and that’s certainly the case with the lack of
snow,” Warnke said.

Most of the state received some amount of snow on March 4.
Southern Wisconsin received about five inches that day.

“But the snow is still light and fluffy, and I can see soybean
stubble and corn stubble through the snow,” Warnke said.

Turkey hunters won’t find any format changes to this year’s
turkey hunt, which still offers six five-day hunting periods. The
first season opens Wednesday, April 16. The five subsequent opening
dates are April 23, April 30, May 7, May 14 and May 21.

No new zones are open this spring, but hunters will be allowed
into three new state parks in 2003 Interstate, Willow River, and
Newport.

Hunters who want to start “talking turkey” may attend the spring
hearings on Monday, April 14. The Conservation Congress will ask
two advisory questions that seek input on an earlier opener for the
fall turkey season, and allowing the use of dogs during the fall
hunt.

Warnke said hunters can also prepare for the spring season by
attending free turkey workshops (go to the DNR web site at
www.dnr.state.us for a list of dates, or call a local DNR office)
and practicing their calling.

“The level of harvest will be dictated by level of
participation, and the weather. Last year, we had some bad
weather,” Warnke said. “Good weather keeps hunters out there. The
birds are vulnerable (to calling and hunters) in cold and wet
weather, but it does reduce gobbling and does affect hunter psyche
and whether they want to be out there, which is understandable.

“It’s a lot like all kinds of other hunting you have to be out
there. After that it’s No. 1, if a bird is coming, let him come and
don’t call too much. Then, No. 2, if you’re trying to locate birds
when there is no gobbling, change calls.

“Most of all, put safety first and have fun,” he said.

Recapping 2002 turkey hunt

Hunters set another spring turkey harvest record in 2002 with
39,336 birds registered, up just a smidge from the 39,211 birds
shot in 2001. The 2002 hunter success averaged 25 percent. In 2002,
the DNR issued 159,542 permits (19,021 bonus permits). For 2003,
the DNR issued 168,661 permits.

In 2002, 72 percent of the birds registered were adults. That’s
down from 79 percent in 2001. Warnke said that decrease is an
indication of better brood success from the spring of 2001 because
more jakes were shot in 2002.

“Results from the 2002 spring brood survey also showed an
overall increase in the number of broods seen,” Warnke said.

Now after this spring’s hunt, biologists will again compare the
number of registered jakes to toms to compare the ratio of adults
to jakes to verify nesting success from 2002.

Hunter success in the fall of 2002 (10,850 birds registered) was
down a bit from 2001, when hunters shot 11,029 birds. Adult birds
made up 57 percent of the 2002 fall season, and 60 percent were
females.

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