Two years of good turkey poult survival means…

By Dean
Bortz

Editor

Madison – Wisconsin turkey hunters have been bumping up against
the spring harvest mark of 50,000 birds for several years now.
Could this be the year hunters finally bag more than 50,000
gobblers?

Well, probably not.

‘The (season) outlook is going to be good for a couple of
different reasons, but we’ll probably see something in the
neighborhood of 46,000 to 48,000 birds (harvested),’ said Scott
Hull, DNR turkey ecologist.

‘Could we hit 50,000? If we have good weather, it’s possible,
but then it probably also has been possible for the last three or
four years,’ he said.

Last year, turkey hunters registered the state’s second highest
overall harvest with 46,662 turkeys. That happened despite some bad
weather during almost all of the six hunting seasons.

The 2004 harvest stands as the current state record with
47,477.

In 2005, hunters brought in 46,183 turkeys.

Even if state turkey hunters don’t shoot 50,000 birds this year,
they should be primed for a good season, Hull said.

He said hunters should see a lot of jakes and 2-year-old
gobblers following two years of very good poult production and
survival.

‘Brood production was very good in 2005 and 2006,’ he said.
‘That was determined by summer brood surveys. Both years were up
from 2004, so there is a good crop of turkeys out there.’

Each year, DNR field staffers count the number of poults and the
number of broods they see.

The past two years, the number of poults-per-hen was up from
2004, when field crews charted 4.3 poults per hen.

That number went up to about 5.1 poults per hen in 2005, and
then to 5.2 in 2006.

The DNR also tracks the number of broods seen by each observer.
That number increased by 54 percent from 2004 to 2005. Then in
2006, that number was up 26 percent from 2005.

‘These are all positive signs. It shows that we’ve had good,
productive summers,’ Hull said. ‘Wisconsin turkeys are expanding
not only their population size, but distribution, as well.’

‘We had some cold and snow, but I don’t think that was enough to
knock turkeys numbers back at all,’ he said.

‘Now, we just have to hope for good weather and hope we don’t
get the wind and rain that we had last spring. It seems like there
was more bad weather than good during just about every hunting
period last spring. One of the latter periods last year, either
five or six, it seems like it rained the whole week,’ Hull
said.

Permits numbers are up again this year, and about 43,000
leftover tags will go on sale over the counter Friday, March 23
(please see a Mixed Bag item on Page 5 of this issue for more
information on leftover tags).

The DNR received applications from 177,159 turkey hunters and
had more than 206,000 tags available for the six spring hunting
periods. This year, the first turkey season opens on Wednesday,
April 11.

There will again be a lot of learn-to-hunt programs being
offered around the state for youth hunters. Many of those programs
will coincide with the the state’s new statewide turkey season for
youths, April 7-8.

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