Madison – The new call-in and online registration process for fall turkey hunting seems to be going smoothly, according to Sharon Fandel, DNR assistant upland game biologist.
Phone calls and online entries are coming in regularly as hunters shoot their birds. The DNR has not fielded many calls from confused hunters.
"People know about it," Fandel said.
As of Oct. 21, hunters had registered 2,559 birds by phone or on the web. Fandel said it would be difficult to say whether that number is on pace with previous years because, in the past, fall turkey registrations were never tracked on a week-by-week basis. All of the registration stubs were delivered to wildlife biologists who entered the information as they had time, and not necessarily in chronological order.
Fandel said the DNR is looking at gauging reporting compliance by doing callbacks to hunters who were issued fall permits.
DNR chief warden Randy Stark agreed with Fandel on turkey hunters' compliance with the new registration process.
"Everything seems to be working fine," he said. "We have not had any complaints or issues come to our attention regarding the new system. At this point things seems to be working smoothly."
He had checked screen entries for registrations on two days last week and noticed that about 25 percent of hunters registered birds via the DNR website, and about 75 percent used phones to complete their registration.
While this call-in process is new to turkey hunting, goose hunters have had to call in their kills now for a number of years. Turkey call-in registration will continue with the spring season.
"There will be no option of taking turkeys to a registration station in the spring – it will be phone-in or online for turkeys from here on out," said Fandel.
Turkey hunters call a toll-free number – (888) HUNT WIS – to register their bird.
That number, which taps out to be (888) 486-8947, links hunters to an automated system set up at the DNR's headquarters in Madison. The system walks hunters through the process. Hunters enter their DNR customer number to identify just who is registering a bird. At the end of the call, hunters get a confirmation number that can be written on the carcass tag.
Game wardens have the ability look up confirmation numbers and customer numbers to confirm that a bird was registered.
That registration information is then manually downloaded twice a day by DNR staff.
Hunters may also register their turkeys by going online to the DNR website. They then must navigate to the turkey-hunting page. Begin the online registration process by entering a customer number and birth date.
Whether using the phone or computer, hunters are asked to enter the date, time and location of their kill, along with age (adult or juvenile) and the sex (gobbler or hen) of their turkey. The Wisconsin Small Game & Wild Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet contains a graphic that will help hunters through the aging and sexing process, said Fandel.
Hunters have until 5 p.m. the day after to register a turkey.
As for how this fall's hunt is going, Fandel said she has heard little comment from the field.
"There are plenty of birds out there. I have seen some very young looking poults. There could have been some late hatches, but it's hard to say whether it's across the board, or in localized areas."
Hunting turkeys in the fall with dogs is legal in all turkey zones, but Fandel has not heard of many hunters making use of that technique.
"I think very few people know of that tradition here in Wisconsin, but as the word gets out I could see more people giving it a go," she said.
Last fall, hunters shot 7,394 birds on 61,567 issued tags. The record kill for the fall season came in 2003 with 12,554 birds on 78,751 tags. Hunters also shot more than 12,000 birds in 2006 and 2007. Wisconsin's fall season began in 1989 with 1,570 turkeys on 7,260 tags.