Stevens Point, Wis. — Wisconsin turkey hunters can look forward to better turkey hunting next spring – all things considered – along with a few extra permits.
When the DNR Turkey Management Committee met Oct. 23, committee members talked about what they were hearing and seeing in the way of turkey numbers, and almost everyone said they were seeing lots of turkey broods this summer.
Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist and chair of the committee, said he saw a lot of poults this summer. Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist from Viroqua, said he thought 2012 was a really good hatch year. And Kay Brockman Medaris, wildlife biologist from Shawano, said birds seem to be all over, with early hatched birds and late-hatched birds evident.
Walter said some of the brood sizes were the best he has seen in years, and although the committee normally focuses on harvest, over which they have some control by the number of tags issued each year, it’s actually the weather that has a major impact on upland bird populations.
“We are riding a wave of good reproduction,” Walter said.
This past spring was warmer than previous springs, and the summer was very dry in most areas of the state. With the warmth and dryness came improved nesting success and brood production.
The committee is composed of DNR biologists from around the state, plus partners from the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest. The committee, which typically meets in December to set spring tag levels, met earlier this year. One reason was a request by a member of the Natural Resources Board to try to issue spring tags earlier so hunters could plan their spring vacations.
When the committee looks at permit levels, it looks at demand for permits in each zone, reports of past hunter interference and competition, and turkey populations and past harvest success.
Walter said the fall harvest appeared to be up this year. So far, a total of 2,922 birds have been registered, compared with 2,035 by the same time last year.
He said the fall harvest age ratio of juveniles harvested per adult hen is an indicator of brood production that year. This year he’s noticed an increase in the age ratio, which is an indicator that production and harvest are increasing this year.
This past spring, zones 1, 3, 4, and 5 had leftover permits that went unsold, whereas tags in zones 2, 6, and 7 were all issued through the drawing.
The committee evaluated each of the seven zones, and only changed tag numbers in Zone 2, which traditionally has more interested hunters than permits. This zone includes eastern Wisconsin, where there are more people, less turkey habitat, and complaints about agricultural damage.
Dan Eklund, biologist with the Forest Service, noted that although there are many acres of woods in the north, during the early periods of the season hunters are packed into the few scattered openings where toms like to display.
The committee agreed to increase the number of permits by 200 for every time period in Zone 2, but decided to keep all of the other permit levels the same as this past spring in the other six zones.
This means the DNR will have 234,420 permits available for the spring of 2013, not including the state parks and other special hunts area. This total still must to be approved by the DNR wildlife policy team before it is final.
Thus, the number of tags to be issued in each zone for each time period is expected to be:
- Zone 1 – 12,400 permits per time period;
- Zone 2 – 7,000 permits per time period;
- Zone 3 – 10,500 permits per time period;
- Zone 4 – 5,820 permits per time period;
- Zone 5 – 2,000 permits per time period;
- Zone 6 – 750 permits per time period;
- Zone 7 – 600 permits per time period.
This past spring, the DNR had 233,220 permits available (not including those in state park units and disabled hunts). That was up slightly from the 225,940 permits in 2011. The spring 2011 harvest was 40,073, and the spring 2012 harvest was 42,612.
The committee took a look at the fall permit system, and Walter broached the idea of ending the lottery for fall turkey permits. The idea was asked of hunters at public meetings this spring, and 57 percent were in favor of ending the lottery.
If the DNR were to keep permit levels the same as current years and everyone who buys a license were able to get a permit, the DNR would lose the permit application fee, but also would not have the lottery expense.
The committee took no action regarding the idea, but will monitor the response next spring when the Conservation Congress includes a question at the spring hearings about eliminating the drawing for a fall turkey-hunting permit.
The committee also discussed priorities for spending turkey stamp money.
Some of the activities that received support, though not yet final, for receiving stamp funding in the next biennium include access to private land in the south, improving habitat in northern Wisconsin, improving habitat in southern Wisconsin, supporting Wisconsin projects funded by the NWTF Superfund, turkey research and law enforcement programs, education and outreach, and administration.
State statutes mandate that turkey stamp revenue be used to develop, manage, preserve, restore, and maintain the state turkey population.