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Safety priority for wild turkey, ruffled grouse seasons

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- Hunter safety is a top priority during early shooting hours when Wisconsin's fall wild turkey and ruffed grouse seasons open Sept. 18.

State wildlife officials say hunter prospects are good for both seasons.

Wisconsin's statewide wild turkey population remains strong, and wildlife officials maintained the number of fall turkey permits at 95,700, the same number offered during last year's fall turkey season. Despite a slight drop in statewide population levels, Wisconsin ruffed grouse hunters should also experience a rewarding season.

Hunters may now use dogs statewide to hunt wild turkey for the fall 2010 season; use is no longer restricted to the nine-county area in place during the 2009 hunt.

This will be the second year an extended fall season, Nov. 29 through Dec. 31, will be in place. The extended season takes place in Turkey Management Zones 1-5 only.

Hunters are reminded of the requirement for blaze orange on ground blinds (see page 9 in Fall 2010 Small Game Regulations) on DNR lands during any gun deer season.

Ground blinds on DNR lands left unattended must also have the owner's name and address or DNR Customer Identification Number attached near the door opening. Ground blinds may not be left out overnight. Please note that these ground blind rules do not apply to ground blinds used for hunting waterfowl or to blinds built only out of natural vegetation found on the DNR property.

Grouse and turkey hunters should also note that during any gun or muzzleloader deer season, including the Oct. 9-10 Youth Deer Hunt, antlerless hunts and CWD hunts (see 2010 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations), blaze orange clothing is required. A hat, if worn, must be at least 50 percent blaze orange.

Hunters need to keep safety in mind when hunting these challenging game birds.

"There's something very special about turkey and grouse hunting," says Tim Lawhern, DNR hunter education administrator.
Here are some things Lawhern says hunters need to keep in mind when going afield after ruffed grouse and fall turkey:

* In grouse hunting, two is company and three is definitely a crowd. Any hunt with more than two will become difficult to manage from a safety aspect.
 
* Communicate. Grouse cover is thick and sometimes it will be difficult to see a hunting partner who might only be a few yards away.

* Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. Keep it simple. Know in advance how far and in what direction you will be going and when turns will be made.

* Advise someone else of where you will be hunting and when they should expect you back. Then, if something goes wrong, at least someone will know where to start looking.

* Know your safe zone of fire. If you are on the left, your safe zone is to the left and slightly forward. The opposite is the case if you are on the right. Always advance forward in unison and don't get ahead of or behind your partner.

* In heavy cover, shoot only at birds that are at least eight feet above the ground. Don't shoot at low birds that could have a hunter or a dog behind them.

* Wear blaze orange clothing and stay in visual contact with your partner at all times. If you lose sight of your partner, stop hunting, call, and listen until you locate each other.

* Turkey hunters need to be sure of their target - shooting into heavy brush without positive identification can lead to tragedy.

* Follow the four basic rules of firearms safety: TREAT every firearm as loaded. ALWAYS point the muzzle in a safe direction. BE certain of your target and what's beyond it. KEEP your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.

Lawhern advises that hunters to consider wearing some type of eye protection. A good pair of clear or light-colored safety glasses can go a long way toward avoiding injury to eyes and sight.

Grouse and turkey hunters also need to be aware that there might be other hunters afield at the same time after other types of game. Bow hunters may be perched in tree stands and other turkey hunters may be under a tree. Most of them will be wearing full camouflage and will therefore be very hard to see.

For more information see the Wisconsin Wild Turkey at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/hunt/turkey/ and Grouse of Wisconsin pages at  http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/hunt/grouse/ruffindex.htm. 

Hunters can also contact Sharon Fandel, acting upland wildlife ecologist at (608)261-8458; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist at (608)264-8963; Tim Lawhern at (608)266-1317 or Bob Manwell, office of communication at (608)264-9248.

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