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Wisconsin spring turkey harvest up 6 percent

From Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- Wisconsin turkey hunters took advantage of comfortable hunting conditions this spring, judging by the preliminary registration total of 42,612 turkeys, a 6 percent increase over the spring 2011 turkey season.

A total of 201,984 permits were issued for this year’s hunt, down slightly from the 2011 total of 210,384.

Unseasonably warm weather characterized much of the season, in stark contrast to last year when snow, wind, and rain hindered hunters during the early time periods. “It really was an amazing contrast, weather-wise, from last year’s hunt,” said Scott Walter upland wildlife ecologist.

Zone 1 again produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 12,075 birds, followed by Zones 2 and 3, where hunters registered 10,486 and 10,283 turkeys, respectively. The highest hunter success was in Zone 2 with a preliminary success rate of 26 percent, followed by Zone 3 at 21 percent and Zone 1 at 20 percent. Success rates were between 16 percent and 19 percent for Zones 4 through 7. Overall, the statewide success rate was 21.1 percent, up from 19.1 percent last year.

The very different weather conditions during the 2011 and 2012 seasons may also have influenced how hunter effort was distributed throughout the season. Harvest during the first time period was 29 percent higher in 2012 than in 2011, but tapered off more steeply throughout the season.

Biologists say the recent mild winter bodes well for turkeys in Wisconsin, as well as prospects for this fall’s season.

“The fact that hunters were frequently harvesting exceptionally heavy gobblers this spring suggests that turkeys came out of the winter in good condition. This is especially important in the northern zones, where harsh winters can lead to mortality, and suggests that turkeys statewide likely entered the spring in good condition for breeding,” McGinley said.

A successful nesting and brood-rearing season will help propel turkey numbers upward. Generally speaking, dry conditions during June keep newly-hatched chicks from getting chilled and suffering from exposure, and lead to good production in all upland game bird species.

The 2012 Fall Turkey and 2013 Spring Turkey regulations are included in the 2012 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations pamphlet, available online at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/regulations.html#tabx4.

The fall 2012 wild turkey season runs from Sept. 15 through Nov. 15, with an extended season in Turkey Management Zones 1-5 only from Nov. 26 through Dec. 31. The deadline for applying for a fall permit through the lottery process is Aug. 1. Applications cost $3 and can be purchased over the internet through the Online Licensing Center, at license sales locations, or by calling toll-free (877) 945-4263.

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