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Forecasts Hunting Turkey

Wisconsin Turkey Hunting Forecast for 2014

by Dan Small   |  March 11th, 2014 0
Gobbler, Turkey, Turkey Hunting, Hunting Turkey, Wisconsin Turkey Hunting

Pictured are Bryce Mattson,T.J. Kelley, and Nolan Mattson from left to right got their first turkey taken in Rock County Wisconsin.

Turkey restoration in the Badger State began in 1976, and less than a decade later we held our first spring hunt. In the 30 years since that first season, wild turkeys have spread throughout the state and hunting opportunities have continued to increase. Today, Wisconsin stands among the top turkey states in terms of population numbers and stability, hunting opportunities, total harvest and hunter success rates.

The heart of the Wisconsin turkey hunting program is the spring hunt. Over the past 30 years, our spring hunt has evolved from three five-day periods in a handful of southwestern counties to six weeklong hunts in seven zones across the entire state. Permits are distributed by random drawing, and there are always permits left over to accommodate hunters who forgot to apply by the Dec. 10 deadline, or those who want the chance to hunt two or more periods or zones.


Last spring, Wisconsin hunters tallied 37,798 turkeys. That was down about 9 percent from 2011, and well below the record harvest of 52,880, reported in 2008. In fact, last year’s total was the lowest this century. That fact doesn’t concern DNR upland game bird ecologist Scott Walter, however, who says the rise and fall is natural and is nothing for hunters to worry about.

“It’s important for hunters to recognize that turkey population size is most sensitive to variation in weather conditions,” Walter says. “Our best data suggest that harvest itself has little impact on turkey population trends. Therefore, even when populations dip, hunters should not be concerned that harvest will exacerbate declines, nor should they expect any reduction in their hunting opportunity. As conditions for production improve in future springs, turkey numbers will bounce back.”

About the same number of turkey-hunting permits are available this year as last. Last year’s overall success rate was 18 percent, down from 21 percent the previous year and way down from the average 25 percent success rate we have had for a decade or more. Seventy-three percent of the birds taken last spring were adult toms. That is the lowest rate since 2006. From 2007-2012, adult toms averaged 80 percent, which suggests brood production was low during those years, or that turkey hunters were very selective.

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