Spring wild turkey hunting season begins April 10 with Department of Natural Resources officials saying that hunters should look forward to a good season.

“We had an outstanding year of production in 2012. The warm, dry spring and early summer provided outstanding nesting and brood-rearing conditions for hens,” said Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. “Our statewide surveys revealed the third-highest brood observation rate since 1987 and hunters from across the state reported seeing more turkeys in their area throughout the summer and fall.”

As a result, hunter success rates were up this past fall, and hunters can expect to see this carry over to this spring’s hunt, according to Walter.

“I would expect that hunters might encounter significantly more jakes while in the field this year, and this cohort will continue to provide opportunities for hunters during upcoming years,” Walter said.

Turkey populations rise or fall from one year to the next largely in response to weather conditions during critical nesting and brood-rearing periods. “We’re currently riding the crest of last year’s outstanding production,” said Walter.

Hunters harvested 42,612 turkeys during the spring 2012 season, a 6 percent increase from the harvest of 40,133 birds in 2011.

“Weather conditions during the 2011 and 2012 spring seasons differed greatly,” said Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist. “The start of the 2011 season was marked by snow, below-freezing temperatures, and high winds. The unseasonably warm weather in 2012, with green-up about two or three weeks ahead of schedule, allowed for some pretty comfortable hunting conditions.”

Spring hunter success rates over the past few years have been in the 19 to 25 percent range.

The 2013 spring turkey season will consist of six 7-day time periods. Each time period will begin on a Wednesday and goes to the following Tuesday. The 2013 season closes on May 21.

In total, 234,765 permits were made available for this spring’s hunt, a slight increase from the number available for the 2012 spring season. More than 135,000 of those permits were issued in the drawing for the spring 2013 season, leaving just under 100,000 tags available for over-the-counter sale. These permits went on sale on a zone-per-day basis March 18, and will be available for purchase until they are sold out or the season ends. For up to date information, look for the “spring turkey leftover permit” link by visiting dnr.wi.gov and searching keyword “turkey.”

Some state parks remain open to turkey hunting by special permit only

Turkey hunters considering hunting in a state park are reminded that the previous 16 state parks that were open to turkey hunting by permit only, remain open only to those hunters who have permits to hunt in those parks. Other state park properties are open to any hunter who has a permit for the zone in which the state park is located. State parks are only open for the first three hunting periods.

Use the online harvest registration system

Successful turkey hunters can now register their turkey online or by phone. No in-person registration stations are available. All harvested turkeys must be registered using one of the following two methods:

Call the DNR’s Harvest Registration Hotline at 1-888-HUNT-WIS (1-888-486-8947). The phone-in system will only accept touch-tone entries.

In addition to harvest date, time and location information, hunters will be asked to determine the age (adult or juvenile) and the sex (gobbler or hen) of their harvested turkey. In the field, refer to the Wisconsin Small Game and Wild Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet for a graphic guiding through the aging and sexing process. Hunters will also be asked to record a harvest confirmation number on their hunting permit at the end of the call or online session. Hunters will still have until 5 p.m. on the day after harvest to register their turkey.

Focus on safety for a successful spring turkey season

“The two most critical ingredients for a successful spring hunt are a detailed hunting plan in one hand and a firm grip on firearm safety in the other,” said Tim Lawhern, DNR administrator of enforcement and science. Lawhern also served as the state’s hunter education administrator for 17 years.

“Planning your turkey hunt is critical when two or more hunters are jointly hunting the same area – and then agree to separate if the birds are not spotted,” said Lawhern. He notes that accidents can happen when the plan is abandoned. “Soon, one hunter is stalking either the decoy or the call of the other hunter.”

The best way to avoid this potentially deadly situation, he said, is to have a clear understanding and agreement on the areas each hunter will hunt and to then stick to the plan.

DNR statistics show that 80 percent of accidents during turkey hunting seasons involve hunters mistaking other hunters for game, or hunters failing to positively identify their target. The other 20 percent of accidents are self-inflicted, usually the result of violating one of the four firearm safety rules.

“Turkey hunters, like all hunters, must practice these four basic safety guidelines when handling their firearms,” said DNR warden, Jon King, current hunter education administrator. “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be sure of your target and what’s beyond it, and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.”

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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