Turkey hunters ran into poor hunting conditions during the first half of the spring turkey hunting season, resulting in a preliminary registration total of 37,804 turkeys, which according to Department of Natural Resources officials is an 11 percent decrease from the spring 2012 turkey season.

Unseasonably cold weather persisted into May throughout the state, with deep snow in the north and rain, snow, and wind throughout the early season in the south.

“It really was an amazing contrast, weather-wise, from 2012’s hunt,” said Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “Last year, we were snow-free statewide by opening day, with winter flocks broken up and hens initiating nests. This year, spring didn’t arrive until mid-season, and hunters had to deal with some challenging conditions, especially in the northern zones where many hunters had to don snowshoes to get in the woods after a turkey.”

According to Walter, the poor weather likely reduced hunter effort and made harvesting a bird more challenging because gobblers were still tied to winter flocks of hens.

“Hunters simply won’t spend as much time in the woods in inclement weather. The persistent winter weather therefore presented a double obstacle for hunters, and is the major reason we saw a drop in harvest and success,” said Walter.

Zone 1 again produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 11,054 birds, followed by zones 3 and 2, where hunters registered 9,468 and 8,955 turkeys, respectively. The highest hunter success was in zone 2 with a preliminary success rate of 21 percent, followed by zones 1 and 3 at 18 percent, and zone 5 at 17 percent. Success rates were between 12 percent and 15 percent for zones 4, 6, and 7. Overall, the statewide success rate was 18 percent, compared with 21 percent last year.

Though harvest was down, the number of permits issued for this year’s hunt increased by 5 percent, from 201,984 to 211,307.

“The increase in permits is likely due to hunters purchasing more leftover permits for the later time periods to take advantage of better hunting weather,” said Walter. “Harvest during the first two time periods was down 34 percent statewide compared to 2012, yet we actually harvested more total birds during the last four time periods this year. It’s clear that hunters who were able to do so took advantage of over-the-counter permits to enjoy a later-season hunt with good weather conditions and turkeys that were finally engaged in normal breeding behavior.”

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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