Biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources have noticed a large increase this year in the number of applications for the fall turkey hunt.

One likely factor is that those individuals who purchased a conservation patron license were able apply online and were not required to file a paper application as in the past.

However, there has also been a significant increase in applications from individuals who did not purchase the broadly inclusive conservation patron license. Fall turkey hunting permits are awarded by lottery for each of seven turkey hunting zones.

“It just seems there is more interest this fall in turkey hunting,” said Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. “Some hunters may have had more difficulty in drawing a preferred tag in some zones.”

Prospects are good for both the fall wild turkey hunt and for the ruffed grouse season in zone A, both of which open with the start of shooting hours on Saturday, Sept. 14.

The fall turkey season runs through Nov. 21 statewide. The extended fall season runs Dec. 2-31 in turkey zones 1-5, which cover the lower two thirds of the state.

As during the past two seasons, hunters may use dogs statewide to hunt wild turkey this fall.

The grouse season in zone A runs through Jan. 31, 2014. Hunters interested in pursuing grouse in southeastern Wisconsin, in zone B, have a short season that opens a month later on Oct. 19 and runs through Dec. 8.

Overall, Wisconsin’s statewide wild turkey population remains strong.

After 30 years of sustained population growth and expansion across the state, wild turkeys are now found statewide, and overall their numbers remain strong this year. Local populations fluctuate as weather affects survival and reproduction rates.

“Of course we had a late winter and cold wet spring,” Walter said, “and this probably led to relatively low production. There were many field observations of late broods; even into August we had people reporting quail-sized turkey poults. This is very small for this time of year.”

This is an indication that first nests failed, prompting hens to start a second nest later in the spring, according to Walter. Even with a late start, these young birds grow very quickly, he adds, and as long as they are able to find sufficient food, they should be fine going into the winter, which is still a couple of months away.

“The flip side of the weather coin is that 2012 was a fantastic production year,” Walter said. “This should mean more adult gobblers are available to hunters.”

Biologists closely monitor harvest during the either-sex fall season, as excessive hen harvest can affect turkey populations. Recent hen harvests in Wisconsin have been very low, however, and hunters can enter the woods comfortable with the knowledge that current hen harvest rates do not play a significant role in the dynamics of Wisconsin’s turkey flock.

Turkey hunters are subject to the blaze orange requirement for ground blinds erected on DNR lands during any gun deer season. Ground blinds on DNR lands left unattended during legal hunting hours must also have the owner’s name and address or DNR Customer ID Number attached near the door opening. Ground blinds may not be left out overnight and must be removed entirely from the property at the close of hunting hours each day.

These ground blind rules do not apply to ground blinds being used for hunting waterfowl or to blinds built only out of natural vegetation found on the DNR property, except that all waterfowl blinds situated on state-owned property and used in hunting waterfowl must always bear the name of the owner affixed permanently to the blind in lettering one-inch square or larger, even when a person is using the blind.

Grouse and turkey hunters must wear blaze orange clothing during any gun or muzzleloader deer season. A hat, if worn, must be at least 50 percent blaze orange.

Grouse hunters encouraged to “Be HIP!” certified if they also plan to pursue woodcock, mourning doves or other migratory game birds

Upland hunters that may harvest woodcock are subject to the federal requirement to be registered with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) before hunting these and other migratory game birds. Registration is free and is available through all license vendors as well as online; hunters will only need to answer a few short questions.

Fall wild turkey and ruffed grouse season dates and reminders

2013 Fall Wild Turkey Season Dates (all zones):

  • Sept. 14 through Nov. 21

2013 Fall Wild Turkey Extended Season Dates for Zones 1-5 ONLY:

  • Dec. 2-31

2013 Ruffed Grouse Season Dates:

  • Zone A: Sept. 14 – Jan. 31, 2014
  • Zone B: Oct. 19 – Dec. 8

2013 Woodcock Season

  • Sept. 21 through Nov. 4

For more information, search the DNR website for “turkey” or “ruffed grouse“.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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