The Turkey Season is Opening This Week
This past weekend, April 7 and 8, the Wisconsin spring turkey season opened with the Youth and Mentor Hunt. This two-day spring, hunt which first began in 2007, gives our youth the chance to hunt and be mentored in a one on one situation where there is a relaxed atmosphere without worrying about competition from regular season hunters for hunting locations. The Mentor Hunting Program which began in the fall of 2009 allows youngsters ages 10-15 to participate in the Youth Hunt without first taking the hunter safety program if they are accompanied by a qualified adult mentor and follow the program’s rules. Young hunters ages 12-15 who have completed their hunter safety program may hunt during the Youth Hunt as long as they are with an adult 18 years or older. Each youth must have a valid 2012 turkey harvest permit, license, and turkey stamp. Youth are allowed to hunt in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period it was issued for, and the young hunter may harvest one male or bearded turkey during this two day hunt. A young hunter who fails to harvest a turkey during this hunt may still use the permit for the time and zone the permit was issued.
Turkeys are now registered online or by the phone. I couldn’t visit any registration stations on Easter Sunday because of this new registration process. But in talking to some friends, who were hunting with their children for the first time, said that they saw birds early during the morning fly-down and also reported seeing groups of turkeys out in agricultural fields pecking left-over grain later in the day. None of my friend’s children harvested a turkey, but they said that they had a great time being “alone” in the woods with their children for the first of hopefully many times. Harvesting a turkey wasn’t the most important thing in the Youth and Mentor Hunt to them, but getting into the field with their children and seeing their excitement and joy was well worth it!
The official spring turkey hunting season opens this coming Wednesday, April 11th and hunters should look forward to a good hunting season. Scott Walter, a DNR upland game biologist, said that the turkeys came through the 2011-2012 winter in good shape with the mild weather that we had most of the winter months. All that is now needed is warm and dry conditions during the important nesting and early brood rearing period to insure natural occurring population limits imposed by predators and habitat. Overall, the spring turkey season looks to be a good one!
DNR biologist, Scott Walter said that despite the unusually warm weather things should not change much for turkeys since “spring turkey seasons are set so that toms can breed many of the hens in a given zone before the opening of that zone. This timing limits accidental harvest of hens but the toms are still active and coming to calls and decoys.”
Breeding activity is influenced by daylight and not so much temperatures. The turkeys breeding and breeding activity occurs about the same time every year. What could affect hunters this spring is the amount of foliage in the woods with leaf growth and development being about three weeks ahead of schedule. The first week of spring hunting will look more like the third week of the season during a “normal” year.
This season more than 233,500 permits were made available to hunters this spring which was slightly more than last spring. There were over 137,500 permits issued in the preference spring drawing which left 90,000 permits for sale. These remaining permits went on sale March 19th and as of March 30th all permits were sold for zones 2, 6, and 7. There were still permits available for the later time periods in zones 1, 3, 4, and 5. Remaining left-over permits can be purchased till sold out or the season ends. Go to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov to see where there is up to date left-over permit information and to answer any more turkey hunting questions or information.
This spring, hunters will have a few more days in the woods to turkey hunt. This spring, there are six 7-day periods starting April 11 and running through May 22. Last fall, the DNR went to a self-registration process that worked out well and now is going to be used in the spring of 2012 for all registrations. There are no longer registration stations. All turkey registration is done online or phone by going to the DNR’s “Wild Turkey Harvest Registration webpages” or by phone at 1-888-HUNT-WIS. You’ll be asked harvest date, time, and location plus the age and sex of the harvested turkey. Remember that only male turkeys may be harvested during the spring season. Be sure to have a copy of the Wisconsin Small Game and Wild Turkey Hunting Regulations for a graphic guide to aging and sexing your turkey and answering any other questions that you may have. I’d always have this booklet in my pocket or hunting vest for information and regulations. The deadline for registering your turkey is 5:00 pm the day after your turkey harvest. At the end of your call or online session you’ll be given a harvest confirmation number to record on your hunting permit.
Hopefully, you’ve done your homework by scouting and finding a location to hunt with a good turkey population. Scouting is the key to turkey hunting. Then, you must have the patience to wait, be quiet, and shoot the tom turkey that is within your shooting range. I’ve been out looking for turkeys the last few weeks and I’ve seen many turkeys that still seem to be grouped up in large groups. Be sure to wear your camouflage, have a good set-up with a decoy or two, if sitting on the ground have a tree wider than your shoulders behind you, know the killing range of your shotgun, and above all be SAFE!!