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Extra spring turkey permit sales will be reduced due to tough winter conditions

MADISON - Over-the-counter spring turkey permits in zones 4 and 5 -- which includes Pierce and St. Croix counties -- will be reduced by 25 percent in response to hunter feedback requesting a conservative approach to the number of permits issued for this spring's hunt, due to concerns that increased winter mortality has depressed turkey numbers. No over-the-counter permits will be sold for Zones 6 and 7.

Although Department of Natural Resources biologists recognize that spring harvests do not play a significant role in wild turkey population dynamics, it is clear that prolonged periods of cold and deep snow have impacted turkeys throughout the northern part of the state.

"The concerns we are hearing from turkey hunters are justified," stated Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. "The deep and persistent snow cover across the northern counties this winter has limited turkey movements. Those flocks without access to adequate food sources are having a difficult time, and mortality could be significant locally.

"Wild turkeys were successfully reintroduced to Wisconsin through a broad partnership that was based on exactly the kind of interest and commitment being expressed by our hunters, and their successful management will continue to incorporate input from the engaged hunters who care about our turkey resource," Walter said .

The decision was made to hold back on issuing the remaining 426 over-the-counter permits in zones 6 and 7, as winter impacts were likely to be most severe in these far-northern zones given the relative lack of an agricultural food base and large tracts of unbroken forest.

The 25 percent reduction in zones 4 and 5 will result in 866 fewer permits being issued. These reductions were put into place to help address concerns that turkey flocks may have suffered significant local losses in areas where they did not have access to adequate food. Permit levels will be reduced by 25 percent in each of the time periods for which over-the-counter permits are available.

"I think this is a great solution that adequately embraces biology yet directly addresses our hunters' concerns," said Rob Bohmann, chair of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. "This response from the department indicates they not only apply sound science to turkey management, but they also consider input from those most directly impacted by the decisions they make."

Hunters interested in purchasing permits for any zone can check the updated over-the-counter permit availability information by visiting and searching keyword "turkey."

Permits will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Each zone will have a designated sales date with sales starting at 10 a.m. and running through midnight each day. The scheduled sales dates are:

Zone 1 - Monday, March 17

* Zone 2 - Tuesday, March 18

* Zone 3 - Wednesday, March 19

* Zone 4 - Thursday, March 20

* Zones 5 - Friday, March 21

Remaining permits for all zones will go on sale on Saturday, March 22.

Though this winter was unusually severe, weather is recognized as the primary factor nudging turkey populations up or down through time.

Warm, dry springs lead to good production levels, and mild winters foster high survival in the north, according to Walter.

"Hunters can expect that the number of turkeys they see, and their success, will vary from year-to-year in response to recent spring and winter weather conditions," said Walter. "Reducing permit levels will certainly keep a few more birds on the landscape this spring, but good production in coming springs will be the trigger that gets turkeys back on track in the north."


Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.