dean hall/lakeland times
A tom turkey makes his way through the tall grass near Woodruff on Monday. The DNR recently released the harvest totals from the 2019 spring turkey season. This year Wisconsin hunters bagged 38,556 birds which was very close to last years total of 38,885 turkeys.
7/6/2019 7:30:00 AM 2019 turkey harvest very similar to 2018
Jacob Friede Of The Lakeland Times
The Department of Natural Resources has released the preliminary harvest totals from the 2019 turkey season and they revealed a year quite similar to last.
Across the state, 38,556 turkeys were harvested during the 2019 spring season. That was very close to the total from 2018 when Wisconsin turkey hunters bagged 38,885 birds.
Like last year, the southern half of the state was the most productive. The most birds were taken in management Zone 1 where a total of 10,334 turkeys were harvested. That was followed by Zone 3 where 9,499 birds were bagged. Zone 2 had the third highest total with 9,321 turkeys harvested.
In management zones 5 through 7, which encompasses Northern Wisconsin, 3,333 birds were harvested during the spring season. Last year hunters up north registered 3,271 turkeys.
In Zone 7, in which Vilas and most of Oneida County lie, 467 turkeys were bagged. Last year 494 birds were harvested in Zone 7.
The similarity in harvest totals, especially in Zone 7, from 2018 to 2019 are evidence that the turkeys managed the tough winter fairly well. Based on the Winter Severity Index (WSI), the Northwoods experienced a severe winter. The WSI adds the number of days, from December through April, with snow depth of at least 18 inches to the number of days when the temperature reached zero degrees or below. A score of anything over 80 is considered severe. At the Woodruff monitoring station the WSI ended up being 87 this year and in Rhinelander it ended up being 82.
"It's possible that there was some increased overwinter mortality, but it didn't appear to have a significant impact on the population," DNR upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha said.
Witecha said even though heavy snow can limit a turkey's ability to find food, the birds are resilient in it.
"Turkeys have surprised biologists with their heartiness and ability to withstand even the harshest of Wisconsin winters," he said. "These birds are capable of roosting for several days and can lose up to 30 percent of their body weight and still survive."
While most harvest numbers stayed consistent with last year's, the one major difference between 2018 and 2019 was the youth hunt. In 2018, a statewide snowstorm led to a below-average harvest of only 950 birds for the youth hunt. This year, with better weather, young Wisconsin hunters took 1,953 birds during the youth hunt that began on April 13. That was a 49 percent increase.
Overall, nearly the same amount of hunters took to the woods this year in search of a gobbler;213,078 harvest authorizations were issued in 2019 compared to 212,781 in 2018. The overall success rate for the state was 18.1 percent. Last year the success rate was 18.3.
Witecha said he received a fair amount of reports of toms being less responsive to calling this year during the early and middle time periods, but, as the numbers show, he said that didn't really affect the harvest.
"Wisconsin turkey hunters had another excellent year in the field," he said.
For the 2019 fall turkey season, the drawing has been waived, as it was in 2018. Hunters can choose which zone they will hunt in at the time they purchase their tags. The dates are set with zones 1 through 5 being open from Sept. 14 through Jan. 5 and zones 6 and 7 running from Sept. 14 through Nov. 22.
Jacob Friede may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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