After yesterday’s unexpected announcement of a 25% reduction in 2014 spring turkey permits charlie emailed Scott Walter:
I’m stunned you reduced the turkey permits!?!
Do you realize how convoluted your press release sounds?
What happened to science based wildlife decisions? This is a very bad precedent for the future of science based wildlife management.
Very disappointing, just plain bad management. This is the kind of position that keeps me a nonmember of the NWTF.
Message received! And on the level of biology and science, I whole-heartedly agree. Our stance remains that weather is the driving force behind turkey population dynamics, and we’ll continue to use outreach and educational tools to relate this to hunters, focusing on the concept- propped up by research- that neither spring nor current fall hen harvests importantly influence turkey numbers. The take-home message is that harvest (permit) does not have to be modified in response to annual swings in turkey numbers. However, our release Tuesday (in which we outlined some of these arguments) stirred up quite a flurry of both internal and external communication that made it clear that there’s a vocal group of hunters who feel, essentially, that to be responsible we “need to do something,” and that “something” is reduce permit levels. So we saw social factors creep into our decision-making process. As we talked, we realized that it’s as important to insure our hunters continue to feel that their concerns are valid, being heard, and that we are willing to not only listen but react to those concerns. This keeps lines of communication open, and allows us to continue to effectively pass on information regarding harvest management and receive meaningful input. This winter has certainly had an impact on turkey populations in the north, and hunter concerns are therefore valid. Though the permit reductions we put into place are not likely to significantly move the needle for turkeys, they may help to smooth our path forward as we continue to engage hunters in our turkey management program. As a scientist, I’m obviously lock-step in line with your statements, but recognizing the broad impact our decisions have for tens of thousands of hunters, I also realize that we’re in this for the long haul, and we’ll better be able to achieve science-based management if those hunters feel engaged in the process. Along these lines, I think our move will pay dividends down the road. The reductions in zone 4 may have some impact on overall permit availability, depending upon how hunter concerns impact demand for permits, but any reduced opportunity should be fairly light.
The waters always get a little muddy at the confluence of science and sociology, but the bottom line is that we’ll have turkeys in the woods this spring, hunters will have the opportunity to get out and pursue them, and we’ll continue to move forward with hunters as partners in program implementation.
Thanks for the input, and for your passion for our turkey resource-
Upland Wildlife Ecologist & Farm Bill Coordinator
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 S. Webster St. WM/6
Madison, WI 53703
charlie writes back:
Thanks for your response Scott, Even though it is very disappointing.
Where will it end?
A “vocal group of hunters” demands you do something and then a different vocal group of hunters demands the permits back (with OTC sales starting Monday it’s too late for them). This is the problem, the first group gets heard and action while the second larger group gets shut out. For no good biological reason 3,633 unit 4 hunters won’t get a chance to hunt just because they trusted WDNR, were satisfied with the permit levels and did not know they needed to be vocal.
As I expressed to you at the last turkey plan meeting this whole permitting scheme discourages the average hunter from turkey hunting. These average hunters are the ones you don’t hear from in any of the satisfaction surveys. They work hard, sometimes long hours trying to fit family duties in between and hope they can get a day or 2 to hunt, if only they can pick up license. 3,633 is an awful lot of lost hunting opportunity. As a result the interest in turkey hunting will continue to erode.
Attached is a typical response I’ve seen on the state’s turkey hunting forums. Looks to me like the typical non-vocal hunter gets it more than you think.
The press release said the reduction in units 4 & 5 would only be 866 permits how did it get reduced in unit 4 by 3,633?
I’m getting quite a bit of angry blowback about this reduction. Can I share your explanation with them?
Feel free to share and I’m more than willing to travel to chat with
folks if that would be appropriate.