A lot of questions are being asked about the extent of Wisconsin’s winter deer and turkey kill. Of course it will vary by area.
All the reports coming in here concerning turkeys are indicating the population is strong and vibrant with strong gobbling reports coming from all across the state of Wisconsin. So it is looking like as predicted Wisconsin’s 2014 spring wild turkey season is going be a good one. Additionally the early reports are of strong gobbling all across northern Wisconsin including units 4, 6, & 7 where WDNR needlessly cut the spring permits. Apparently northern turkeys are either well adapted for survival during adverse conditions or they use their wings and sharp eyesight to find better areas of food and cover to move to. Then return as temperatures become mild and the snow melts.
Unfortunately deer become stranded in deep snow leaving them dependent on local food and shelter conditions. This clearly has led to some die-off in areas exactly how extensive we don’t know yet. Apparently all the monitoring takes place on computer screens these days rather then in the field. In West Central Wisconsin I documented 31 winter killed deer in about a 1,000 acre area, additionally buddies reported more dead deer further north. I reported my findings to the local WDNR manager, he did not inquire any further than expressing surprise at the high number. Even with that overwinter kill deer sightings are very high this spring. A lot of deer survived here in spite of the harsh winter.
WDNR does not have teams that go out and observe deer or turkeys across the state to assess the health of populations. Many think they do but old fashion hands on wildlife management is rarely practiced any more. This is true with the vast majority of game departments across the country. For better or worse they rely on internet postings on social sites and blogs.
Not much happens if a hunter shoots an obliviously sick animal and takes it to a WDNR headquarters or sends pictures. There is no tracking or analysis performed. Hunters are left to their own to really figure out what has happened in their areas or what is happening.
Now is the time to get out to inspect your hunting area if you think there has been an overwinter kill. It’s easy to see the remains now. Here are some pictures of what you may find.
Turkey feathers last a long time.
The feathers above are well preserved so if you scout your area evidence of winter kill will still there.
Carcass bones remain in the natural kill area longer than most people think. Look for these and feathers as you scout your area.
Deer carcasses are easy to find especially if you hike with your dog. It is natural for them to become curious and point the way to you. This grizzly stuff to find but important in order to try and understand how a hunting area was affected by the severe winter. If deer were stranded in a deer yard for the winter you will find several carcasses in the general vicinity.
If you do not find evidence of dead turkeys or deer as pictured above perhaps you can consider your hunting area in good shape. Be thankful. Study what deer and turkeys ate over the winter and work to increase the supply of those food items for the next severe winter. This is how carrying capacity of the land can be increased.