With a wild turkey population of 660,000+ birds, Wisconsin turkey hunting is easy to predict – very good to excellent every spring. The harvest each spring is controlled by the limited number of authorizations and hunter effort. Based on in the field observations and previous harvest data Wisconsin turkey hunters kill 43,000 gobblers if hunter effort remains about the same as in past seasons. If on the other hand spring hunters put in more time and effort during the 2018 spring season, Wisconsin could record more than 50,000 gobblers going into the cook stove.
I have personally been out extensively scouting zones 1,3,4, 6 and 7. In addition, some volunteer folks regularly provide updates regarding what they have seen while hunting, trapping and fishing the more remote areas.
In zone one there is an abundance turkey reported during the fall hunting season continuing through spring 2018. During summer and fall, there were areas along streams and rivers that experienced flooding some of which was extensive. Most of this highwater happened after the nesting season, so the turkeys just flew out of danger and seemed to be returning late in fall and wintered over well.
All across zone one, more turkeys are present than in years past, and it appears there are slightly fewer jakes than usual, so this points to a spring harvest with more adult gobblers than jakes.
The zone 3 turkey population appears to be stable, about the same as last spring, although due to the large blocks of big timber isolated land it is harder to get a good handle on the turkey population here. Backcountry trappers and snowshoers report encountering more turkeys than usual with a decent mix of jakes and gobblers. On average this zone has a lot more room to roam than our other zones. Plus it is under hunted.
Zone 4 a mix of hardwood forest and agriculture maintains a high population of turkeys. This zone should have 25-30% more harvest authorization than it does. Many farmers would like to have more turkeys killed on their land; sadly there are not enough hunters available due to the limited issuance of permits. This fact will keep the turkey harvest equal to past years.
Zones 6 and 7 are the big surprise for this spring. These zones are the most northern turkey habitat in Wisconsin, and due to marginal habitat, no one thought turkeys could live here let alone prosper and prosper they have! So much so, the WDNR has issued some farms turkey shooting permits because the turkeys are too numerous and causing damage. On my trips through these zones, I saw large rafts of turkeys out and about. Clearly, the hunter harvest authorizations need increasing if farmers are granted permits to shoot wild turkeys outside of the season framework.
Zone 5, I don’t get there nor do I have any informants who are out during the offseason. Those whom I am familiar with always get their turkeys during spring, and they go fishing in the fall instead of turkey hunting. No accounting for tastes here.
Zone 2, is a mix of urban and farmlands with some woodland country. I tease my contacts here about how easy it is to shoot a turkey. Last fall while turkey dogging in the northern part of the zone Vic and I killed two birds in two days of hunting. But I must admit we hunted hard during those days. All indicators are for a great spring hunt in this unit.