Preliminary totals show Wisconsin turkey hunters registered 38,556 birds during the 2019 spring turkey hunting season, virtually unchanged from the 38,885 birds registered in the spring 2018 season.
Although average temperatures were slightly below normal for the months of April and May, weather conditions were more favorable in 2019 than in 2018, specifically in the early and late seasons. This was especially apparent when comparing success rates during the youth hunts between 2018 and 2019. In 2018, a severe snowstorm covered much of the state and led to a below-average harvest of 950 birds for the youth hunt. In 2019, more favorable weather conditions led to a 49% increase in harvest, with a total of 1,953 birds registered during the youth hunt.
"We received a fair number of reports of uncharacteristic turkey breeding behavior this year, with toms being less responsive to calling in some of the early and middle time periods," said Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. "Despite that, Wisconsin turkey hunters had another excellent year in the field."
A total of 213,078 harvest authorizations were issued in 2019, with 135,421 harvest authorizations awarded through the drawing and 77,657 sold over the counter. Harvest authorization sales were also virtually unchanged from 2018, when a total of 212,781 authorizations were sold.
Zone 1 produced the highest overall harvest, accounting for 10,334 birds, followed by Zones 3 and 2. Hunters registered 9,499 birds in Zone 3 and 9,321 birds in Zone 2. Overall statewide success rate was 18.1 percent compared to 18.3 percent in 2018.
The 2019 spring season started on April 13 with the youth hunt. The regular season began April 17 and ran through May 28, broken down into six separate time periods. Having separate time periods allows for maximum hunter opportunities and helps minimize interference rates. Recent surveys show over 75% of turkey hunters support the current season framework.
Fall turkey hunting season
As in the 2018 season, the 2019 fall turkey drawing has been waived. A fall turkey harvest authorization will be issued with every fall turkey or conservation patron license purchase. Hunters will choose a zone at the time of purchase for which their harvest authorization will be valid. Bonus harvest authorizations, formerly known as leftover tags, will be available for purchase in select zones starting in August.
The fall 2019 wild turkey season for Zones 1-5 is Sept. 14-Jan. 5, 2020. For Zones 6 and 7, the season is Sept. 14-Nov. 22.
The 2019 Fall Turkey and 2020 Spring Turkey regulations are included in the 2019 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulation, available now online and at license vendors around the state.