The Northwoods has many hunting traditions. They are often rooted in a fairly distant past, but some have more recent beginnings.
Missing from our landscape not too many years ago, the wild turkey is now pursued by hunters statewide.
Turkeys were reintroduced to Wisconsin in 1976, when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) traded ruffed grouse for Missouri turkeys. Turkeys had been exterminated from Wisconsin by the late nineteenth century.
These planted wild turkeys were originally released in southwestern Wisconsin, but they have expanded their range, and are now present in every county in Wisconsin. This is as a result of an initial reintroduction of 334 birds.
As far as wildlife management success stories go, turkeys are a big one.
The inaugural Wisconsin turkey hunt was held in 1983. Twelve-hundred permits were issued, and hunters took about 150 birds. Last year, Wisconsin hunters took home more than 42,000 wild turkeys. Wisconsin's harvest is among the largest in the nation.
Locally, the spring turkey population should be good following a mild winter. The warmth is not likely to affect the breeding season, so hunters should find birds behaving largely "as usual" for the time of year.
DNR upland game biologist Scott Walter said turkey breeding is more influenced by daylight than temperature. He said the increased foliage resulting from the early spring could affect hunters' visibility, however, indicating that by his observations, "leaf development is running three weeks or more ahead" (DNR Weekly News, April 3).
Hunters must apply for a spring tag (applications are due in December), and there are choices of season dates and areas in which to hunt. The DNR issues hunters turkey tags for one specific management zone, and one specific time period.
Spring turkey hunters are allowed to harvest one male turkey.
There are six spring hunting time periods. The first of these (period A) started Wednesday, April 11. New this year, hunting periods last for seven days.The final period ends May 22.
There was a youth hunt this past weekend (April 7-8).
Area hunter Jason DeMeyer planned on taking his son, Jacob, 12, out in the woods for the youth hunt. They set up in the town of Crescent in Oneida County.
DeMeyer said he has personally harvested a number of turkeys, and now enjoys mentoring his son. "It's awesome for me to hunt turkeys with my boy," he said
It will be Jacob's third year joining his dad for the turkey hunt. Last year, Jacob had luck and skill enough to harvest a jake - his first turkey.
DeMeyer said the area has quite a few turkeys, and that landowners are often willing to allow access to those who ask.
He did say, however, that the Feb. 29 snowstorm may have been rough on our local turkeys, and that he wouldn't be surprised if we lost a few birds as a result of the storm.
In addition to hunting the youth season with Jacob, DeMeyer plans to hunt the third season (Period C) in the same area.
A youth who does not successfully harvest a turkey during the two-day hunt can still fill the permit during the time period and in the zone for which the permit was issued. There is no special application procedure for the youth hunt, but young hunters must either be issued a tag through the drawing or purchase a leftover tag. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.
Turkey hunters can register their turkey online or by phone. No in-person registration stations are available.
Turkeys must be registered by calling the DNR's Harvest Registration Hotline at 1-888-486-8947, (the phone-in system will only accept touch tone entries), or by using the online registration system at dnr.wi.gov/harvestdata/default.aspx.
For those interested, the DNR is holding turkey meetings at a number of locations throughout the state this spring. Turkey management is the topic.
Locally, there is one scheduled for Minocqua May 14, 6 p.m., at the AmericInn Minocqua Conference Center, 700 Hwy. 51 N.
For a complete list of meetings, visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com