DNR unveils turkey, ruffed grouse, woodcock forecasts

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced the season outlook for ruffed grouse, woodcock and wild turkey, plus essential updates for hunters to be in the know ahead of the Sept. 18 and Sept. 25 season openers.
The DNR provides hunters with free online mapping tools to identify habitat types and public land open to hunting upland game birds. The online Fields and Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Lands/FFLIGHT.html provides upland gamebird hunters with an interactive way to locate cover suitable for ruffed grouse and woodcock, managed dove fields and properties stocked with game farm pheasants. On the go, hunters can use the DNR's free Hunt Wild Wisconsin mobile app at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/wildwiapp.html.

Ruffed Grouse
The ruffed grouse season is open in Zone A Sept. 18-Jan. 9, 2022. This earlier closure than previous years follows the DNR's 10-year ruffed grouse management plan. In Zone B, the season is open Oct. 16-Dec. 8.
Statewide drumming survey results indicated a decrease of 6% in breeding grouse compared to 2019. Surveys were not completed in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. In Wisconsin, the 10-year ruffed grouse population cycle typically peaks in years that end in 0, 9 or 1. This likely indicates we are entering the typical "down-phase" of the 10-year cycle.
To help track West Nile virus impacts in ruffed grouse, hunters are encouraged to participate in the final year of the DNR's West Nile virus sampling project this fall. As a reminder to hunters who requested a kit, they are now available for pickup at the service station you indicated on the survey.

Wisconsin's woodcock hunting season is open Sept. 25-Nov. 8. Like waterfowl and mourning doves, woodcock are migratory game birds, so hunters planning to pursue them must register annually with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/hip.html.
A small game license is required to hunt woodcock and ruffed grouse. Small game licenses and HIP registration are available online through Go Wild or at any license agent.

The fall turkey season opens statewide on Sept. 18. Closing dates for the fall turkey season vary by management zone. In zones 1-5, the season closes Jan. 9, 2022. In zones 6 and 7, the season closes Nov. 19. The use of dogs to hunt wild turkey is allowed statewide for the fall seasons.
Overall, Wisconsin's statewide wild turkey population remains strong. Following 30 years of sustained population growth and expansion across the state, wild turkeys are now found statewide. Wild turkey numbers appear to have stabilized at levels suitable to available habitat and will likely ebb and flow around those levels in response to weather, food availability and other natural factors.
Biologists closely monitor harvest during the either-sex fall turkey hunting season, as excessive hen harvest can affect turkey populations. Recent hen harvests in Wisconsin have been very low, and current hen harvest rates do not play a significant role in Wisconsin's turkey flock dynamics.
"Last winter was relatively mild with low snow levels statewide and few long-lasting cold snaps," said Alaina Gerrits, DNR Marinette County Wildlife Biologist. "Mild winter conditions paired with an early spring green-up and dry weather point to favorable brooding conditions for 2021. All field reports suggest a healthy and robust turkey population providing many opportunities for fall hunting."
Turkey hunters must have a fall turkey license, fall turkey harvest authorization and annual Wild Turkey Stamp. Each fall turkey license or conservation patron license now includes a fall turkey harvest authorization. Hunters must choose the zone for which their harvest authorization will be valid at the time of purchase. If more than one fall turkey harvest authorization is desired, hunters may purchase bonus turkey harvest authorizations in select zones while inventory remains. Licenses, stamps and bonus turkey harvest authorizations are available online at Go Wild or any license agent.
During gun deer season, turkey hunters are reminded that ground blinds on DNR lands are subject to highly visible color requirements. All unoccupied ground blinds must have the owner's name and address or DNR customer ID number near the door opening. Blinds and elevated devices can be left overnight Sept. 1 to Jan. 31 on DNR-managed properties north of Highway 64. Blinds and elevated devices south of Highway 64 on DNR-managed lands may not be left out overnight and must be removed daily at the close of shooting hours. Blinds used for waterfowl hunting or constructed entirely of vegetation do not have to be removed daily.
For more information on wild turkeys in Wisconsin, visit the DNR Turkey Hunting and Management webpage at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/turkey.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Waterfowl hunters: Wear your life jackets

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is reminding waterfowl hunters to follow the best safety practices as they hit the water this upcoming season.
Wisconsin has had 20 boating accident deaths so far this year, according to DNR records at https://widnr.widen.net/s/nwtd9t5dt9/2021-boat-fatality-%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20summary. More than 74,000 waterfowl hunters are expected on waterways this year, which begins with the youth hunt on Sept. 18.
It’s important for hunters to follow these safety tips to prevent boating accidents and deaths:
* Be aware that water temperatures are rapidly cooling at this time of year. A fall overboard can turn dangerous quickly as hypothermia sets in. Wearing a life jacket can keep individuals on the surface and allow energy to be used to keep warm rather than to stay above the water.
* Remember to protect canine companions on the water – they need life jackets, too.
* Never overload the boat. If hunting on a large river or lake, use a boat that is big enough to handle rough water.
* Balance the boat evenly and keep weight low for stability.
* Be on the lookout for elements outside of your control, such as changing weather, or a slightly submerged stump, rock, sandbar or floating debris.
* If in a boat or canoe with a hunting partner, establish and communicate a safe fire zone. Do not stand to shoot if a partner is shooting from a seated position.
* Always carry a cellphone so communication can happen in case of an emergency.
“Waterfowl hunters should keep in mind that hunting dogs can get excited and start jumping all over the boat, increasing the risk for capsizing. Hunting boats also tend to be smaller and less stable than average boats,” said Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR Boating Safety Administrator. “This can be a recipe for trouble, so waterfowl hunters should always wear their life jackets.”
Hunters should also be aware of the danger of waders on the water. If a boat capsizes and the hunter is ejected, the waders would fill with water, creating suction around the hunter’s legs and feet making it difficult to remove the waders. This added water weight greatly increases the risk of drowning and wearing a life jacket can help keep hunters afloat.
One wearable life jacket is required for each person on board a boat and must fit properly. In addition to the wearable life jackets, a throwable personal flotation device, such as a ring buoy or standard seat cushion, is required for every boat longer than 16 feet.
For a complete guide to regulations and law changes, reference the 2021 Combined Wisconsin Hunting Regulations booklet at https://widnr.widen.net/s/chhtkdmjsh/wm0685-2021_small.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

DNR to monitor CWD samples in northeastern counties

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is asking deer hunters to help monitor chronic wasting disease (CWD) in northeast Wisconsin and surrounding counties.
This year’s monitoring will complete multi-year, statewide CWD sampling efforts that began in 2018. The northeast counties included in this effort are Brown, Calumet, Door, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago.
The DNR has made CWD testing available and accessible to every hunter in the state by offering free testing and various options to make the sample drop-off process fast and convenient for hunters. Active CWD sampling efforts are currently underway in counties where CWD has already been found.
“We especially encourage hunters in northeast Wisconsin and around our other CWD surveillance areas to get their adult deer tested this season,” said Amanda Kamps, DNR Wildlife Health Conservation Specialist. “Each test result helps us better understand CWD distribution.”
The DNR offers four easy ways to submit a sample and an online map at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/registersample.html to find sampling locations near you. Be sure to check the map of sampling locations regularly to see additional options as they become available.
1. Self-service kiosks open 24/7 have supplies for hunters to drop off their adult deer’s head with 5 inches of neck attached for testing. Check the DNR’s CWD sampling page before your hunt to find a location near you.
2. In-person with cooperating meat processors, taxidermists and other businesses Visit a cooperating partner for assistance with CWD testing.
3. At-home lymph node sampling Hunters can extract the retropharyngeal lymph nodes using an instruction kit provided by the DNR and return them to the DNR for testing. Contact your local wildlife biologist to get a kit.
4. By appointment with local DNR staff Hunters can contact their local wildlife biologist to schedule an in-person appointment.
Hunters are encouraged to use the DNR’s new online form at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/registersample.html to register your deer, find a CWD sampling location and enter information on your harvest. The online form automatically fills in your name, contact information, customer ID number and harvest registration number and includes an interactive map to drop a pin on your harvest location. Submitted registration information is available in your Go Wild harvest history.
For more information, visit the DNR’s CWD webpage at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/cwd.html.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Drought conditions prove challenging for pheasants, observers

Pheasant numbers have declined by 25 percent from 2020, but numbers remained on par with the 10-year average, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ annual roadside wildlife survey.
“While the decline from last year sounds significant, pheasant numbers are actually fairly good and hunters will likely still see plenty of birds when the season opens Oct. 16,” said Tim Lyons, DNR upland game research scientist. “This year, smoke from wildfires and drier-than-average conditions during the survey may have made birds less detectable, possibly skewing the index lower.”
While down from last year, this year’s pheasant indices are on par with or exceed 10-year averages in all regions of the state.
Weather and habitat are the main influences on Minnesota’s pheasant population. Weather causes annual fluctuations in pheasant numbers, while habitat drives long-term population trends.
This year’s statewide pheasant index was 41 birds per 100 miles of roads driven. All regions except the southeast saw a decline from last year in the pheasant index. Still, the southwest (63.2), south central (49.8), and west central (43.3) regions all exceeded the statewide average and remain the prime pheasant hunting areas of the state.

Habitat factors
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in particular play a large role in providing habitat for pheasants in Minnesota. The program, authorized under the federal Farm Bill, pays farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and restore vegetation that will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators.
Although expiring contracts led to a decline in CRP acres in 2021, there was a net increase in conservation on private lands as more than 10,000 acres were protected through other federal and state set-aside programs. An additional 24,000 acres of habitat were permanently protected through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquisitions and by the DNR as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).
Many publicly owned lands are open to hunting, as are private lands enrolled in the state’s Walk-In Access program. Hunters can use the DNR’s online mapping tools to find WMAs at mndnr.gov/wmas, and the DNR Recreation Compass to help locate state hunting grounds and private lands enrolled in the Walk-In Access program, including updates on the condition of specific properties.

How the DNR conducts the roadside wildlife survey
Monitoring pheasant population trends is part of the DNR’s annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955. Wildlife managers and conservation officers in the farmland regions conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year’s survey consisted of 163, 25-mile-long routes, with 148 routes located in the pheasant range.
Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number of farmland wildlife game species they see. The data provide an index of species abundance and are used to monitor annual fluctuations and long-term population trends of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves, sandhill cranes and white-tailed deer.

Additional resources
The 2021 August Roadside Survey report, a map of pheasant hunting prospects, data for other surveyed species, and information on hunting regulations and bag limits are available on the DNR pheasant hunting page at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/pheasant/index.html.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR invites deer hunters to share their wildlife observations

Minnesota deer hunters are encouraged to report wildlife they see during their upcoming hunts using an online questionnaire from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“We’re asking hunters to share their observations of wildlife to help broaden our knowledge about deer and other wildlife species,” said Eric Michel, DNR ungulate research scientist. “This is the questionnaire’s second year in use, and we’re hoping to build on the helpful results from last year.”
The DNR uses the results from this crowd-sourced data collection effort to compare what hunters see to population estimates that are a baseline for managing wildlife.
Using a mobile device or desktop computer, hunters can enter information on the DNR website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/management/deer-hunter-field-log.html about wildlife they see during each day of hunting including deer, turkeys, bears, fishers (pictured) and other species. Hunters also will be able to report specific information about any deer they harvest, including antler size. Hunters are encouraged to fill out a report after each hunt even if they don’t see any deer that day.
The questionnaire will be available when archery deer season begins Saturday, Sept. 18, and remain open through the end of the year.
The DNR developed the bow hunter survey following a 2016 report from the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor requesting more checks of the model used to estimate deer populations for each deer permit area. The observation surveys are a way to compare hunter-provided data with DNR population estimates.
“We’re confident in the model we use to estimate trends in deer populations. By participating in this questionnaire, hunters provide another way to check our estimates of deer populations, in addition to observations from DNR wildlife managers,” Michel said.
The DNR has deer population goals for areas throughout the state and the public has regular opportunities to provide input. Each year, wildlife managers use deer population estimates to figure out what level of deer harvest will move a local deer population closer to goal. The DNR then sets hunting regulations using past hunter participation and success rates, with the aim of harvest at a level that moves the population toward goal.
The DNR will report results from hunters’ observations in an annual research summary online. Last year’s results and previous bow hunter survey results are available on the DNR website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/management/statistics.html.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Wisconsin archery, crossbow deer hunting open Sept. 18

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters of their first opportunity to pursue deer this fall with the opening of the 2021 archery and crossbow deer seasons.
These seasons run concurrently statewide from Sept. 18 to Jan. 9, 2022. The archery and crossbow seasons extend to Jan. 31, 2022, in 27 Farmland Zone Deer Management Units and all metro sub-units.
"We saw another mild winter last year, so Wisconsin deer hunters can look forward to increased harvest opportunities this season,” said Jeff Pritzl, DNR Deer Program Specialist. “Whether you’re hunting public or private land, I encourage hunters to get out and become familiar with seasonal food sources as this will influence deer movement in their local area.”
In 2020, archery and crossbow hunters harvested more than 110,000 deer, including more than 64,000 bucks, an increase from 2019.
Those interested in hunting with both a vertical bow and crossbow may do so by paying full price for one license and purchasing a $3 upgrade for the second license. Only one bow buck harvest authorization will be issued to hunters who purchase both licenses.

The DNR urges hunters to review these four rules of safety (TAB-K) before enjoying the archery and crossbow season:
* Treat every bow/crossbow as if it were loaded.
* Always point the bow/crossbow in a safe direction.
* Be certain of your target; what is before and beyond it.
* Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

Archery-Specific Safety Tips
When heading out to hunt during the archery or crossbow seasons, remember these additional safety tips:
* Crossbows have a safety. Immediately after cocking, always check to make sure that your bow is on safe.
* Always use bolts/arrows recommended by the manufacturer and handle carefully.
* Protect yourself and the arrow points with a covered arrow quiver.
* The safest way to carry, transport and raise or lower a crossbow from a stand is always to have the crossbow un-cocked.
* The safest way to un-cock a crossbow is to fire a bolt into the ground or target.
* Make sure that the limb tips are free of obstructions and your fingers, hand or arm are not in the string path at any time while the crossbow is cocked.
* Know your range for accuracy.
Tree stand safety is also a key consideration through all the deer hunting seasons. Tree stand incidents are a leading cause of injury to hunters. Always wear a safety harness, use three points of contact when going into or out of the stand and use a haul line to bring the unloaded bow or crossbow into the stand. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
For more information regarding tree stand safety, visit the DNR webpage at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/education/OutdoorSkills/TreestandSafety.

Bonus Authorizations Still Available
Bonus antlerless harvest authorizations remain available in many counties. Bonus antlerless harvest authorizations may be filled using any weapon type during the appropriate season with the appropriate license but must be filled in the designated zone, unit and land type (public or private). Bonus antlerless harvest authorizations are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the cost of $12 each for residents, $20 each for non-residents and $5 for youth hunters under age 12.
In 2021, a Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless harvest authorization is included with each deer hunting license purchased in units that offer them. Some units will offer more than one antlerless deer harvest authorization with each deer license.
Hunters who have not yet purchased a deer hunting license will be prompted to select the county and land type for the Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless harvest authorizations at the time of purchase. Purchase a license online at GoWild.WI.Gov or at license sales locations.
Hunters who purchased their deer hunting licenses before June 1 may now select their Farmland (Zone 2) harvest authorizations. Hunters who have yet to determine a hunting location may defer the Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless harvest authorization selection. When ready, hunters may make a harvest authorization selection online from their Go Wild account to print themselves or visit an authorized license sales location to print, requiring a $2 processing fee.

As a reminder, all harvested deer must be registered electronically by 5 p.m. the day after the deer is recovered. GameReg is simple, fast and convenient for hunters. As conservationists, hunters understand the importance of harvest registration and what it means to deer management in Wisconsin. The system will prompt hunters to answer a series of questions, beginning with the unique harvest authorization number and their date of birth.
Hunters have three options to register their deer:
* Online at GameReg.WI.Gov (fastest and easiest option).
* By phone at 1-844-426-3734 (1-844-GAME-REG).
* Electronically at a participating in-person registration station (keyword "registration stations").
More information regarding electronic registration is available by visiting the DNR webpage  at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Hunt/ereg.html.  

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Minnesota Youth Waterfowl Weekend Sept. 11-12

During the youth waterfowl hunt, youth hunters get their own two-day opportunity to learn how to hunt waterfowl this weekend with an adult who is not hunting.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, and Sunday, Sept. 12, waterfowl hunters age 17 and younger, when accompanied by a non-hunting adult age 18 and older, may take ducks, geese, mergansers, coot and moorhens from a half hour before sunrise to sunset.
For details, see DNR waterfowl hunting regulations at https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/hunting/waterfowl.pdf#page=8.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR