WDNR is conducting meetings around the state to gather input to update Wisconsin's turkey management plan. During turkey season is a terrible time to hold them, even us special interest turkey hunters won't attend if hunting is available. I attended the one last night in Eau Claire, only because I filled my first and only tag for week 2 on Thursday. There were only 3 turkey hunters in attendance, 1 CO, 1 reporter, 1 UW wildlife professor, Scott and Krista the presenters.
This spring if the preliminary numbers hold there are only 100,000 spring turkey hunters left statewide in Wisconsin. Down from the peak of 160,000 5 years ago. Which means we have lost 20,000 hunters since 2011. Each year about 25,000 hunters who were drawn do not buy a license so you can't look at the available and sold permits to determine hunter participation. (these numbers are from my memory of last night's meeting and are rounded estimates from Scott Walter) Very bad long term news for the future of turkey hunting.
Very good news for hunters like me who love to hunt and are willing to pay to hunt, by that I mean buy a lot of OTC permits for each week in 3 units. In spite of all those purchases by us hardcore turkey nuts there is still thousands of OTC tags left. Meaning the turkey population can withstand a lot more hunting.
May I humbly suggest as we enjoy our turkey hunts we give this hunter decline some very serious consideration. Over on the Journal Sentential there are anti hunters posting about there is no need to kill turkeys. This is the first time I have seen antis active against turkey hunting.
The fall season hunter participation is worse there are only about 12,000 active turkey hunters, that is those who go out to hunt a turkey rather than those who just have a license in their pocket just in case a turkey presents an opportunity.
Our sport/way of life is dying right in front of our collective faces. Now the question is what do we do about it? Are we willing to accept change to the season scheme to make it more open and inviting to the not so dedicated turkey hunter? At this point would any change bring back the casual turkey hunter?
If you don't like the sound of casual turkey hunter, remember we all started out learning somehow.