Turkey harvest strong, but license sales lag
St. Paul — Turkey hunters still are far ahead of the relatively lackluster pace they set last year, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll shoot a record number of birds this spring.
Through the F season, which ended May 17, hunters killed 10,421 turkeys, which is up from last year’s total of 8,331 at the same time. In 2010, when hunters killed a record number of birds, the kill at the same time was 11,241.
As of Monday of his week – about halfway through the G season – hunters had killed 10,901 turkeys.
The final season runs May 25-31.
Even as the turkey kill has been strong, though, license sales are down.
Turkey hunters to date have bought 41,863 licenses. Last year, they bought a total of 45,923 licenses. In 2010, they bought 52,399 of them.
“The number of licenses we have sold is down,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife population and regulation program manager for the DNR. “We’ll probably be down from 2011.”
The major decrease has been in the number of lottery licenses sold: It was 26,758 in 2010, compared with 19,036 this year. Based on that, officials would expect an increase in the sales of surplus permits.
But that hasn’t occurred, either.
“There are maybe two options (to explain the decrease),” Merchant said. “Option one would be that we had a significant change in regulations and that caused some people not to buy a license because they were confused by the regulations. I personally don’t think that’s a real viable option.”
The other hypothesis, he said, “is that it’s a bit of a hangover effect from last year’s poor season. If we see license sales jump again next year, then I’d maybe be willing to back that hypothesis a little more strongly.”
DNR officials don’t like to see the decline in turkey-license sales, though there is a silver lining in that, “Our rate of harvest is going to be outstanding,” Merchant said. “That’s certainly good news.”
If people are sitting out this season because of the poor season they experienced last year, it’s possible they’ll jump back in next year after they read about the good hunting this year, he said.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Merchant said.