One-scaup bag limit possible by this fall

11 percent more than previous record

By Joe
Associate Editor

St. Paul – Turkey hunters in Minnesota shot more birds during
this spring’s hunt than ever before.

The unofficial tally: 9,386 turkeys.

That’s nearly 1,000 birds more than the previous high – 8,434,
the number hunters killed in 2004 – and officials expect it to rise
slightly in coming days as other registrations are tallied.

‘I think we had a really good turkey season; you certainly can‘t
complain about the harvest numbers,’ said Bill Penning, DNR
farmland wildlife program leader. ‘We just had good reproduction
last year and good weather this year.’

Indeed, hunters reported seeing good numbers of jakes in the
field during this spring’s season – it began April 18 and ended May
31 – and mostly good weather allowed hunters to stay in the field
longer. Last spring, at least two of the hunting weekends were near
washouts, though hunters still killed more than 8,200 birds.

Favorable weather is at the heart of success, for both hunters
and turkey populations, Penning said.

‘Certainly for annual reproduction it’s the biggest wild card,
but I think for hunter effort it is, too,’ he said, because,
especially those hunters who participate during later seasons, poor
weather is correlated with less effort.

Penning hadn’t broken the harvest down as of earlier this week,
but said hunters in the heart of the state’s turkey range – the
southeast – fared well. Nearly 34,000 permits were available this
year; Penning expects that between 27,000 and 29,000 permits
actually were issued.

As turkeys continue to expand into new areas of the state, and
populations of birds in local areas grow, hunters will continue to
do well, he said.

‘I expect, for the time being, for the harvest to continue to
climb, though in the southeast we have probably hit turkey
populations that are at or near carrying capacity,’ Penning said.
In those southeast areas, he expects harvest in future years to
fluctuate slightly as turkey populations oscillate around the
carrying capacity.

As populations grow and additional permits become available in
the central part of the state, harvest is likely to continue to
increase. Turkeys also are expanding in the southwest, but the DNR
is holding permit numbers relatively stable there. Many of the
turkeys there are found on private land in farm woodlots and along
rivers, which means hunting space is at a premium, Penning

‘We don’t want to develop too much of a crowding situation, or
have frustrated hunters who have a permit but no place to hunt,’ he

Last year, just under 30 percent of spring turkey hunters were
successful. While success figures weren’t available yet for this
spring’s hunt, Penning expected that hunter success this year will
be higher than last year.

The DNR aims to provide a quality turkey-hunting experience, and
hunter success is one part of that (the agency wants hunter success
above 20 percent). It typically fluctuates between about 25 percent
and 30 percent.

Statewide, Penning expects to see both the turkey population and
harvest continue to grow, but down the road, ‘we’ll reach carrying
capacity,’ he said. ‘At some point, we are not going to keep having
record (harvests). At some point, we’re going to level out, but
this isn’t the year, I guess.’

Categories: Hunting News

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