Spring 2010: a turkey license for all hunters

Madelia, Minn. – With the exception of two years in the
mid-1980s, the number of permits available for the spring turkey
season has increased each year since the first season was held in
1978.

Yet the increases have been relatively gradual. Until now.

DNR officials have upped the number of turkey permits for the
2010 spring season by 35 percent – from about 43,300 to about
57,000. And that’s just one of the changes that will make next
year’s spring season the most accessible turkey season yet.

“Essentially, anybody who wants to turkey hunt should have the
ability to turkey hunt next spring,” said Eric Dunton, DNR wild
turkey research biologist. “Historically, we have taken a
conservative approach with the turkey program and allowed it to
build at a consistent pace. We felt like we’re at a point now where
we can be slightly more liberal. This is a first step to getting
more participation.”

The DNR instituted three main changes for next spring’s
season:

€ Hunters age 17 and under will be able to buy permits over the
counter for any season and any permit area.

€ When they apply for a permit, hunters will not have to provide
a second choice of time period and permit area. The application
deadline is Jan. 8, 2010.

(Per the current system, unsuccessful lottery applicants will
have the first shot at buying permits for other time periods in
under-subscribed permit areas, on a first-come, first-served basis
in mid-March. Any permits that remain after that may be purchased
by any eligible hunter.)

€ During the final two seasons – G (May 14-20) and H (May 21-27)
– permits will be available to all hunters on an essentially
over-the-counter basis. While the permit numbers are capped,
they’re capped at levels that never have been reached in previous
years.

In general, there have been surplus licenses available for the
last two time periods in previous years, and many of the permit
areas are under-subscribed at the end of each season.

“There’s always going to be people who want to hunt time period
A and are willing to wait two or three years (to get drawn) – those
people won’t see much added benefit,” Dunton said. “But there have
been people who have put in for their first and second choices and
have not gotten drawn. This essentially guarantees they will be
able to hunt.

The idea behind allowing youth to buy a license for any time
period they want is to recruit new hunters into turkey hunting, he
said. Officials tabbed turkey hunting as one kind of hunting with
high potential for recruiting new hunters.

The calling keeps them involved in the hunt, and there’s
excitement when a bird gobbles, Dunton said. In addition, the
weather is generally good during the spring season.

“It’s a great way to introduce youth to hunting,” he said.

Changes reflect numbers

The state’s turkey program continues to evolve as turkey numbers
grow stronger, Dunton said.

Trapping birds in one area and releasing them in another has
been one of the primary ways by which the DNR has built turkey
populations, but the agency is winding that down. Last winter,
Minnesota took 25 turkeys from Wisconsin and released them in Polk
County in the northwest.

It was the first winter in years that no birds were trapped in
Minnesota.

“This year will be the first winter that no birds have been
accepted from another state and that there’s been no trapping in
Minnesota for quite some time,” Dunton said.

The DNR will conduct a fall turkey population survey during the
2010 deer season.

“Once we get that analyzed and written, we are going to look at
the long-term outlook for the (trap and transplant) program,” he
said.

Regardless of the survey, the DNR will not be identifying any
new turkey release sites. If officials believe some areas with
recent releases need a boost, “we’ll look at it at that time,”
Dunton said. Even without new releases, he expects the turkey
population in the state to continue to rise.

“We are several years away from realizing what our full turkey
population potential is in Minnesota,” Dunton said.

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