Another good season on tap for Michigan turkey hunters

Lansing — The early breakup of winter across the state has
triggered a fever that’s impacting over 100,000 residents. It’s
called turkey fever and it’s brought on by melting snow, warming
temperatures and greening grasses. Those affected complain of an
itchy trigger finger and a burning desire to head out into the
woods with a locator call in hand in an attempt to roost a Michigan
gobbler.

Hunters suffering from the fever can rest assured that when the
spring turkey season opens on April 19 their odds will be very good
of crossing paths with a Michigan gobbler.

The state boasts a turkey population of around 200,000 birds
with the highest densities found in the bird’s ancestral range,
which is in southern Michigan below a line running from about
Bay City to Muskegon.

“We expect a season very similar to last year in terms of
harvest and hunter satisfaction,”Al Stewart, the DNRE’ turkey
specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News. “Hunters continue to be
satisfied with the season, with little impact from other
hunters.”

According to a DNRE report, last year, 97,956 hunters combined
to kill 39,733 gobblers during the spring season. That’s a success
rate of about 41-percent, which is one of the highest in the
country.

“We’re number six in the nation in terms of turkey harvest and
we have some of the highest quality hunting in the country when you
consider hunter success, hunter satisfaction and
interference,” Stewart said.

There are more than 48,000 square miles open to spring turkey
hunting – about 80 percent of the state, no one is more than a
90-minutes drive from turkey hunting, Michigan averages about
100,000 hunters each spring and they combine to kill an average of
36,000 birds annually. We have a 43-day season this year, and the
annual success rate averages around 40 percent.

Turkeys are present in hurtable populations in every county in
the Lower Peninsula. In the U.P., there are good numbers of birds
in Iron, Dickinson, Menominee and Delta counties and in parts of
Marquette, Alger, Baraga, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic
counties.

Turkey density levels are highest in southern Michigan and
decline as you move north.

Last year, the bulk of the harvest came from southern Michigan
where hunters rolled 28,639 birds. Hunters in the northern Lower
killed 8,900 gobblers while U.P. hunters tagged 1,875 birds.
(Another 337 turkeys were killed, the DNRE says, but it wasn’t
clear which zone they were taken from.)

“Birds appeared to have come out of the winter in good shape in
the Upper Peninsula,” Stewart said. “We should have similar numbers
there to what we had last year.

“In the northern Lower, production was not good as last year and
people are seeing fewer birds than they were 10 years ago, but I
think bird numbers are in sync with the habitat and winter
conditions there.

“In the southern Lower Peninsula, hunters should experience a
similar hunt to last year. Their ancestral range is where the best
turkey habitat is, and consequently, where most of the birds
are.”

The counties with the highest harvests last year were all in
southern Michigan. Hunters tagged 1,477 gobblers in Allegan County,
1,443 in Kent, 1,432 in Montcalm, 1,312 in Newaygo, 1,234 in
Lapeer, 1,185 in Jackson, 1,017 in Calhoun, 971 in VanBuren, 887 in
St. Clair, and 886 in Hillsdale.

“We’re in the third year of stabilized regulations,” Stewart
said. “The quotas have pretty much stayed the same.

“We’re in the process of meting with different groups and
talking with hunters about potential changes in the regulations.
We’ll be formulating any potential changes between now and
September. If there are changes, they’ll be presented to the
NRC for information in October, with action coming in
November.”

The 2010 season runs April 19-May 31. Hunters are limited to one
bearded turkey.

Categories: Michigan – Bill Parker

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