Spring turkey harvest in Minnesota is third highest
St. Paul — There probably were a few turkeys shot in Minnesota on Memorial Day, and likely some others taken on Tuesday, the last day of this year’s spring season. But when those additions are made to total kill, it won’t change the fact that hunters this spring tallied the state’s third-highest harvest, somewhere just in excess of 12,000 birds.
“I thought with everything else being equal, and since we had more opportunity, that the harvest would be higher this year,” said Steve Merchant, the DNR’s wildlife programs and regulations program manager in St. Paul.
Not including information from the last two days of the season that ended May 31, the harvest was 12,025 birds, according to Merchant. That’s about 500 birds higher than last year, and third to the 2010 and 2009 spring seasons, when the harvests were 13,467 and 12,210, respectively.
Spring harvest first topped 10,000 in 2008. And, it was just 26 years ago (1990) when it first eclipsed the 1,000-bird mark.
This year saw growth in the number of turkey hunters who used archery gear to hunt, Merchant said. That’s likely due largely to the fact that archers were allowed to hunt the entire season, which began April 13.
For firearms hunters, all but the final season (14 days) ran seven days and included a weekend. All hunters who hadn’t tagged a bird during their designated season were allowed to hunt the final “F” season.
“There was some growth in youth licenses (sold), too,” Merchant said.
He said the department received much positive feedback regarding the new season-long opportunity for those with stick and string. But it also came with some complaints about the fact that because archers were allowed to hunt all season, some places where permission to hunt formerly had been granted were now off-limits.
“Generally people like the full week and the fact that each season has a weekend,” Merchant said.
Because there were notable changes this year, Merchant said state officials will wait a couple years to see how they play out before considering other season changes.
While the DNR doesn’t estimate the state’s turkey population, Merchant said managers look at harvest trends to determine population growth or losses. Overall, it’s likely Minnesota’s turkey population has settled into its sweet spot. Turkey numbers might be increasing in the north, where the birds are a more recent addition, but growth in the core area, the southeast, has slowed.
“I think we’re probably where our turkey population is going to be,” Merchant said.