No major changes for spring turkey hunt
Lansing — The state Natural Resources Commission approved license quotas and made no regulation changes for the spring turkey season at its November meeting in Lansing. Turkey regulations are set on a three-year cycle and regulations adopted this year will remain in effect through the 2019 season
“There will be no major changes and the current regulations will be in place for the next three years,” DNR upland game bird specialist Al Stewart told Michigan Outdoor News. “We worked really hard with constituent groups and people interested in turkey hunting and had strong support from our constituents.”
The NRC approved a proposal from the DNR’s Wildlife Division seeking a total of 84,140 spring turkey licenses (49,140 general licenses and 35,000 private land licenses) for each of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.
The state is divided into 14 turkey management units. The season runs from the Monday closest to April 20 through May 31 with varying hunts in each unit.
There will be no changes in license quotas in turkey management units A, B, E, F, J, K, M, ZA, ZB, ZC, ZD, ZE and ZF. The only change will be in unit ZZ, the multi-county, private land unit that covers most of the southern Lower Peninsula. The commission approved a total of 35,000 licenses for the ZZ unit, down from 65,000 in past years.
“We’ve always had a higher quota,” in Unit ZZ, Stewart said. “We reduced it to about 35,000 because we have about 25,000 people who apply for ZZ each year. It’s much more realistic this way and it won’t impact hunting opportunities.”
Last year approximately 71,902 spring turkey hunters in Michigan combined to shoot 30,039 gobblers for a success rate of better than 41 percent.
About 91 percent of the annual take comes on private land. Jakes, or juvenile males, comprise about 18 percent of the harvest while adult males (toms) make up 81 percent and 1 percent are bearded hens. In the spring hunters are limited to shooting bearded turkeys only. During the fall season hunters may shoot any turkey.
The 2017 spring turkey season opens on Monday April 17.
The main reason quotas and regulations were not changed is that most hunters appear to be satisfied with the current structure of the season the DNR said.
Over the last three years the DNR has sought feedback about spring turkey regulations from conservation groups and individual turkey hunters. In a memo to the commission, the DNR wrote, “The 2015 Michigan Spring Turkey Hunter Survey concluded that nearly 70 percent of hunters rated their hunting experience as excellent, very good or good. Also, statewide hunter satisfaction has increased significantly (from 67 percent in 2014 to 70 percent in 2015). Generally most hunters are satisfied with the current regulations.”
“Turkey hunters can expect a season much like this year,” Stewart said. “There were a good number of birds this summer with excellent reproduction across the state. Unless we have a very, very harsh winter, I anticipate the 2017 spring turkey season will be very similar to this past spring, which was very good.”
Stewart asks hunters who participated in the 2016 fall turkey hunt to go online and report their turkey hunting activity, even if they didn’t shoot a bird. Visit the DNR home page at www.michigan.gov/dnr. Click on Hunting/Trapping, then Big Game, then Wild Turkey.