Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Natural Resources Commission declines to increase turkey bag

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved an order that did not include an increased bag limit for spring turkey hunters. (Photo by Bill Parker)

Lansing — The state Natural Resources Commission at its November meeting at Lansing Community College opted to adopt a DNR proposal and not increase the bag limit during spring turkey season from one bearded turkey to two.

The DNR submitted a proposal to the NRC calling for a minor change of season structure in Turkey Management Unit E, but did not support a proposal initiated by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs to increase the spring bag limit to two bearded turkeys.

“Review of current literature and active research projects in several other states have indicated that the spring harvest of male turkeys may be having population level impacts. Michigan’s turkey populations appear stable but there would be significant benefits to improve the quality and type of data available on turkey populations in the state,” the DNR wrote in a memo to the commission. “In addition, given the likely need to significantly modify season
structure and timing to accommodate a two-bird harvest sustainably, it is
unclear how most turkey stakeholders would feel about such changes.

“As a result of these uncertainties and the strong scientific indications
that spring male harvest can impact populations under some
circumstances, the department is recommending no changes to the spring
turkey bag limit at this time,” the DNR wrote. “However, the department
is implementing some model updates and developing additional
recommendations for data enhancement efforts. These activities will begin this fall.”

Turkey regulations are approved for a three-year period and the current
changes, or lack thereof, will be in effect for 2023-2025.

“We will (continue to look at) a two-bird limit over time, but at this
particular time I support the amendment as it is written,” NRC
Commissioner Keith Creagh said in support of maintaining the status quo.

Ryan Boyer, the regional biologist with the Michigan Chapter of the National
Wild Turkey Federation supports the proposal of not increasing the bag
limit at this time.

“With concerns about declining populations that some other states are having,
we realize that we have a few data gaps to fully understand what we
have across the state,” Boyer told Michigan Outdoor News. “Right now, the move that we support is to hit the brakes, press pause on making any (bag limit) changes.”

The issue has been heavily discussed in recent months between DNR
biologists, NWTF, MUCC and others interested in turkey management.

“We had really positive conversations with the agency, constituents, and
MUCC,” Boyer said. “The biggest thing that came out of this was the
positive communication we had related to turkey management. It was all
very positive.”

Boyer said all those involved vowed to work together to gather more data on
variables like brood and hen survival, hunting season harvests, and
other data used to estimate turkey abundance in Michigan.

The commission voted unanimously to eliminate the two one-week hunts in
mid-Michigan’s Turkey Management Unit E and replace them with one
two-week hunt, which mirrors most of the other TMU seasons in the
northern Lower Peninsula. The total number of available licenses for TMU
E remains 1,700.

“The change from two one-week seasons to one two-week season in TMU E will offer the same
number of licenses as before but allow hunters twice as long to pursue
turkeys,” the DNR wrote. “This is generally a favorable change for
turkey hunters. Success rates may increase slightly, but likely not
significantly.”

The application period for a spring turkey license runs Jan. 1-Feb. 1.

The 2023 spring season will open on Saturday, April 22.

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