For the first time, every Minnesota turkey hunter who wants a spring turkey hunting license will be able to get one.

No, the lottery system that allocates the limited number of licenses hasn't been abandoned.

But an unlimited number of licenses will be available over the counter next spring for the last two hunting periods. "Everyone who wants to hunt now can hunt," said Bill Penning, Department of Natural Resources farmland wildlife program leader.

The current lottery system allocating a limited number of permits for the first six hunting periods will continue. (Hunters must apply by Jan. 8.) Surplus licenses will again be offered over the counter in mid-March.

But adult hunters will have a better chance of getting one of those limited permits in 2010. That's because youths age 17 or younger now will be able to buy a youth license for any time period and permit area over-the-counter, and won't be included in the pool of lottery applicants. Last year, about 50,000 hunters -- including 2,600 youths -- applied for 42,000 permits in the lottery.

Youngsters must be 17 and younger by April 14, 2010, to purchase a youth license.

The change is another attempt by the DNR to remove obstacles for youngsters who want to hunt, Penning said. "We didn't want a lack of a license to be a barrier," he said.

Annual spring youth turkey hunts -- where young, inexperienced hunters are paired with mentors -- will continue. But now all young hunters who want to participate will be able to get a license.

Penning doesn't expect either change to hurt the state's turkey population, now estimated at about 75,000 birds.

Wisconsin deer take down

Hunters in Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer hunt killed 195,647 deer, compared to 276,895 last year, a 29 percent decline, according to preliminary registration numbers released Tuesday. DNR officials said they expected the harvest would be down because of changes in season structure and other factors. For details, see