A primer on Minnesota's wild turkey hunting season

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2013 - 11:59 AM

About 45,000 Minnesotans are expected to sneak into bluffs, woodlands and prairies this spring, hoping to bag a tom turkey for the dinner table

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A pair of strutting tom turkeys glisten in the sunlight.

Photo: Tim Simos, Dml - National Wild Turkey Federation

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Gobbling that echos through the springtime woods signals the arrival of another wild turkey hunting season — and sends hunters’ heatbeats racing. About 45,000 Minnesotans are expected to sneak into bluffs, woodlands and prairies this spring, hoping to bag a tom turkey for the dinner table.

Late spring impacts?

The slow arrival of spring shouldn’t affect hunters’ ability to bag a bird, said Tom Glines of Coon Rapids, senior regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. The amount of daylight, not temperatures, triggers a turkey’s reproductive activities, Glines said.

“They are strutting and gobbling already,’’ he said. “They’re doing their thing, rain or shine.’’

Turkeys congregate in flocks during winter, then disperse in spring.

“Once the snow goes away, they start breaking up,’’ Glines said.

The late spring shouldn’t have a big influence on that tendency.

Weather is a bigger factor for turkey hunters.

“If it’s cold or rainy, hunters may not sit out in the woods as long,’’ he said.

Has interest peaked?

For 25 consecutive years, the number of spring turkey hunting permits issued by the DNR increased. Then in 2011 and 2012, the numbers surprisingly fell.

Why?

“We just don’t know,’’ said Jay Johnson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention program coordinator.

For years, demand for the limited number of spring turkey permits exceeded supply. Then beginning in 2011 the DNR offered an unlimited number of over-the-counter licenses for the last four time periods. But instead of hunter numbers increasing, as expected, they fell.

Johnson and others speculate that perhaps hunters who would have applied for a license in the lottery, received one and went hunting now procrastinate because they can buy one over the counter.

“If you can buy it over the counter, you have good intentions of going, then get busy and end up just never going,’’ said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager.

Or perhaps the decline is a reflection of aging baby boomers dropping out of hunting.

Changes for youths?

  • season details

    Minnesota

    Opens April 17 and runs through May 30. There are eight five- and seven-day seasons; a lottery was held for permits for the first four seasons. Licenses for the last four can be bought over the counter. A resident license is $26; a nonresident license is $96.

    Wisconsin

    Opened today (April 10) and runs through May 21, with six seven-day time periods. A resident license is $15; a nonresident license is $60

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