A change in Minnesota’s game regulations for 2020 will give spring turkey hunters new freedom to choose when and where they’ll pursue toms and jakes.
The Department of Natural Resources announced this week that it has opened up the first two weeks of the season to anyone who chooses to hunt early, ending a lottery system that limited the number of firearms hunters who could hunt during the popular first two installments of the six-week season. This year’s Hunt A period runs April 15-21. The Hunt B period runs April 22-28. Hunt F, the last of the six installments to the spring turkey hunting season, runs May 20-31.
Also new is a regulation that allows license holders to hunt in any of the state’s 12 permit areas. Previously, hunters had to specify the permit area where they would hunt.
“We’re making it easier to hunt wild turkeys in Minnesota,” said Leslie McInenly, wildlife populations program manager with the DNR. “Turkey restoration has been a great success for the state, and over time we’ve been able to relax and simplify hunting regulations.”
An exception applies to three large public hunting lands: Whitewater, Carlos Avery and Mille Lacs state wildlife management areas. At those high-demand turkey hunting destinations, the distribution of firearms permits will be controlled by lottery for the first three weeks of the season. The deadline to apply is Jan. 24. Successful applicants may hunt statewide, in addition to their selected wildlife management area, the DNR said.
McInenly said the changes were considered because the DNR’s lotteries for the initial two periods of the wild turkey season were often undersubscribed. The agency also listened to hunters who voiced a desire for greater flexibility, she said.
Last year, including permits sold to bow hunters, participation in the spring turkey season exceeded 46,000 people. The harvest ended up at 10,700 birds. Over the past four years, the largest harvest per season was 12,000 turkeys taken in spring 2016.
McInenly said more changes to the spring turkey hunting season could be in store after the DNR evaluates the effects of the new rules.
“We’re going to keep looking at this,’’ she said. “It might take a couple of seasons for us to figure it out.’’