The first hunting season to open during the coronavirus pandemic will debut Wednesday when wild turkeys become legal game in Minnesota.

Last year’s turkey season drew 46,000 hunters into the state’s woods, waters and fields. About 10,700 toms, or male turkeys, were harvested.

Unlike waterfowl hunting, as one example, turkeys are often sought by individual hunters, or in some cases by two hunting together. But even in the latter case, significant yardages often separate the pair, making social distancing a realistic goal.

Substantial changes were made this year to turkey hunting regulations by the Department of Natural Resources. Most notably, the lottery that distributed licenses to firearms hunters during the first two weeks of the season in previous years has been eliminated, freeing any hunter who purchases a license to chase turkeys during that time.

The change was made, the DNR said, because hunters wanted more freedom concerning when and where they could seek turkeys. Also, a portion of the license allotment for those two periods went unused in recent years.

This season’s first hunt (Hunt A) runs April 15-21. Hunt B extends from April 22-28.

Additionally, beginning this year, hunters can roam in any of the DNR’s 12 turkey hunting permit areas, rather than select only one, as was the case previously. Exceptions include Whitewater, Carlos Avery and Mille Lacs state wildlife management areas, for which a drawing was held in January for hunting permits during the season’s first three weeks.