The changing of the season will soon mark the beginning of the spring turkey hunting seasons.
Turkey hunting licenses became available over the counter starting on Mar. 1.
Fergus Falls area wildlife supervisor, Mike Oehlers, who is based out of the fish and wildlife division of the Minnesota DNR, said wild turkey permit areas 506 and 507 are the primary turkey hunting units around the Fergus Falls area. The two areas cover a huge swath of west central Minnesota.
Oehlers said there is no lottery required for this area.
“You do actually specify a unit when applying for the permit, but you are not required to hunt in just that unit. You can hunt statewide with your turkey permit,” added Oehlers.
There are season units and hunters will have to select a time period from season A-F, which are as follows:
A April 13-19
B April 20-26
C April 27-May 3
D May 4-10
E May 11-17
F May 18-31
Youth and archery seasons run from Apr. 13 to May 31.
Oehlers indicated that if you don’t bag a bird during your selected season, there is something you can do.
“As in previous years, if a hunter was unsuccessful during the period that they applied for, they can hunt during the last period, or the ‘F’ period, from May 18 through May 31. They would have a license with an unused tag from whatever season they originally chose, and just hunt during the ‘F’ season. Once you register a turkey, then your tag is invalid for hunting.”
Wild turkeys must be registered either online, by telephone or in person at a registration location. Although hunters are no longer restricted to a permit area, successful hunters will be required to provide the permit area where they harvested their bird. A map of turkey permit areas is available online at dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/turkey/index.html
The DNR stresses that until a bird is registered, there are some things that you must do — registered turkeys may be transported with a fully-feathered attached wing or attached leg and foot.
As for the outlook on the season, Oehlers said birds are definitely bunched up this year due to all the snow. “A lot of their winter forages are acorns, and they all have 2- or 3-feet of snow in the wooded areas. We’re getting a lot of depredation calls from area farmers who are getting lots of turkeys and they’re foraging and things like that.”
Turkeys tend to clump up together this time of year when there’s heavy snow and lack of forage; they will end up in groups of 20-50 on a single farm if there is silage available. With the silage bags in particular, once the turkeys start punching holes in them, it could ruin it. The other consideration is the fact that many turkeys can carry diseases that can spread to cattle. Oehlers said his phone has been ringing continuously all day for weeks with depredation cases being reported from area farmers.
“They should disburse back out to their normal areas, maybe where hunters are pursuing them, but you’re definitely going to need to do your homework as far as finding where the birds are at, because that does concentrate them a little more than normal years,” said Oehlers.
The DNR states that once rare, wild turkeys are becoming a common sight throughout southern and western and even central Minnesota.
A full frequently asked questions section about wild turkey hunting can be found online at the DNR’s website at dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/turkey/turkey-hunting-faq.html