Hunters look back at turkey season

REED CITY — One turkey hunting season is done, but Brian Boland of Mecosta is getting ready for the next one this fall.

“The spring turkey season is always good, especially after the hard winter we had,” Boland, a turkey hunting guide, said. “The birds were bearing down in certain areas, probably because of the hard winter. The state was actually concerned about a majority of the birds in southern Michigan.”

The first two weeks of the season, starting April 21, were “real good,” Boland said. “As the season progressed, with fewer birds, the hunting actually got tougher as far as seeing them...the population of the birds was scattered. Overall, it was a great season.”

The third and last turkey hunting season of the spring started May 5 and went until the end of the month.

“That later season, they got real quiet, probably more quiet than normal,” Boland said. “They were hard to locate. Even here at my house, I saw a few birds opening week, but we lost a lot of birds this winter around this area.”

The fall season for Mecosta County is Sept. 15 to Nov. 14. Other area counties to the north, including Lake and Osceola counties, are closed to fall turkey hunting.

“In the spring time, you shoot toms only,” Boland said. “Fall hunting was designed for Thanksgiving dinners and not in Michigan. It was Pennsylvania, New York and down south. Most turkey hunting was never done in the spring. At that time, they allowed you to shoot hens. Fall hunting, you can shoot a tom or hen.”

Boland is also president of the Newaygo chapter of the National Wildlife  Turkey Federation and said this fall, there will be a one-day event at the Newaygo Sportsman’s Club.

“Kids can come from all over,” he said. “We’re putting on a little event like a little hot dog roast, maybe some shooting, some identification of animals. We’re in the planning stages right now. It looks like the third weekend in September. We’re kicking it around right now.”

The first two seasons for turkey hunters were memorable. The third week ended on May 31.

“On the first day (April 21), we had two birds brought in,” Doug Loomis of Ed’s Sport Shop in Baldwin said. “One was 22 1/2 pounds  and another one 23 1/2 pounds.”

Ron Kanitz of rural Big Rapids was a successful first season hunter. He called in a jake in his area. Kanitz did extensive calling to get the job done.

“The first day I called,” he said. “He wouldn’t come over. The second morning I was out in the evening and could hear him  I came out the next morning and no answer. Nothing answered until about 11:30. Then they started answering and I called in three. I took one of the jakes.”

It was a 14-pounder. Turkeys are out there, Kanitz said.

With the weather “I was getting worried if I was even going to get one,” Kanitz said. “It was raining and cold, miserable just to get out.”

Kyle Randall of Paris-Reed City, a turkey hunting expert, noted that the second season is the most challenging.

“The simple birds, the unintelligent, are pretty much gone,” he said. “But they’re not done following the hens. It’s harder to call the hens in.”

Turkeys follow a fairly predictable pattern, Randall indicated.

“Getting them to stop and come back to you, you’ve increased the difficulty level by 1000 percent,” he said. “It’s almost like they don’t have a reverse gear.”

Late in the season, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., was the best time to shoot a turkey, Randall indicated.

“But the most fun time to kill turkeys is when they’re most active, when they gobble the most, when they strut the most,” he said. “The inter-activity of turkey hunting is what makes it a joy. The fact a human being can stick a piece of plastic in his mouth and can use a box call and talk to the animals is amazing thing. In effect, you start to learn the language.”