Turkey hunters looking forward to another season

BIG RAPIDS — Darrell “Willy” Holmes of LeRoy had his calendar reserved recently for another appearance at the Michigan Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual state convention at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center.

There were 154 attendees at the convention and were from all over the state.

While there is currently not a Big Rapids chapter, Holmes noted there are some NWTF chapters or connections from the Baldwin-Bitely areas, plus Manistee, Reed City (Crossroads) and Cadillac.

“I do all the auctioneering for them,” Holmes said. “With a local chapter, you get seeds and the habitat gets put in your local area.”

Officials from the DNR were in hand including director Keith Creagh and Upland Game Bird Specialist Al Stewart.

Also on hand was Ryan Boyer, a regional biologist for the NWTF’s Michigan chapter. He covers the state and Indiana.

At the convention “I updated the members and volunteers on our success stories and where we’re headed with conservation in the state of Michigan,” Boyer said.

“Ryan was also very instrumental in getting the wildlife habitat grants that were offered through the Department of Natural Resources,” Stewart said.

“One of my roles is to take the dollars brought in by our members and volunteers and look for ways to partner with folks like the DNR and federal agencies and try to leverage that money and turn $1 into $10 to put habitat on the ground,” Boyer said.

Numbers released by Stewart show that the number of turkeys harvested in the spring of 2013 were 31,931 and 5,430 in the fall season. Those numbers were 31,377 in spring 2012 and 6,042 that fall. The top all-time number in the spring is 42,002 in 2008. The best fall number is 8,977 in 2000.

“Overall, throughout the Midwest, we’re seeing a slight decline on wild turkey populations,” Boyer said. “We expect the forecast, in terms of harvest numbers, to be relatively close, maybe a little under 30,000.”

“In Michigan, I would say the harvest will be somewhat similar to last year,” Stewart said. “Harvest has changed a little bit. We’re seeing fluctuations in population. From 2000 to now, we’re in that 30,000 category all though there.”

Deadline to apply for permits the first two seasons was Feb. 1. Hunt 0234 licenses can be purchased starting March 16, in Area K, which includes Mecosta, Lake, Newaygo and Osceola counties. The first hunt is April 20-26 with a quota of 4,000 licenses while the second hunt is April 27 to May 3 with a quota of 4,500 licenses.

Hunt 0234 is a statewide hunting license valid for every open area except for public lands in the southern Lower Peninsula. The season dates are May 4-31 with no quotas.

The DNR reminds hunters that a base license is needed for every resident and nonresident who hunts in Michigan, and they can purchase their spring turkey license after getting the base license.