Turkey hunters will be some slight changes in seasons

BALDWIN  —  It’s not too soon to be thinking about turkey hunting season. In fact, the application period for permits started Jan. 1 and continued until Feb. 1 During that period, hunters applied for one limited-quota license for a specific spring hunt unit and season dates.

Applicants successful in the drawing can purchase a limited-quota license. Hunters can buy a leftover license until quotas are met.

Those who don’t apply in the drawing can buy a leftover license, if available, starting on March 17. This season, the Hunt 234 license, the DNR said, is sold as a leftover license with no quota. Hunters can buy one of that season’s licenses during the entire season.

Area K, which includes Benzie, Manistee, Lake, Mecosta, Osceola and other northwest Michigan counties, has a maximum license quota of 4,000 from April 21-27 and 4,500 for the second hunt April 28-May 4.The dates on Hunt 234 are May 5-31 for all open units.

“It won’t be too much different,” said Pete Kailing, Mecosta County DNR wildlife biologist. “We’ll have the two limited draw hunts in April.”

Hunt 234, May 5-31, will make it easier than in the past to get a license at that particular time, Kailing indicated.

“It’s a leftover license which can be sold with no quota and purchased throughout the entire turkey hunting season,” Kailing said. “It used to be only available if you applied and weren’t drawn then you could get into this, and they had a deadline. If you didn’t get it before the season you couldn’t buy it. You can (buy it during the season) this year for the first time.”

The Feb. 1 deadline was for any of the limited draw hunts.

“Typically for turkey hunters, the early April seasons are more desirable,” Kailing said. “The toms are responding well for the calling and for the classic turkey hunt, early spring is best for that. May (dates) can be more of a challenge. Peak breeding season is finished. Some hunters like that time because they have more days to hunt and more weekends. The weather is warmer and more predictable.”

The DNR also reminds hunters that starting March 1, a base license is mandatory for every resident and nonresident to hunt in Michigan. Turkey hunters have to get the base license for the year before purchasing a turkey license.

“Ideally, there will be more opportunities for hunters,” Kailing said. “We didn’t really change the quota for the first two hunts in Area K. The hunt 234 is becoming more popular. We’ve noticed that. It’s a longer season and monthly in the month of May. We’re making it easier for hunters to participate.

“I don’t know if it will bump up hunter numbers. But for those who miss the draw, you can still hunt. Once the season started last year, if you hadn’t purchased your tag, you couldn’t hunt.”

Drawing results will be revealed on March 3 at www.michigan.gov/huntdrawings.

Turkey hunting success obviously right now is hard to predict.

“We’re having a worse than normal winter which may be hard on turkeys,” Kailing said. “So they’re congregating around farm areas for food. It should be a good season for turkey hunting.”

Katie Keen, the DNR’s northern Michigan wildlife biologist tech, notes that 234 is not exactly a new hunt.

“It’s just that it’s a leftover license,” Keen said. “Now you can purchase it over the counter. There’s no quota. One of the things that if someone had decided after the application period was over and you didn’t apply but that you want to go turkey hunting, you couldn’t do that. So this gives someone more opportunity that because you didn’t apply, you’re not out of luck.”