If you believe in the signs, spring will come early.
And, also according to signs, when spring turkey hunting arrives across the Northland, it should be good news, too.
On Tuesday, Groundhog Day, famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil reportedly emerged from his tree-trunk cage in Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania, no shadow in sight. Closer to the Northland, it reportedly was much of the same with Canada’s version of the furry prognosticator.
So an early spring it is. Time to start thinking spring turkeys.
Wild turkey numbers are looking good this mild winter in the Northland, with reports of a good number of birds across the region.
In North Dakota, the state game and fish department is offering 5,815 wild turkey licenses for the spring hunting season, the same as last year. Successful spring turkey applicants must purchase a 2016-17 hunting license for the season, which opens April 9 and runs through May 15, as 2015-16 licenses expire March 31. Spring turkey applicants may apply online at apps.nd.gov/gnf/onlineservices/lic/public/online/main.htm or at the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov or call 800-406-6409. Application deadline is Feb. 10 and online or phone applications must be logged before midnight that day. In North Dakota, spring turkey licenses are available only to state residents.
In Wisconsin, permit drawing is complete, and 131,402 successful applicants will receive spring wild turkey permits; a total of 240,768 permits have been made available for the spring 2016 turkey season in the state.
Starting March 21, the 109,367 leftover permits for the spring turkey season will be available first-come, first-served and first issued for sale by zone, one zone per day: Zone 1, Monday, March 21; Zone 2, Tuesday, March 22; Zone 3, Wednesday, March 23; Zone 4, Thursday, March 24; Zones 5, 6 and 7, Friday, March 25 (due to the low number of permits left in these units, sales have been combined into one day). Extra turkey tags may be purchased at a rate of one per day until the zone and time period sells out or the season closes. After zone-only sales days, all remaining turkey tags will be made available for purchase Saturday, March 26. The 2016 season will run from April 13 through May 24, and a special youth turkey hunt is scheduled April 9-10.
In Minnesota, the spring turkey lottery deadline was Jan. 22, so hunters are set for one of six spring “seasons” that start as early as April 13 and as late as May 18. But there’s still time for novice turkey hunters to register for mentored hunts in Minnesota. Deadline to apply for the hunts, scheduled Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17, is Monday, Feb. 15, and applications are available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/turkey/index.html.
The hunts are held under the guidance of National Wild Turkey Federation volunteers and open to youths, adults and families who have purchased no more than one turkey license in a previous year and have not harvested a turkey. Hunters must have a valid firearms safety certificate and must be 12 years old on or before April 16. Youth from 12 to 17 must have a parent, guardian or adult authorized by a parent or guardian accompany them for all activities. If there are more applications than available mentors, hunters will be selected in a lottery. A hunt orientation is required and orientations are scheduled at various times and locations around the state.
“Novice turkey hunters can gain valuable knowledge from time afield with experienced mentors,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The intent of these hunts is for first-time turkey hunters to gain the skills necessary to harvest a bird.”