There are many tell-tale signs that mark the beginning of spring in North Dakota. For some it is when the snow melts and reveals grass for the first time in months. For others, it’s when they start seeing people wearing shorts on any day warmer than 35 degrees. For area hunters, spring season is in full effect with the spring hunting season for wild turkeys.
This season, Hettinger and Adams counties have been closed for hunting, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, as those counties lacked turkeys.
“Generally, when we close a season in an area of the state it’s because we feel that there’s not a large enough population of a given species in season that can be hunted. When we lock an area it’s because we’re trying to get the population back up,” Jake Miller, district game warden for Dunn County, said. “This season, Hettinger and Adams counties are closed because we are trying to rebuild the turkey population there.”
Despite the closed counties, the Game and Fish Department offered 6,025 wild turkey licenses for the 2019 spring hunting season, which was an increase of more than 370 compared to last year. Of the 22 hunting units, 11 units had more spring licenses than in 2018, seven had fewer and three remained the same.
“When landowners call us throughout the year and outline any depredation problems they are seeing, we factor those into our calculations of licenses,” Miller said. “We do surveys throughout the year and see if the population is going up or down, and those surveys determine the number of tags we issue. Hunting helps us reduce any potential problems through the means of hunting as opposed to other methods. It’s a management technique for private landowners and creates an opportunity for outdoorsmen.”
Miller said opportunities to grab a late license may be too late, but he couldn’t confirm whether licenses remained in some units.
“Most of the leftover tags are already gone. Across the state, I’m not sure if they’re all gone but most are,” Miller said. “If you’re looking to grab a license, you can see if there are any left by contacting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department Licensing Section.”
Miller did share a message of caution for hunters, urging them to be mindful of the weather conditions while out in the field.
“Big thing I’ve been stressing is to be mindful that we’re pretty dry right now, so be careful when you’re out and where you’re driving,” Miller said. “Be mindful of the fire danger, and stay up-to-date with the most current information pertaining to the fire danger index. We want our hunters to have fun, but to practice caution while out and about.”
Requirements for getting a licence were similar to those of last year, as North Dakotans born after December 31, 1961, were required to complete a certified state or provincial hunter education course and provide a hunter education number to the license vendor to purchase a North Dakota hunting license. Exceptions to the eligibility requirements were granted to those residents who hunt only on land they own or operate, and for persons under age 12 who were going to be under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian.
Only bearded or male wild turkeys are legal, although some hen turkeys grow beards, and these by definition may legally be taken. Each license holder may take and possess one bearded or male wild turkey per license. Hunters are reminded that it is not legal to possess or transport a turkey unless it has been properly tagged.
Tagging requirements specify that immediately after a turkey is taken, the hunter must indicate the date of kill by cutting out the appropriate month and day from the tag provided with the license, and attach it around the leg of the turkey in an exact manner as illustrated on the back of the tag to prevent its removal. The tag shall remain with the carcass until it is packaged as food. No person may reuse or attempt to reuse any tag issued. All used tags must be kept in possession until the meat is consumed or disposed of.
Specifications on which types of firearms or archery equipment is permitted for Spring Turkey Season are as follows:
Only shotguns no larger than 10 gauge and capable of holding not more than three shells in the magazine and chamber are legal. Minimum barrel length is 18 inches. Fully automatic firearms are illegal.
Only muzzleloading long guns are legal. Centerfire rifles and rimfire rifles are not legal for hunting wild turkeys.
A bow must be pulled, held and released by hand. A compound bow used for hunting turkeys must have at least 35 pounds of draw at 28 inches or less draw length, while recurve and longbows used for hunting turkeys must have at least 35 pounds of draw at 28 inches. Arrows must be at least 24 inches long, tipped with a metal broadhead with at least two sharp cutting edges, and have a cutting diameter of at least 3/4 inch. Telescopic sights, range finding devices, battery powered or electronic lighted sights or other electronic devices attached to the bow, or the arrow, are not permitted, except a lighted nock is permitted.
Handguns of .35 caliber and larger with 4-inch or greater barrel length are legal.