Published January 31, 2013, 12:02 AM

Spring turkey time in North Dakota starts on April 13

For the next month or so, winter predator hunting and the Feb. 16 calendar opening of the spring light goose conservation season are about the only game in town for most hunters.

By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press

For the next month or so, winter predator hunting and the Feb. 16 calendar opening of the spring light goose conservation season are about the only game in town for most hunters.

On the other hand, from the reports I’m hearing a lot of people are enjoying some time ice fishing, while others whet their outdoors appetite with an array of banquets and hunting and fishing shows. These are all good options.

North Dakota has an array of outdoor opportunities from which hunters can find a favorite. Deer and pheasant or Canada goose and mallards are usually at the top of the list.

While you won’t find too many people who put spring turkey hunting at the top of their list, you will find more and more hunters who look forward to a chance at taking a spring gobbler.

With the application deadline for a North Dakota spring turkey license approaching, it’s time to get ready. For starters, the easiest method to apply is online through the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

After you’ve filed your application — the deadline is Feb. 13 — take a few minutes to ponder turkey hunting in North Dakota.

As we discuss turkey behavior and habits, keep in mind that hunting is the most effective method for managing populations, and the preferred population is often a compromise. Hunters would typically want as many turkeys as possible. Many landowners, while they appreciate or at least tolerate a few turkeys in the neighborhood, would rather not have dozens of turkeys keyed in on their operations over the course of a winter.

If you’ve ever observed turkeys, you know first-hand they tend to travel in social groups, and it’s that behavior that sometimes adds difficulty to turkey population management.

Most landowners who have turkeys are willing to allow hunters to reduce the local population. However, allowing enough hunters in to take out an appreciable number of turkeys is not an easy process.

On the same note, hunters in any situation prefer less competition. For example, a spring turkey hunter would rather not have a half-dozen other hunters within a few hundred yards of his calling site — they’d rather have the place to themselves on the day they have permission. Contending with numerous other hunters on the same property could make it more difficult for any of the hunters to bag a turkey.

Another localized obstacle is the turkeys’ penchant for sometimes inhabiting residential areas where hunting is less of an option. Managing urban turkeys is sometimes more problematic than managing turkeys in rural settings.

For the Game and Fish Department, there is a quest for balance in dealing with a local increase in turkey numbers without putting undue pressure on landowners or eroding the essence of the spring turkey hunt. It’s not just shooting a turkey that makes a spring hunt a success. Most hunters want to experience a sense of solitude and try to call in a gobbler on their own terms.

This year, nearly 6,000 hunters will have a chance to do that. Cost of a license is $8 and only North Dakota residents are eligible.

The spring turkey season runs from April 13 through May 19.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com

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