The belief that the best bet for turkey hunting is to head to southern Michigan is being challenged this year. Early survey results and hunter commentary are showing that hunters who spent time turkey hunting in the northern half of Michigan are satisfied with their experience.
“We took three birds in three days,” said the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) Tony Snyder, who took a bird himself, and assisted his grandchildren in harvesting their first turkeys, in Unit J. “We had awesome hunting and saw lots of birds in the area.”
Trevor Shuman, an 11-year-old from Petoskey, also had great success and harvested his first bird in Emmet County. Trevor Meers from Des Moines, Iowa hunted on Beaver Island and had a hunt he can’t wait to replicate, saying, “I think I’m going to get my buddies together and come back; I was amazed at how inexpensive my turkey tag was.” Meers harvested a big tom and saw dozens of birds.
”We work hard to maintain and create great wildlife habitat and hunting opportunity,” said Mark Monroe, the DNR wildlife biologist in Gaylord who is responsible for turkey management in Area J. “We are lucky to have many partners who help get work done on both private and public land.”
These partners include NWTF, Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association, Otsego Wildlife Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Ruffed Grouse Society.
Public lands are managed for a variety of wildlife, and turkeys are just one piece of the management strategy. Biologists and foresters work together to provide hard and soft mast trees that turkeys use during the year. Grassy areas also are managed to provide areas where poults (young turkeys) can find insects that they need to survive. NWTF provides crabapple trees and food plot annually to plant in areas of northern Michigan with food supply shortages.
“I only had a few days left of Hunt 234, and a friend told me they were still seeing birds at their place in northern Osceola County,” said Ken Johnson of Kingsley. “I was able to take a turkey that morning!”
Two Pure Michigan Hunt winners, who could have hunted anywhere in the state they wished, chose northern Michigan to bag their first turkeys. Jim Bosscher of McBain hunted in the northeast area of Osceola County, while Dave Gittins of Kawkawlin hunted in the northeast corner of Otsego County on public land.
Father and son Arch and Doug Reeves each had success in Cheboygan and Otsego counties this spring. “I took my first bird in Alpena County in 1972,” said Doug Reeves of St. Charles. “I’ve hunted in northern Michigan for decades; this year on my first day out hunting, I saw 11 male birds – it was incredible.”
The DNR reminds those who hunted the spring turkey season to fill out a spring turkey hunter report. This information is used to better manage turkeys in Michigan and helps to establish seasons that hunters will enjoy. Turkey cooperator patches are also available; proceeds from patch sales are used to fund turkey-related projects and wildlife management in Michigan.