MINNESOTA — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) reported an excellent wild turkey hunting season this spring, with a record harvest totaling 10,994 gobblers.
During the past 30 years, wild turkeys have flourished across the North Star State due to the efforts of the MDNR, the Minnesota State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and other partners.
“It’s been very exciting to see increased opportunities for Minnesota hunters,” said NWTF Regional Supervisor Tom Glines. “Looking back to the state’s first wild turkey season in 1978 with a harvest of only 94 birds, it’s clear we’ve come a long, long way. Thanks to hard work and cooperation by everyone involved, the wild turkey has a bright future in Minnesota.”
Habitat improvement, outreach programs and land acquisition are just some of the things the Minnesota State Chapter does to make things better for the wild turkey, according to NWTF Minnesota State Chapter President Marlo Sloan.
“We’re also proud to help a new generation of conservationists through the Families Afield initiative. Families Afield and programs such as the National Archery in the Schools Program and the National 4-H Shooting Sports Program are getting kids hooked on the outdoors.”
The NWTF’s Families Afield initiative is an education and outreach program that helps states reduce barriers to hunting for youth and adults, so that more families may enjoy America’s greatest outdoor tradition. The NWTF’s Families Afield founding partners include the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, with support from the National Rifle Association and local sportsmen’s groups.
In Minnesota and numerous other states, once-restrictive laws have been changed to allow youth and adult novices to hunt with a mentor before completing a hunter education course. As a result, the number of young hunters participating in Minnesota NWTF Youth Mentored Hunts this spring doubled.
“I receive pictures in the mail all the time from new hunters that I taught in my hunter education courses. Seeing the smiles on their faces as they’re holding their first turkey is what it’s all about,” Sloan said.
Wheelin’ Sportsmen, the NWTF’s outreach program for hunters with disabilities, also had a successful spring in Minnesota.
“Our Camp Ripley Veterans Wheelin’ Sportsmen hunt expanded to 35 hunters this year, 29 of whom harvested birds,” noted Glines. “Such an outstanding success ratio offers a glimpse into the many opportunities available for turkey hunters in Minnesota, and the NWTF has played a large part in that.”
Glines also anticipates continued success within the state as new hunters take to the field and the amount of quality wild turkey habitat increases.
“A turkey harvest like this is a huge accomplishment, but we haven’t reached our full potential,” said Glines. “As we keep adding more places to hunt and improve habitat for the wild turkey, we expect to achieve even more. It’s definitely a great time to be a hunter here in Minnesota.”
To date, Minnesota’s National Wild Turkey Federation volunteers have spent more than $340,000 to purchase land in the North Star State, helping add nearly 3,500 acres of public hunting land. Since 1985, nearly $2.2 million has been raised and spent by Minnesota chapters on conservation and education projects within the state.