Michigan’s long winter is over. The flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and spring turkey season in Michigan is rapidly approaching. April 18th is the opening date (depending on your specific hunt) and while you ready the decoys and pattern your shotgun there are a few things you need to know to make sure you comply with the state regulations.
The full list of regulations can be found here: Spring Turkey Hunting Digest 2020
There is a limit of 1 spring turkey license per hunter. Most of the hunts were draw tags that were applied for in February, but there are some options if you did not get a tag yet. Leftover tags for anyone will be available on a first come first serve basis on the Michigan.gov eLicense DNR site and at your local DNR service agent. If you order an eLicense expect about a 7-10 day shipping time so plan for a delay.
If you live or hunt North of the following counties: Muskegon, Kent, Montcalm, Isabella, Midland, Bay, Tuscola, Huron–there is a no quota public and private land license available. This means that this tag will not run out. If you are in the lower part of the state you can check for the individual hunts to have leftover tags or if you know you will hunt private land you can attempt to purchase the Hunt “0301” for Unit ZZ (lower part of the whole state) which has a 45,000 hunter quota. There are likely to be some leftover tags available.
The cost of an adult resident license is $15 unless you are a senior (over 65) then it is only $6. Every hunter must first purchase a Michigan 2020 base license (can be done in the same transaction) which is $11 for adults, $6 for juniors, and $5 for seniors. Out of state hunters can grab one for $151 (however the cost of their turkey license is still only $15 like a resident). The base license is good for 12 months and also serves as your small game license.
Hunters must possess a Hunter Safety Certificate or can register as an “apprentice” hunter if they are with a Hunter Safety Certified hunter who is age 21 or older. This apprentice status may be utilized for 2 years.
Hours for Spring Turkey hunting are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset. The Spring Turkey Digest lists times in a chart for several weeks or you can consult your local paper for sunrise/sunset times (Or as I prefer, Weather.com).
One Bearded turkey may be taken per hunter per Spring Season. The turkey must have a beard so Hens or young beardless jakes are off-limits.
Methods of Take:
- Bow and Arrow
- Shotgun (Muzzleloading or Centerfire; must use #4 shot or smaller)
- Air Gun (#4 shot or smaller)
Note: Due to the increasing environmental effects of lead shot, non-toxic shot is recommended, but not required. Tungsten and Bismuth are both very promising non-lead shot options that outperform lead.
Decoys and Calls are ok as long as they are not electronic, live, or electronic.
You MAY NOT stalk while holding a decoy or turkey fan.
…And the big change for this year is for the first time on private land, you may hunt turkey from an elevated platform or tree stand while on private property…though I will be hiding behind trees and or waiting in my pop up blind and I would venture to say an elevated platform provides little advantage for hunting turkeys.
Most of all, the Spring Turkey season in Michigan is a great way to harvest some local, sustainable protein, mentor new hunters, and reconnect with friends/family after a long winter. I will add though, that this year we encourage you to maintain social distance even while outside in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the state of Michigan prohibits unnecessary travel. So find a place to hunt close to home where the Toms are gobbling, the Hens are putting, and the forest is just starting to come alive. You will be glad you did.