2016-04-14 / Outdoors

Turkey hunt starts Monday; hunters seeing gobblers galore

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

JOHN PEPPLER sent in photos of two tussling turkeys on Tuesday. JOHN PEPPLER sent in photos of two tussling turkeys on Tuesday. John Peppler is prepped and ready for day one of the 2016 turkey hunt.

“There are a lot of birds out there,” Peppler said. “It’s going to be a good season if people put in the time and the weather works out. It should be a lot of fun.”

The first of three Michigan turkey hunting seasons starts on Monday — and a trio of turkey enthusiasts are anticipating a successful harvest.

Peppler, who lives in Glen Arbor and hunts in “Leelanau County,” snapped pictures and a video this week of two toms engaging in a turkey fight.

“They’re hot to trot right now,” Peppler said. “They’re full-fledged into the breeding season.”

Mark Steimel, owner of Fur-Fish- Game Taxidermy in Leland Township, has been hearing similar reports.

People are seeing a lot of turkeys, Steimel said.

“I’m thinking, with the warm-up, by the end of the week they should start to spread out more and be more vocal,” Steimel said.

The five-day forecast shows temperatures in the mid-50s, which is more conducive for turkey displaying and courtship.

Steve Griffith, wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said there seems to be a good number of flocks in the area.

“Definitely seeing quite a few Toms displaying,” Griffith said. “I think last year, we had a pretty good year for poults, so we’re probably going to have a good number of Jakes in the population this year. Last fall, the poults that I saw were hen-sized, good-sized birds. Not grouse-sized poults that you know aren’t making it through the winter.”

Twenty-fifteen was a good nesting year for turkeys, Griffith said, as the winter was much easier on the population than the previous pair.

“The biggest thing is snow depths,” Griffith said. “We had a couple good storms but nothing that would be severely limiting to turkeys.”

That’s good news for turkey hunters in Michigan, which ranks seventh in the nation for its turkey harvest.

When asked to give advice to young or first-year turkey hunters, Griffith recommended using a hen call.

“You don’t want to be mistaken (by a hunter) for a gobbler,” he said. “They make gobbler calls, but some people use those for locator calls when they’re out wandering the state land and trying to get a tom to shock gobble. Be very cautious if you’re using a gobbler call.”

Peppler offered advice, as well.

“Be patient,” he said. “Be real quiet when you walk in early, and before you do anything, just listen for what you’re hearing. Don’t push them.”

More turkey hunting tips from the DNR’s 2016 Spring Turkey Digest:

 Turkey hunters may only use a bow and arrow, a crossbow, a firearm that fires a fixed shotgun shell or a muzzleloading shotgun. No rifles.

 Hunters may only carry shotgun shells loaded with No. 4 or smaller shot or No. 4 or smaller loose shot for use in muzzleloading shotguns.

 Crossbow hunters only may use arrows, bolts and quarrels at least 14 inches in length, tipped with a broadhead point at least 7/8 inch wide.

 Turkeys may not be taken while they are in a tree. Only hunters using a bow and arrow or crossbow may hunt from an elevated tree stand.

 It is unlawful to use bait — grain, fruit, vegetables or other food — to lure or entice wild turkeys.

 Mechanical, electronic or live decoys are prohibited. The use or possession of electronic devices that imitate wild turkey calls is illegal.

 Hunters are to validate their license by filling out the information as instructed on the license and securely attaching the license around a leg before transporting the turkey.

The 2016 Spring Turkey Digest is available online at michigan.gov/docum ents/dnr/Spring_ Turkey_ Digest_ 443091_ 7.pdf.

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