2018-04-19 / Outdoors

Snow depth may mean slow start to 2018 turkey seasons

By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

MIKE ANDERSON snapped a photo of these gobblers as they were crossing French Road earlier this month. MIKE ANDERSON snapped a photo of these gobblers as they were crossing French Road earlier this month. Daryl Couturier of Centerville Township has taken his share of Leelanau turkeys over the years.

None were as tantalizing as the tom he’s targeting this spring.

“I’ve never seen one that big with spurs that long,” said Couturier, who spotted the portly gobbler in a nearby portion of the peninsula.

It may be a bit before Couturier gets a clear shot at the trophy tom, however.

The first of three turkey seasons starts Monday in Leelanau County, but the mid-April snowfall may have delayed breeding season.

“Might need snow camo,” Couturier said, “which would be a first.”

Following the flurries last week, toms are much more likely to hunker down and ignore a calling hunter.

Steve Griffith, wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Traverse City Customer Service Center, said the first turkey season is set up to start after the peak of breeding. It may not work out that way this year.

“That first hunt is always a gamble with the weather,” Griffith said. “Right now, it’s not looking real conducive.”

Pat Patterson of Elmwood Township has been turkey hunting in Leelanau for about 25 years and has shot birds through snowflakes but can’t remember seeing this much depth (the peninsula was buried as of this writing).

And, to a turkey hunter, these conditions are anything but preferable.

“It’d be pretty hard to get a tom to come to you in the snow,” said Patterson, whose tag is for the third season, a statewide hunt from May 7 to May 31 (the second season in Leelanau is from April 30 to May 6). “This shuts the breeding down, like hunting in the rain. They just kind of shut right up.”

Prime turkey-hunting conditions may come later than usual this year, but the getting should be plenty good.

Old Man Winter hasn’t been too tough on the peninsula’s turkey population over the last few years.

“With a mild winter like this, the cold is not what hurts them,” Griffith said. “It’s the amount of snow and the length it’s there. We get that nice, long thaw in the middle, then snow again. If the snow isn’t too deep, it gets wet and crusty, it’s hard for them to peck through that. If it gets too deep, they’ll follow deer around or anything else making a trail.”

Others congregate around farms or areas near bird feeders.

Regardless, it seems the turkeys have found sustenance — mostly buds, fruits and nuts — somewhere.

“I’ve seen some real nice ones,” Griffith said. “Nice long beards. I’ve seen a handful of jakes too with about a 1-inch goatee out the front. The numbers look good. ... I’ve talked to people that were seeing 20-40 birds in a flock.”

For more on turkey seasons, visit the Michigan DNR website and locate the 2018 Spring Turkey Digest.

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