Natural Resources Commission
9502 Shyre Circle
Davison, MI 48423
Dear Mr. Matonich:
I am responding to the proposed fall turkey regulations and license quotas which is on your April 14 agenda on behalf of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association and its Traverse Bay and Pere Marquette chapters.
Under the heading of Season Dates, it states that “some individuals have expressed concerns regarding the fall turkey season opening dates”. This is a condescending, untrue statement. A year ago I gave testimony at the NRC meeting in Cadillac, representing our conservation organization. In the short time allotted I explained the reasons why we are opposed to moving the opening date from October to September 15 and requested that if a fall season is to be held that it begins around October 15.
In accordance with the fall season planning schedule, I represented our organization when on November 17, 2015, I met with Rex Ainsley, DNR Wildlife Division supervisor for the northern lower peninsula. At the meeting, we requested that the opening date changed from September 15 to October 15. the request was made to discontinue fall seasons in both Area J and HA.
It seems odd that the proposal lists the National Wild Turkey Federation, several of its U.P. chapters and several U.P. organizations as supporting the regulations but no mention of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association and recommendation that we have made.
Our Traverse Bay chapter area contains Area J. Our Pere Marquette chapter area contains Area HA. Both chapters have been in existence since the early 1980’s. Through our members, our winter support program, and our presence at various hunting expos, we have many contacts, which enables us to gather a great deal o information on our Wild Turkey resource. Within both Areas J and HA, we have experienced a significant decline in Wild Turkey numbers. Many areas that once contained good numbers of turkeys now have none, even though habitat remains the same.
The DNR Fall Turkey Digest says that Wild Turkey hunting in the fall enables the DNR to stabilize or reduce Wild Turkey numbers in certain areas. It also states that hunters are encouraged to harvest female turkeys during the fall season.
The law requires the DNR to manage our natural resources using Sound Science. So what are the turkey populations within these areas and what are the goals to be reached? Until the downward trend is reversed we view each and every hen as being very precious. To put it simply—to allow the legal killing of hen turkeys on a declining population is just plain nuts, regardless of the spin put on it.
When the DNR changed the opening date from October to September 15 we were and are opposed to it, which we expressed before the NRC. Our concerns and reasoning were ignored. It has never been explained to us what sound science determined that date, or any other reason for it. During the middle of September we have hens with late hatched poults, some as small as grouse or even woodcock, The entire chances of survival depends on the hen. Kill the hen and the entire flock is doomed. Which turkey is a fall hunter going to kill, the 10 pound hen or a 2-pound poult? Given another three or four weeks of growth, the young would have a much better chance of survival.
During September 15 Ruffed Grouse are found in heavy cover with summer foliage in place, which gives the young grouse adequate protection. Wild Turkeys, on the other hand, are found in open fields or open hardwood forests. This and the fact that they roost at night in open trees makes them especially vulnerable.
In proposing regulations, it appears that the Wildlife Division does not take into consideration the impact of widespread poaching and predation on both the nests and the turkeys themselves.
Our organization has had a great deal to do with the expansion and fair chase rules that guide hunting of Wild Turkeys. We would hope that our concerns and valid reasons explained in the letter would merit consideration.