One of the proposals was to open the season about three weeks earlier to September 15. We are unanimous in opposing this proposal, in fact after the meeting the Traverse Bay Chapter sent a letter to DNR Director, Rebecca Humphries stating their opposition and the reason for it. Each passing year finds more late hatched poults some the size of Ruffed Grouse during early September, most probably from predation on the eggs from the first nesting attempt. Turkey poults are imprinted on their mother for their survival. During September guess which turkey is going to get blown away, the 10 pound hen or a 4 pound poult? Without the hen the chance that the young will survive is greatly diminished. Given another month of growth and learning survival skills their chance of survival is greatly enhanced.
Another proposal that we opposed was opening Mecosta, Oceana and Newaygo counties for a fall season. (Then consolidated into one unit.) These counties have been open for a private land only fall season. The Pere Marquette Chapter has been active in managing turkeys over the 13 counties of Area K for the past 27 years (Cadillac DNR management district), which includes Mecosta, Oceana and Newaygo counties. Because of the winter survival program it was possible to survey the turkey population in partnership with the DNR. We watched as the turkey numbers climbed in that 13 county area to over 23,000. After a series of cold wet springs, little recruitment of young turkeys, predation and natural mortality the population fell to 16,000 with a loss of 7,000 over the 7000 square mile area. We requested a moratorium on fall seasons until the numbers built up again and have not had a fall season since. Not only have the
turkeys not rebounded but continue a downward slide. DNR management has discontinued winter surveys and have no idea what is happening to our turkey flocks. We do have indicators and a great many contacts.
During the winter of 1999 we distributed corn (free of Charge) to over 13,000 turkeys. Each passing year we are distributing less and this past winter we distributed to less than 4,000 turkeys. There is no magical dividing line between those 3 southern counties of Area K and their numbers continue downward as well. The new biologist who has been responsible for those three counties for a year and a half, is adamant that a fall season be held. The stated reason for a fall season and the killing of hens is to meet population goals. So what is the turkey population and what are the population goals? No one knows. Remember Proposal G that calls for scientific management of our wildlife?
The DNR has opened the entire upper peninsula to a fall season. We question the wisdom in doing so. There are turkeys expanding into new areas currently without any and they will be blown away? After the application period a hunter can purchase multiple licenses.
Why are they going to open the fall season 3 weeks early? “This will enable bow hunters to hunt turkeys before October 1 the opening day of archery deer season.” The liberal fall seasons are being pushed by DNR biologists in southern Michigan who it seems can’t deal with perceived nuisance problems. Contrary to rhetoric Wild Turkeys have not overcome the southern portion of our state.
On April 8, I attended the Natural Resources Commission meeting at Lansing on behalf of MWTHA. In the 5 minutes allotted, my presentation asked that they not have a September 15 opening, nor have a fall season in Mecosta, Oceana and Newaygo counties, with the facts and figures given. There were no questions asked. Another wasted day! It didn’t help when two representatives from the national turkey organization appeared to support the DNR regulations right on down the line.
It is no secret that we are losing hunters. In an ill advised effort to recruit and retain hunters the DNR has approved liberalized hunting seasons and technologies to make it easier to kill more game. The only advantage of getting old is being able to know what was and what is possible. I’ve experienced pheasant hunting that surpassed South Dakota’s best days and then witnessed them disappear. I’ve seen tremendous flights of ducks that will never be seen again. I’ve experienced many days of taking a two man limit of Ruffed Grouse and not even denting their numbers only to watch as they are a fraction of what was.
As pheasant numbers nose dived the DNR answered by opening a late season from December 1 to January 1, at a time when they are under winter stress, with snow and bitter weather and forced out of what heavy cover exists. Ruffed Grouse season is now open on September 15 at a time that they are still in family flocks consisting of late hatched young. Being poor flyers they fly a short distance and can be picked off one by one. The only thing that saves them is heavy foliage. Now that they are declining in numbers we can hunt them during the heavy snow months from December 1 to January 1. Not too many hunters are trying to flush one in 2 feet of snow, so the accepted method is picking them off one at a time while they are eating aspen buds high in the trees. The squirrel season has been extended until March 31. Rabbit and hare season ends March 31 also. The standing joke is that you can shoot your limit with one shot if your lucky enough to shoot the very pregnant female at that time of the year.
With all of the liberalized seasons and regulations why do we continue to lose hunters? Could it be the lack of access to private land? Could it be that there is a lack of game on our public forests because there is very little management for them? We may be able to recruit a new hunter but we are not going to retain one under these conditions. What ever happened to Proposal G? Wait until we report on spring proposals, like being able to shoot a hen or gobbler. Who are these people who we hire to work for us?