Because of our winter survival programs and our many contacts we can at least get a handle on what is occurring with our Wild Turkeys. It has been of great concern to us as we find our Wild Turkeys in decline each year. What a shame it would be if in the near future they would completely disappear from the woodlots, fields and forests of northern Michigan.
On March 1, 2010 a meeting was held at Clare with Al Stewart, DNR upland bird specialist, several DNR wildlife biologists and MWTHA chapter representatives. The meeting was held to discuss proposed changes to the fall and spring turkey hunting regulations.
During the meeting Sara Schaefer, District Biologist for southwest Michigan, spoke of the problems she was having with perceived nuisance turkeys in her area. Apparently there are large concentrations on farms where the landowners don’t want them there and other complaints from home owners, etc. As she spoke the wheels began to turn.
On September 21, 2010, Rick Riley of the Traverse Bay Chapter and I sat down with DNR Wildlife Chief Dr. Russ Mason for a 2 1/2 hour meeting, discussing Wild Turkey management.
Because there is no longer an effort by the DNR to survey Wild Turkey populations the 2009 spring hunter satisfaction rate over the various hunting units in the northern lower peninsula was examined as an indicator of population decreases. Area F which included the Mio-Fairview areas had the worst hunter satisfaction. At one time Fairview was recognized by the legislature as the Wild Turkey Capital of Michigan. There are five degrees of satisfaction, from excellent to poor. Removing the middle degree shows true satisfaction. During the early seasons 22 percent of the hunters had a good hunt while 59 percent had a lousy hunt. During the extended 234 season 12 percent experienced a good hunt compared with 63 percent that experienced another poor hunt, all due to the lack of Wild Turkeys.
Back to the meeting with Mr. Mason. If the DNR was experiencing all those nuisance turkeys why couldn’t they be trapped and transferred to northern Michigan? This might boost local populations and add new genetics to the northern flocks.
As long as there continues to be nuisance turkeys the program could continue. In the end it may not help to solve our declining turkey numbers but it certainly would be worth a try. If an annual trap and transfer is to occur, turkeys would be released on various locations throughout the northern lower peninsula. When this suggestion was presented to Mr. Mason he indicated that is possible and would be initiated.
On February 23,2011 we attended a meeting at the RAM Center at Higgins Lake with Al Stewart and local DNR staff to complete the planning for the release of turkeys coming from southern Michigan. Where the turkeys were to be released was determined by the local DNR staff. The enthusiasm shown by them was truly appreciated.
On March 15, 13 hens were trapped in Barry County. On March 25, 12 hens and 2 gobblers were trapped in Barry County. They were relocated to Oscoda County (Mio-Fairviw area). They were trapped on private land in an area with a robust population and the release occurred on public and private land.
Hopefully this program will continue into the future. It may or may not work but the DNR must be applauded for the cooperation, coordination and effort put into this project.