Quite simply, if the DNR managed our state forests like the Pigeon was being managed consider the wildlife there would be and all of the benefits they provide. Unfortunately it is not to be.

The language in Senate Bill 412 would require the DNR to create and manage Wild Turkey habitat on state forest lands, something not done since 1977. Over these many years in meeting after meeting with DNR management our concerns over state forest management has fallen on deaf ears. Realizing that there are extensive portions within our state forests that will never be able to contain turkey habitat the words TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE was added.

Each year finds fewer and fewer Wild Turkeys throughout the northern lower peninsula and it is affecting the upper peninsula also. Large areas that once contained stable numbers of turkeys now have none. It is of great concern to our organization that one spring morning we are going to wake to a silent spring. How low can we go?

The DNR can conduct population surveys on everything from elk to warblers but apparently not Wild Turkeys. Until the past several years the DNR did survey in several areas. As an example, each February the Pere Marquette Chapter and a DNR wildlife technician would survey turkey numbers in each county within their 13 county Cadillac Management district. By 1999 turkeys numbered 23,216. Due to cold wet springs, natural mortality and other unknown they fell to 16,075 for a loss of over 7,000. A meeting was held with the district and the local biologist. The fall hunting season, in which hens can be killed, was discontinued soon throughout the entire northern peninsula.

The idea was that when the turkey numbers rebounded a fall season would be held. Since that time there have been several springs that found ideal nesting conditions, yet the turkey numbers continued to fall.

Even though turkey numbers have tumbled also and turkey numbers are unknown in the three bottom counties in the Pere Marquette Chapter Area a fall season has continued with hens as the target. Requests to the DNR and even the Natural Resource Commission have fallen on deaf ears once again. During the winter of 1999 the Pere Marquette Chapter supported 13,123 turkeys , while purchasing 80,700 pounds of corn, distributed free of charge. This past winter 2,812 turkeys were supported over the 13 county area, while buying 6,200 pounds of corn. Our other MWTHA chapters have the same results. What action is the DNR taking in lieu of the tremendous loss of our Wild Turkeys? They no longer conduct turkey population surveys. Their reports to the news media is that turkey numbers are stable throughout the northern lower peninsula. This is exactly why the bill requires the DNR to conduct ANNUAL WILD TURKEY POPULATION SURVEYS.

During the past few years we have had several ideal weather conditions and expected a great hatch of poults. It did not hap pen. The recruitment of young birds was very poor. Large adult hens flocked together in early summer menus any poults. Something i s happening that affects not only turkeys but other ground nesting birds. What factors are involved in the continued loss of our Wild Turkeys? Is disease a factor? No one knows, that is why the bill calls for RANDOM DISEASE TESTING ACROSS THE WILD TURKEY RANGE IN THIS STATE.

Within our 3.9 million acres of state forests are extensive blocks of mast producing hardwoods. By creating and managing wildlife openings turkey populations could be increased and Wild Turkeys could actually be found on this public land. Over our 29 years of existence we have made many inquires of local biologists. The answer is always the same – no money. No money? The restricted turkey fund brings in about $1,500,000 each year. So where is the money going if not for habitat on our public forests? For years we have tried to find out from DNR managers in Lansing who have stonewalled us. Finally in 2005 the Natural Resources Commission were reviewing all restricted funds and we had an opportunity to see where the turkey funds were used in 2002.

Pere Marquette Chapter - Spring 2012 Update