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Expanding turkey range extends to Bemidji area

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outdoors Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

In the early 1970s Minnesota DNR officials took a serious approach to introducing wild turkeys into the state.

The initial targeted area was the bluff country of southeastern Minnesota and the hope was that the birds would be able to adapt to the new surroundings and, eventually, be able to establish a viable breeding population.

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During the next few decades state officials learned that the wild turkey was more adaptable than anyone had thought possible and the turkeys actually thrived in the bluff country. Because of that success other areas of Minnesota were targeted for turkey relocation and, for the most part, the transplanted birds fared so well that the wildlife officials continued to push the envelope.

Before long wild turkeys were planted in the Minnesota River bottoms, in the flat farmland of southwestern Minnesota, the rolling farmland of central Minnesota, in the Mille Lacs Wildlife Area and along the west-central border areas.

Within the past five years wild turkeys have also been transplanted near Akeley and Nevis and into Clearwater County, locations that were thought in the 1970s to be too inhospitable for the birds.

But the northern Minnesota turkeys also have adapted well to their new homes and this year DNR officials established spring turkey hunting opportunities in northern Cass, northern Hubbard and Clearwater counties.

"The areas open to turkey hunting this year have been expanded and so has the flexibility for the hunters," said DNR Park Rapids Area Wildlife Supervisor Rob Naplin.

Northern Cass County is part of turkey permit area 508 which will feature 480 spring hunting permits.

Northern Hubbard County and the southern portion of Clearwater County belong to area 507 which offers 1,205 permits while northern Clearwater County is included in area 509. Only 40 permits will be allowed in that area.

Turkey permits are required for hunters who wish to pursue turkeys during any of the first four hunting periods (April 18-22, April 23-27, April 28-May 2 and May 3-7). The deadline to apply for a permit is Friday, Jan. 13 and the applications may be made at any electronic licensing agent. A $3 fee will also be charged.

Hunters wishing to test their skills during the final four hunting time periods, however, do not need to apply for a permit. That time frame begins May 8 and continues through May 31.

"The time periods when you don't need to apply for a permit provide additional flexibility for the hunters," Naplin said. "I think the number of permits that are allowed is adequate for this year, especially with the flexibility that the non-permit time periods allow."

Highway 2 forms the northern border of the open turkey hunting range from Deer River to Solway and hunters probably will not find many birds in the immediate Bemidji and Cass Lake areas. But you don't have to go very far south or west to locate huntable populations of wild turkeys.

"In 2008 we released wild turkeys near Chamberlain (south of Akeley) and near Lake Belle Taine near Nevis," Naplin said. "They did well and now I think they probably have expanded five or six miles in their range."

A drive along Hwy. 64 between Laporte and Akeley will often be highlighted by the sight of wild turkeys scampering near the shoulder but Naplin doesn't believe those birds are descendents of the 2008 transplants.

"Those birds are the results of private efforts," Naplin said. "It is not legal to release tame birds but it is hard to enforce that law.

"What we have now in that area are pseudo-wild birds," Naplin continued. "You can't tell the difference between them and truly wild birds by looking at them and they are legal hunting targets."

The Clearwater County turkeys can be traced to the 36 birds planted in 2008.

"Most of them were hens but we supplanted the hens with a small number of jakes and gobblers," said DNR Detroit Lakes Area Widlife Supervisor Blane Klemek. Klemek was the assistant Bemidji Area Wildlife supervisor at the time of the release and he has been able to chronicle the success of the turkey transplant.

"We put 20 birds northwest of Bagley and 16 birds east of Clearbrook," Klemek said. "I did sharptail grouse surveys near Clearbrook every year and each spring I could hear the gobblers.

"People also reported seeing more and more turkeys each year near Clearbrook and west of Bagley and we know that the birds are expanding their range."

Those areas provided everything the turkeys need to survive, according to Klemek.

"There is the right mix of conifers, deciduous trees and agriculture," he said. "Before the transplant we identified these areas as likely locations for the turkeys and they have done very well in these areas."

For more information on the 2012 spring wild turkey hunt visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

In the early 1970s Minnesota DNR officials took a serious approach to introducing wild turkeys into the state.

The initial targeted area was the bluff country of southeastern Minnesota and the hope was that the birds would be able to adapt to the new surroundings and, eventually, be able to establish a viable breeding population.

During the next few decades state officials learned that the wild turkey was more adaptable than anyone had thought possible and the turkeys actually thrived in the bluff country. Because of that success other areas of Minnesota were targeted for turkey relocation and, for the most part, the transplanted birds fared so well that the wildlife officials continued to push the envelope.

Before long wild turkeys were planted in the Minnesota River bottoms, in the flat farmland of southwestern Minnesota, the rolling farmland of central Minnesota, in the Mille Lacs Wildlife Area and along the west-central border areas.

Within the past five years wild turkeys have also been transplanted near Akeley and Nevis and into Clearwater County, locations that were thought in the 1970s to be too inhospitable for the birds.

But the northern Minnesota turkeys also have adapted well to their new homes and this year DNR officials established spring turkey hunting opportunities in northern Cass, northern Hubbard and Clearwater counties.

"The areas open to turkey hunting this year have been expanded and so has the flexibility for the hunters," said DNR Park Rapids Area Wildlife Supervisor Rob Naplin.

Northern Cass County is part of turkey permit area 508 which will feature 480 spring hunting permits.

Northern Hubbard County and the southern portion of Clearwater County belong to area 507 which offers 1,205 permits while northern Clearwater County is included in area 509. Only 40 permits will be allowed in that area.

Turkey permits are required for hunters who wish to pursue turkeys during any of the first four hunting periods (April 18-22, April 23-27, April 28-May 2 and May 3-7). The deadline to apply for a permit is Friday, Jan. 13 and the applications may be made at any electronic licensing agent. A $3 fee will also be charged.

Hunters wishing to test their skills during the final four hunting time periods, however, do not need to apply for a permit. That time frame begins May 8 and continues through May 31.

"The time periods when you don't need to apply for a permit provide additional flexibility for the hunters," Naplin said. "I think the number of permits that are allowed is adequate for this year, especially with the flexibility that the non-permit time periods allow."

Highway 2 forms the northern border of the open turkey hunting range from Deer River to Solway and hunters probably will not find many birds in the immediate Bemidji and Cass Lake areas. But you don't have to go very far south or west to locate huntable populations of wild turkeys.

"In 2008 we released wild turkeys near Chamberlain (south of Akeley) and near Lake Belle Taine near Nevis," Naplin said. "They did well and now I think they probably have expanded five or six miles in their range."

A drive along Hwy. 64 between Laporte and Akeley will often be highlighted by the sight of wild turkeys scampering near the shoulder but Naplin doesn't believe those birds are descendents of the 2008 transplants.

"Those birds are the results of private efforts," Naplin said. "It is not legal to release tame birds but it is hard to enforce that law.

"What we have now in that area are pseudo-wild birds," Naplin continued. "You can't tell the difference between them and truly wild birds by looking at them and they are legal hunting targets."

The Clearwater County turkeys can be traced to the 36 birds planted in 2008.

"Most of them were hens but we supplanted the hens with a small number of jakes and gobblers," said DNR Detroit Lakes Area Widlife Supervisor Blane Klemek. Klemek was the assistant Bemidji Area Wildlife supervisor at the time of the release and he has been able to chronicle the success of the turkey transplant.

"We put 20 birds northwest of Bagley and 16 birds east of Clearbrook," Klemek said. "I did sharptail grouse surveys near Clearbrook every year and each spring I could hear the gobblers.

"People also reported seeing more and more turkeys each year near Clearbrook and west of Bagley and we know that the birds are expanding their range."

Those areas provided everything the turkeys need to survive, according to Klemek.

"There is the right mix of conifers, deciduous trees and agriculture," he said. "Before the transplant we identified these areas as likely locations for the turkeys and they have done very well in these areas."

For more information on the 2012 spring wild turkey hunt visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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