Turkey hunters hopeful of high success rate

BIG RAPIDS — Turkey hunting in Area K, which includes local counties, began on Monday and hunters will be able to get an idea on what impact the severe season may have had on wildlife.

Monday was the opener of the first turkey season. The second season starts April 28 followed by the third season which goes May 5-31.

It’s anyone’s guess how area turkey hunters will fare this spring.

Katie Keen, northern Michigan wildlife technician for the Department of Natural Resources, said there haven’t been many reports on dead or possibly starved turkeys.

“We can assume the winter had an effect,” she said. “At this point, we haven’t seen that there’s been anything significant. We’ve been hearing and seeing birds gobbling. People are saying that in this first week, we could be a little behind. At this point, birds are active and we’re seeing them.”

Keen expected a good opening day as long as hunters do their homework.

“As long as that scouting works, there could be some great success that first week as well as the other seasons too,” she said.

“I have had no calls of turkey mortality from our harsh winter, which is good news,” said Mecosta County Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Pete Kailing. “There may be some but I haven’t heard about it. If people find a dead bird, I would like to hear from them.”

Kailing was in northern Newaygo and Oceana counties last week.

“I saw quite a numbers of birds,” he said. “If you live near where there’s some corn left over from last year, turkeys have probably been in it. I’d say we caught a good break with this warm weather we’ve had recently.”

Kailing noted that the first season is usually the most popular.

“That’s because the birds are in early in the breeding stage, the toms are more vulnerable to calling,” Kailing said. “By May, some of the hens are already nesting and some of the breeding activity is tapering off and it can be more difficult to lure in a gobbler. The advantage of later hunt is you have more time to participate and the weather is usually a little predictable, a little more mild.

“(All seasons) can be good. People that have the best success do the most scouting....They find out where the birds are roosting and where they’re feeding and where they’re moving through the day so they can have a better chance of intercepting them. The first week can be a gamble too if it’s a stretch of bad weather with wind and rain and you’ve used up your opportunity.”

David Randall, an avid eastern Mecosta County turkey hunter, expects a challenging season.

“I’m not seeing a lot of birds,” he said. “We had a lot of winter kill this year. I am seeing some birds, but not nearly as many as I saw last year. It’s a wait and see thing for me right now. I have the last season and am looking forward to that. Hopefully we won’t get any more snow. That would be a good thing.

“They’re easy to see out in the field right now.”


Jim Warren of Baldwin reports that his grandson Tyler Clugston has had success steelhead fishing by Rainbow Rapids. He recently entered a 13-pounder in a local contest. He caught it last Friday.

“We want to go over the (Big Star) lake over here, they’ve been getting some nice walleye,” Warren said. “We’ve been getting them with 5-to-6 inch minnows.”

Warren said his grandson has also seen a mama bear with twin cubs, weighing about 90 pounds each.