Season regulations add flexibility that could help license holders hunt close to home.
When turkey hunting season opens April 15, hunters who want to bag a tom turkey are encouraged to stay close to home.
“We understand that hunting close to home might require hunters to make some adjustments,” said Leslie McInenly, wildlife populations program manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “This will be a little easier because this year’s turkey licenses have more built-in flexibility.”
Recent regulation changes mean hunters will no longer be restricted to a single permit area. So if hunters had bought a license with plans to travel to their usual hunting location, they can still use the same license to hunt close to home, even in a different permit area than usual.
Another change that adds flexibility allows a hunter to purchase a license for any of the turkey hunting time periods without applying early. Applications were required in January, though, for firearms hunters age 18 and older who wanted to hunt in the Mille Lacs, Carlos Avery or Whitewater wildlife management areas (WMA).
Gov. Walz’s Stay at Home Order (Executive Order 20-33) allows people to be outdoors, engaging in activities such as walking, running, and fishing and hunting. Minnesotans can continue to enjoy parks and other public recreation lands. The DNR urges outdoor enthusiasts to stay close to home; not congregate when outdoors; and follow social distancing guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health.
“If you’re planning to hunt at a WMA or other public land, make sure to practice social distancing. If you see a crowded parking lot or expect an area will be crowded, find another close-to-home location to hunt,” McInenly said.
One way to search for public hunting land is using the DNR Recreation Compass.
Both hunters and non-hunters should be careful on WMAs as there is no blaze orange requirement for spring turkey hunting. Hunters must be sure of their target and what is beyond. Those who might be in WMAs should not wear any visible article of clothing into the turkey woods that contains the colors white, red or blue. Hunters don’t wear these colors because turkeys will spot them; non-hunters should not wear them because they are associated with the head of a male turkey – and that can lead to hunting accidents.
Hunters should follow the basic rules of firearms safety. Again, be sure of your target and what’s beyond. Treat each firearm as if it is loaded. Control the muzzle of your firearm. And keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
License and season details
Hunters can purchase a license on the DNR website or by telephone by calling 888-665-4236. People can also purchase licenses in person at license agents that remain open, such as convenience stores. The DNR encourages people to purchase licenses online or by phone if possible. Because turkey hunters need the physical tag, they should plan for 7-10 days to allow their license to arrive in the mail, unless they purchase it in person.
The DNR annually monitors hunter participation and turkey harvest. In 2019, the agency considered recent season participation, hunter interest in lotteries, harvest levels and public comment on potential season changes. Public input indicated high levels of hunter support for greater flexibility in hunting location as well as increased opportunities to purchase licenses over the counter rather than through the lottery.
Turkey season runs from April 15 to May 31 and is divided into six hunt periods, A through F (dates are in table below). Firearms turkey hunters can participate in Hunt F if they have an unused tag from one of the earlier hunt periods or if they choose to purchase a license for that time period.
Archery-only license holders may still hunt any close-to-home permit area for the entire season (April 15-May 31). Hunters cannot purchase both a firearms and archery-only license. Licensed hunters ages 17 and younger may hunt any close-to-home permit area statewide for the entire season (April 15-May 31) with firearms or archery equipment.
Because there was no lottery for spring wild turkey licenses outside the three major-unit WMAs this year, the landowner and tenant drawing, which set aside a percentage of lottery licenses for landowners with qualifying land, was discontinued, and landowners and tenants can purchase licenses like other turkey hunters.
Full wild turkey hunting regulations, including details on turkey registration, shooting hours and legal firearms as well as helpful turkey hunting tips and safety can be found on the DNR website.
2020 Spring turkey hunt periods
Hunt A: April 15-21
Hunt B: April 22-28
Hunt C: April 29-May 5
Hunt D: May 6-12
Hunt E: May 13-19
Hunt F: May 20-31