Fall Turkey Hunting

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Minnesota hunters have no shortage of options when it comes to pursuing their favorite fall quarry. The problem comes in deciding which, when, and where.

Deer. Pheasants. Ducks. Geese. Rabbits and squirrels. Woodcock. Grouse. Hungarian partridge. Even prairie chickens and wild turkeys. All are possibilities for the hunter in Minnesota. However, as long as there are bosses who expect employees to show up for work at least once in a while, most hunters need to be somewhat selective in their hunting choices.

While fall turkey hunting does not attract near the numbers of participants as other fall hunting options, it nevertheless maintains a steady number of applicants hoping to be awarded one of the approximately 4,000 permits available annually. (Some 500,000 individuals purchase deer licenses each year in Minnesota; waterfowl and pheasants each attract another 100,000-plus hunters annually).

In Minnesota and most states, wild turkey hunting is synonymous with spring. It’s the time of the year when gobblers are in a love-struck mood and much more likely to wander within gun range. Although a turkey of either sex can be taken in the fall, the majority of hunters are looking for 'ol Tom when they head for the woods. Considering the difficulty of waylaying a gobbler, along with other fall hunting options and the spring turkey season opportunity, it's understandable the fall turkey hunter tends to be more passionate about the sport.

Minnesota first offered a fall turkey hunting season in 1990 when 1,000 permits were made available. That year, 326 turkeys were registered. By 2004, the number of permits offered had climbed to 4,380. A total of 3,277 permits were issued that year and 745 turkeys were registered.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) operates the fall hunt much as it does the spring hunt. Applications for a permit are submitted for either of two seasons (Oct. 12-16 or Oct. 19-23) in one of 24 permit areas. Applications must be made before the late-July deadline.

There is also a landowner/tenant provision under which up to 20 percent of the permits for each wild turkey permit area and time period are issued by computer selection to applicants who live as landowners or tenants on 40 acres or more of land within the wild turkey permit area for which they have applied.

New this year is a change that allows juveniles under the age of 12 to apply for a license although they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian while hunting.

"Although bagging a gobbler in the fall is challenging, it can be done," said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife habitat coordinator. "If you do settle on a hen, there's good eatin' to be had ahead. At the very least, spending a few hours alone amidst the color of a fall woods is not a bad way to soothe frazzled nerves and re-charge a fading battery."