Leier: ND spring turkey licenses still available

Even with my North Dakota outdoors lineage, I'm guilty of sometimes losing sight of how fortunate we are to enjoy such a variety of opportunities. One of those is wild turkey hunting, both in spring and fall.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Photo North Dakota spring turkey license application is open until Wednesday.

Even with my North Dakota outdoors lineage, I’m guilty of sometimes losing sight of how fortunate we are to enjoy such a variety of opportunities. One of those is wild turkey hunting, both in spring and fall.
Right now a lot of positive attention is directed at high duck, goose, walleye, pike and perch numbers, and sometimes we tend to forget about a turkey population that provides thousands of hunting opportunities each year.
Even though the start of the spring season isn’t on the calendar until April, now is an important time to discuss turkeys, as the application period for spring licenses is open, and the deadline is coming up soon on Feb. 11.
My dad and other generations recall when North Dakota held its first spring turkey nearly four decades ago in 1976. It was one short season before it was closed again for five years from 1977 through 1981, and then reopened again in 1982 in two turkey units with only 70 licenses available.
The 2015 spring season will have 22 open units and 5,816 licenses available.
Wild turkeys are not native to North Dakota. They were brought here and released stages starting in the early 1950s. As a woodland bird in a prairie state, a lot of folks questioned whether they were going to take, but they did adapt to wooded riverbottoms at first, and they expanded quite rapidly.
Today, North Dakota has turkeys in just about all areas of the state that have anything close to a good turkey habitat.
Turkeys are a hardy bird. While some upland and big game species were noticeably affected by the three harsh winters we had several years ago, turkeys generally were not. However, subsequent wet and cool springs did affect nesting and brood-rearing success.
North Dakota’s turkey population generally experienced poor reproduction over much of the state from 2008 through 2013. Consequently, fewer young birds were added to the population during this time, decreasing the overall turkey population in all units. Statewide, this lower turkey population carried over into the spring of 2014, resulting in a smaller adult breeding population.
However, hatching success and chick survival during spring and summer of 2014 were better than the previous years. Even so, in most areas of the state turkey numbers are still lower than the State Game and Fish Department would like to see, but spring gobbler harvest doesn’t affect the fall population.
The 2015 spring turkey season opens April 11 and closes Sunday, May 17. Game and Fish encourages online applications at, but paper applications are also available at license vendor locations around the state.
In the fall, turkey hunting competes with the many other opportunities North Dakota has to offer, but in the spring, outside of the light goose season, turkeys are about the only game in town.
In some units the odds of drawing a license are high, and in others, not so much. But I do know that to have a chance to participate, you need to get that application in by Feb. 11.
Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached via email:

Related Topics: HUNTING
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