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Love is in the air for turkeys in Michigan, but spring hunting season looms

wild turkey
During breeding season male turkeys puff their feathers out to attract females. (Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
  • Wild turkeys in Michigan can be found across the state all year long 
  • During the spring, wild turkeys are more likely to be spotted because it is breeding season
  • Michigan has spring and fall hunting seasons for wild turkeys. The spring season begins April 20 in many areas

Wild turkeys were once a dying species but are now thriving in Michigan, which may explain why you’re more likely to see a wild turkey, especially during this time of year as they enter mating season. 

Breeding for wild turkeys begins as daylight hours increase and temperatures start to rise. In northern states like Michigan, turkeys will begin mating in late March and early April. 

Wild turkeys are mostly found in the southern Lower Peninsula but can also be spotted in some parts of the Upper Peninsula.


“The turkey seasons that we have are managed, to make sure that we're not having negative impacts on the population,” said Adam Bump, upland game bird specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources. “We want to make sure we have turkeys around for everybody to enjoy into the future.


In Michigan, there are two hunting seasons for wild turkeys, one in the spring and one in the fall. Regulations for the two seasons vary. 

The spring wild turkey hunting season is more restrictive than the fall season. During the spring hunting season, Bump said, “you can only harvest male birds, or birds that have a beard, and we're pretty restrictive.” 

“We try to make sure that we're only removing those male birds and removing them at a time where the females are still getting bred to make sure that we're not impacting the population.” 

Male turkeys, or toms, attract females by puffing out their feathers and fanning their tails. Female turkeys, or hens, have a better chance at laying eggs if they mate with more than one tom. Eggs that are laid within a few days of breeding are more likely to be a successful nest. 

“In the fall we allow harvests of any turkey, male or female, and the purpose of that hunt is more for management sake,” he said. “Most of the fall turkey hunting is just kind of like deer hunting: People sit and wait for turkeys. They don't really respond the same way as they do in spring.” 

State regulations allow hunters to use “a bow and arrow, crossbow, or firearm that fires a fixed shotgun shell or a muzzleloading shotgun” to hunt turkeys in the spring and fall. 

Gary Maas, president of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association, attributed the large concentration of turkeys in the southern Lower Peninsula to hunters aging out of the sport. 

“There's a lot more turkeys in some areas of the state than others, like down in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula, there's a tremendous amount.” 

Getting ready for the hunt 

The spring hunting season begins April 20 in many areas, and the length of the season varies in each management unit. 

Hunters who wanted to participate this season had to apply for a license valid for specific dates in specific management units. Those who were not selected through the lottery system may be able to apply for a “leftover” license, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The fee to participate in the drawing was $5, and the spring turkey-hunting license fee is $15 for all hunters between 17 and 64 years of age. It’s $6 for hunters 65 and older who reside in Michigan. 

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