The Real Turkeys Are The Landowners

When modern day turkey hunting began in Minnesota 25 plus years ago folks were just excited to have an opportunity to once again hunt this majestic game bird…and to do so close to home.   Eventually, however, the landowner/sportsmen concluded that if they house and feed these birds all year long they should have some special privileges when it comes time to hunt them.

So, eventually the state game laws evolved allowing for a landowner preference system whereby if someone owned sufficient land in turkey country they could apply for landowner permits and get some preferential treatment in the permit draw.   The one small caveat, if the landowner uses this special privilege he would then be obligated to let hunters onto his property in kind.   The DNR even published lists of successful landowners and where their property was located.

To me this was always a gray area because nothing controlled how many hunters the landowner had to let onto his property.   If the landowner let a few of his friends hunt…he was allowing hunting on his property and was in total compliance of the law.   For years many of the landowners in Minnesota also found ways to abuse the system and get their turkey permits under this system.

Okay, let’s get something straight up-front.   Before you start thinking this is sour grapes of the have and have nots, you need to know that I AM a landowner and that in years past I HAVE applied for the landowner preference.   More recently, however, I have applied as a regular resident mostly because I do not want to feel obligated to have hunters knocking at my door all spring…and besides, the hunters I wanted to apply with as a group were not landowners.   To apply as a group you all need to qualify similarly.

At current issue is a change in the Minnesota turkey hunting law from last year.   Previously, if you qualified as a landowner you could hunt your land or any land within the same hunting zone.   But no more…starting this year…when hunters fortunate enough to be landowners applied for the permit they were required to only hunt on the property they claimed.   You see, there were landowners who had virtually no suitable turkey habitat applying and getting the landowner draw…with no intentions of ever hunting their property for obvious reasons.

Apparently this new law change has infuriated some SE Minnesota landowners to the point they are closing off their property entirely to turkey hunters.   To all of these landowners I say grow up and be reasonable.   You’ve gotten away with skirting the system all these years and it certainly wasn’t for the betterment of the sport.   If you have property with an abundance of turkeys…either hunt it and let others hunt there…or apply in the regular drawing like the rest of us.   What the law changed last year only made things right for everyone involved in this fine sport.

After all, seeking out and obtaining privileges under false pretenses is simply not right.   What the Minnesota Legislature did last year was simply require a landowner to hunt their own property if they are claiming it for the special privileges.   But when these landowners know that hunting their property for turkeys was a futile effort, and they would no longer be able to hunt a neighbor’s property by still applying as a landowner…then the tit for tat behavior began.   Now this spring some hunters are discovering landowners with a chip on their shoulder who are not allowing any hunting on their land until the law is changed.

We do not need this sort of divide in the hunting world.   We need to see a certain sort of cohesiveness between all landowners and the sportsmen who want to hunt on their land.

I am calling for the Minnesota DNR to totally revise their turkey hunting allocation system.   Quit hiding behind some governmental smoke and mirrors under the guise of wildlife management, and open up the Minnesota turkey season for all to enjoy on an equal basis.   Every Minnesota resident should be able to annually plan for a spring turkey hunt without fingers being crossed hoping for such an opportunity with a draw system.   The time has come.   Make the change.

Furthermore, and in the meantime, the time has come for certain landowners in this state to quit acting like a bunch of pouting kids who didn’t get what they wanted.   You are blessed with a resource that all of us have paid for to put on your property.   Quit acting like a victim…and for those who haven’t even seen a turkey on their property for the past 20 years but insist on applying as a landowner anyway…go look in the mirror.   You just broke your 20-year streak.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.