The first youth-only wild turkey hunt April 17-18 resulted in several kids bagging their first birds. Twenty first-time hunters and their parents went afield before sunrise in pre-assigned hunting areas throughout the lower Minnesota River Valley.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the DNR in opening portions of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area to youth hunters. Public lands used for the hunt, which stretched from Belle Plaine to Savage, generally are closed to turkey hunting but were opened for this hunt.
"We're trying to increase access while at the same time giving kids an opportunity to hunt turkeys for the first time," said Ryan Bronson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention program coordinator. "Opening additional places to hunt, even if only for a special hunt, helps recruit new hunters without displacing existing ones."
The Southwest Metro Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation put on a picnic lunch in Chaska, and NWTF volunteers served as mentors for several young hunters and also put on a pre-hunt turkey clinic. Good weather greeted the hunters Saturday morning. Most saw or heard birds.
Another youth hunt took place under a different format. The Wildlife Science Center, a Forest Lake based research and education organization, has opened its property in northern Anoka county for youth turkey hunters. Parents and volunteer mentors will accompany two young hunters per weekend for five consecutive weekends.
Hunters were recruited by the Wildlife Science Center. The DNR worked with Wildlife Science Center staff, the Center's director Peggy Callahan and firearms safety instructor Dan Porter in organizing the hunt. Both young hunters on the property successfully bagged birds on the opening weekend. Seven more hunters will be going afield over the next four weekends hoping to maintain that streak.
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