If Easter has you thinking about turkey dinners, then you’ll be happy to hear that Manitoba’s turkey hunting season is just around the corner. From mid-April to late May, chasing down wild turkeys marks the beginning of hunting season for many, and at Birdtail Waterfowl, we’re already anxious to get back out there. Here in Manitoba, we have a healthy population of wild turkeys, and hunters can pursue both Merriam’s and Easter subspecies.
Why we love turkey hunting
Besides marking the start of another great season, hunting wild turkeys is a lot of fun. Turkeys have excellent eyesight, keen hearing, and are incredibly wary, so they’re a good challenge for hunters. You’ll really need to use your skills and knowledge to outsmart these birds!
Wild turkey meat is also delicious. It’s lean and high in protein and is usually a family favourite. Besides the excitement of the hunt and the culinary reward, turkey hunting also plays an essential role in conservation efforts. It helps to manage turkey populations and can contribute to habitat restoration efforts.
So how do you go about hunting turkeys?
First, you’ll want to make sure you get the proper licence. If you’re booking a hunt with Birdtail Waterfowl, we can assist you with this.
A Resident Wild Turkey licence will cost you $32.75, while a Youth (Resident) pays only $14.75. It’ll be valid for both the spring and fall seasons, although only one wild turkey may be harvested each year. Unfortunately, licences aren’t available for non-residents or foreign residents. Make sure you print and sign your licence before heading out. Wild turkey hunters may hunt in a party of two, and youth hunters should form a party with a licensed adult supervisor.
Hunting for wild turkeys requires careful planning, preparation, and patience – not unlike most hunting. In addition to acquiring a licence, here are some other helpful tips to help make your hunt a success.
- Learn about turkey behaviour. Your odds of bagging a fat gobbler will be improved if you familiarize yourself with their feeding and mating habits, preferred habitats, and vocalizations. For example, did you know that turkeys sleep in roost trees? They typically return to the same tree each night, so knowing this can make for a successful early morning hunt before they flee for the day.
- Dress the part. Deck yourself out in full-body camouflage for these skittish targets.
- Know how to call them. Using a turkey call can help you mimic various turkey vocalizations to attract your prey. A turkey mouth call may take some practice, but box calls or even high tech apps can make it easier to replicate a realistic call.
- Set up decoys. A decoy trap can lure them in by triggering their instincts to defend their territory or desire to breed.
- Be patient. You’ll want to wait quietly and get as close as possible – you don’t want to spook these guys by firing and missing. Wait for them to get close, then take your best possible shot.
- Get creative. You might fare better by seeking out an older lone tom, which is more likely to stick to predictable spots and be easier to track. Plus, you’ll be rewarded with a big bird!
Once you have your bird, it’s time to prepare for a feast. While wild turkeys tend to be a bit firmer than their domestic counterparts, they’re exceptionally flavourful. Dress it properly by plucking or skinning the feathers, removing the internal organs, and cleaning your catch thoroughly.
If you’re worried about your wild turkey being dry or tough, you can brine the meat for several hours or even overnight to add flavour and moisture. Then season it with your favourite herbs or spices like rosemary, thyme, garlic, or even lemon juice to enhance the taste.
Cook your turkey like you would any poultry, making sure it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Then let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving to lock in those juices, and enjoy your meal!
Don’t forget that specific hunting seasons and regulations can vary from year to year, and it may also depend on the area of Manitoba you’re in. It’s essential to check with the Manitoba Department of Sustainable Development or a licensed hunting outfitter to ensure you have the most up-to-date information before planning your hunting trip. Looking to book with a guide? Find out how Birdtail Waterfowl can help with all the planning, support, and guidance you need.