Spring has arrived in full regalia, including its symphony of bird songs - including the coveted turkey gobble for Detroit's conservation community. Here is Expedition Detroit's 2023 breakdown of the locations, dates, equipment, and special regulations for this Spring's Michigan turkey hunting season.
Imagine a perfect spring morning on your favorite trail. A pleasant 60º temperature with a bluebird sky backdrop, contrasted only by the budding greens, whites, pinks, and purples of the flowering trees. Wildflowers may already be sprouting through the freshly de-frosted ground, and the songs of migrant songbirds complete the background ambiance.
One song breaks through the chorus - a distinct "GOBBLE, GOBBLE" that you had not thought about since November. Then you see them - a flock of wild turkeys steadily trekking through the woods, with a peacocking, puffed-out tom surely chasing down the hens.
Maybe this is your first time ever seeing wild turkeys on this trail. Maybe it's the hundredth time. Regardless, the fact that you're actually witnessing that particular flock resulted from nothing short of a conservation miracle. A research-based, near-perfectly executed plan to preserve and manage North America's wild turkey population that was on the brink of extinction.
And no, this near-catastrophic event did not occur in the 1800s or early 1900s like so many other mass-extinction events. We almost lost our wild turkeys in the 1970s.
If you're new to Expedition Detroit, the inclusion of a hunting article during peak "Earth Day" content season may seem out of place. We understand that sentiment, but the truth is that ethical, recreational hunting provides a cornerstone component of the Michigan Department of Natural Resource's greater conservation program. Beyond the revenue from hunting licenses providing a key funding source for the DNR's operations, the active management of wild species like wild turkey has led to a nearly 8x increase in their population and material preservation of their habitat. For this and many other reasons, outdoor ethics organizations like Leave No Trace have endorsed ethical hunting as a fundamental aspect of a healthy recreational ecosystem.
Tomorrow, April 22nd, is the opening day for Spring Wild Turkey Season throughout southern Michigan. Here's a "cheatsheet" for what you should know before heading into the field.
2023 Spring Turkey Digest Highlights
Every spring, the Michigan DNR produces its Michigan Spring Turkey Digest that constitutes essentially the Bible on all matters Michigan turkey hunting. Here's a consolidated version of the Digest for turkey hunting within the Detroit region.
When to Apply: Leftover licenses are available for purchase now via the Michigan DNR's website. Purchased licenses will be mailed within 7 to 10 business days after purchase.
Season Dates: April 22nd - May 31st for private land hunting within Unit ZZ. The public Units have a possible extended season through June 7th depending on each license's specific hunt numbers.
Required Equipment: Hunters may use a bow and arrow, a crossbow, a firearm that fires a fixed shotgun shell, or a muzzleloading shotgun. It is illegal to use or carry afield any other
With regard to camouflage, we recommended repurposing your bow hunting equipment for early Whitetail Deer season for Michigan's early spring conditions.
Limitations: 1 bearded turkey per tag. Hunters are also allotted only one tag per season.
Licenses Required: Base License and a Spring Turkey License.
Limitations: 1 bearded turkey per tag. Hunters are also allotted only one tag per season. Turkeys may not be harvested while roosting or sitting in a tree. Mechanical, electronic or live decoys are prohibited.
Recommended Public Hunting Locations
As displayed within the Digest, the entirety of the Detroit region is within the "ZZ" Unit - a multi-county, private-land only unit. Within the ZZ Unit "private" area, there are also three "public" area units that feature some of the best hunting destinations throughout the entire state. For the Detroit region, these public areas include Unit ZD and the southeastern portions of Units ZC and ZE.
While licensed hunters can pursue Michigan's turkeys in most state-managed areas, there are a select handful of state lands that the DNR has specifically anointed as suggested locations for prime spring Michigan turkey hunting opportunities. Several of these are in the Detroit region, but two are uniquely located within the same township: Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area in Holly Township. Of these two destinations, Holly Recreation Area is especially well-suited for Michigan turkey hunting due to its 8,000+ acres, rolling woodlands, and open fields. Both natural areas are located in Unit ZC and are prime destinations for conventional birdwatching activities as well.
Please note that this cheatsheet is only a high-level and supplemental reference to the Digest. The Digest also includes a broad range of very helpful and instructive information, such as legal shooting hours, information on lawful stands and baiting practices, and penalties for violations. Any further inquiries regarding applicable rules and regulations should be directed to the Hunting Digest or DNR at 517-284-WILD.
You can CLICK HERE to purchase any of the requisite licenses listed above.
Best of luck this season!