New Brunswick's second-ever wild turkey hunt underway

·3 min read
Wild turkeys can be harvested with a shotgun, bow or crossbow. (CBC News - image credit)
Wild turkeys can be harvested with a shotgun, bow or crossbow. (CBC News - image credit)

New Brunswick's wild turkey hunt opened Monday, giving a possible 450 hunters 13 days to bag a bird.

This year's hunt, running until May 21, is just the second ever in the province, and that means hunters new to the sport are gearing up.

"It is bringing in a few more people," said John Dow, who works in sales at Currie's Hardware in Woodstock. "You have to have different stuff like decoys, ammunition, different guns, camo, clothing, and then calls as well."

And if you think things like a turkey decoy are cheap, guess again. They can cost anywhere from $40 to $250, Dow said.

That's a bit more than the $6.90 it costs to apply for the hunt. But hunters must also have completed a hunter safety course, obtained a possession and acquisition licence for non-restricted firearms, and completed an online turkey-hunting course.

Turkeys in New Brunswick can only be hunted with a shotgun, bow or crossbow.

Submitted by Steve Leslie
Submitted by Steve Leslie

This year's licence allotment is up from last year's inaugural hunt. A randomized computer draw selected 400 applicants for a wild turkey hunt in 2021. Out of those 350 hunters, chose to actually purchase the licence. In total, 126 turkeys were harvested that first year.

Operating much like the province's moose draw, where hunters are only permitted to get one animal, and each hunter is restricted to one of the provinces 27 wildlife zones.

Currently, only six wildlife zones have enough turkeys to sustain a hunt, with the majority of those in southwestern New Brunswick.

Mike Holland, the province's minister of natural resources, said he hopes the number of zones for turkey hunting will expand in the future.

"We're seeing and hearing about reports of birds in a variety of different zones that aren't open for hunting," he said Monday. "Although the population is existing, we need to ensure it's sustainable if you are going to introduce a hunt of any kind."

Shane Fowler/CBC file photo
Shane Fowler/CBC file photo

Holland was an advocate of the hunt and president of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation for years before becoming natural resources minister.

The wild turkey hunt has been controversial, with some experts saying they believed the turkey population was being inflated by someone releasing domestic birds into the wild as opposed to a natural migration of the birds from neighbouring Maine.

Regardless, wild turkey was added to the province's provincial bird list in 2019, and a provincial hunt for them authorized by Holland two years later.

Holland said each successive hunt will lead to a better understanding of the bird and its population in the province.

The department is looking at ways to collect "biologicals" or physical parts from carcasses to give biologists a better understanding of the populations health, age, and how it's dispersed, much like how teeth are collected and hides inspected from moose during the fall hunt.

"We're doing it in limited fashion there now, but each and every year, we put more plans on the table to deepen the pool of the data that we gather," said Holland.

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