New Brunswick hunters will get the chance to set their sights on wild turkeys for the first time this spring.
The province announced Tuesday that it's opening a new limited-entry draw for a wild turkey season in the province from May 10 to May 22.
The creation of a wild turkey hunting season was a long time in the making, said Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland.
"There are a lot of people who have been working towards getting to the point of managing wild turkeys here in the province of New Brunswick, and the sum total of all their efforts have come together," said Holland, who's formerly the vice-president of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation.
"And we're looking forward to launching the first annual wild turkey hunt here in the province of New Brunswick."
Holland announced a little over a year ago that the province would host its first turkey hunt in May 2020. The hunt, however, was later cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions the province implemented.
Holland said there are an estimated 2,000 wild turkeys in the province, citing statistics from the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation.
For the hunting season, the province will be offering up 400 permits that will be issued through a draw, for which applications will be open from April 6 to 16.
Holland said hunting will only be permitted in five wildlife management zones in the southwestern region of the province including the Minto and Chipman areas.
Only bearded male turkeys will be allowed to be hunted, and each permit holder will only be able to kill one.
Proposed benefits of a turkey hunt
Holland said one of the perks of having a turkey hunt is it will give the province the chance to track the population of animals in the province.
The birds are relatively new here, with the New Brunswick Bird Records Committee voting to add them to the province's official bird list in November 2019, which means New Brunswick now has an established population.
"So by putting it in as a species that we harvest and manage here in the province of New Brunswick, it will require the Department of Natural Resources to also develop and build databases on the animal itself, and that's absent right now," Holland said.
"So we're looking forward to expanding our knowledge as it relates to the animals that are calling the woods of New Brunswick home."
Holland said the seasonal hunt will also stimulate the economies of communities where hunting turkeys is permitted.
"Jurisdictions that have developed wild turkey hunting, they have seen the benefits to the economic fabric of their jurisdiction in the millions [of dollars]."
Nathalie Michaud, president of the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, said New Brunswick hunters for years have travelled to Maine to participate in a wild turkey hunt.
With a hunt in New Brunswick, Michaud said those hunters, and the money they'd be spending on permits and outfitter fees, will be staying in the local economy.
"We're really happy about this," Michaud said. "The federation's been pushing this for us since about 2003."
Michaud said she's been told the hunt will be held in wildlife management zones 10, 15, 16, 17 and 20.