Minnesota is a state legendary for its fishing opportunities. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also well established as one of the premiere whitetail deer hunting locations in the northern United States. Those factors have helped it fly under the radar a bit as a wild turkey hunting state. However, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has noted a steady interest in pursuing the fat gobblers that strut around the state every spring as the population of birds continues to grow.
While the DNR notes that the birds do not have a presence in big woods areas north of U.S. Highway 2, the turkey population is otherwise quite robust throughout the state. And the DNR continues to simplify turkey hunting season regulations, making Minnesota one of the more accessible states for anyone looking to start hunting long beards outside their home state. Today, we will examine the key dates you need to know for 2023, how to get a wild turkey license, and other regulations you need to know to make your hunt a success.
Minnesota Turkey Hunting Season Dates
Minnesota's spring turkey hunting season runs April 12 through May 31. However, many turkey hunters get confused because that season is broken up by eight different seasons within those dates, which run as follows for the 2023 seasons:
- Youth Season - April 12 - May 31
- Archery Season - April 12 - May 31
- A Season - April 12-18
- B Season - April 19-25
- C Season - April 26 - May 2
- D Season - May 3-9
- E Season - May 10-16
- F Season - May 17-31
- Fall Season - Oct. 1-30
The Minnesota DNR kind of buries the breakdown of what these lettered seasons mean in their turkey hunting regulations, which can be confusing for nonresidents. Basically, all you need to know is that youth hunters under 18 years of age and archery hunters can pursue turkeys through the entirety of that April 12 - May 31 time frame. However, if you are over 18 and wish to use a shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, or muzzleloading shotgun, you will need to select one of those periods for your spring hunt when you buy your permit. You can ONLY buy a firearms- or archery-only license—and not both—in Minnesota, so choose carefully. The good news for gun hunters is that if you fail to down a bird in the A through E seasons, you are allowed to hunt the final F season. We do appreciate the DNR giving us a last-ditch chance with that.
The state does ask you to select a most likely turkey permit area where you think you'll hunt during the season. However, this does NOT restrict you only to that area. They just ask this to help collect estimates on turkey harvest data. The only exemption is for Whitewater, Carlos Avery, and Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), with the A through C periods through lottery only. Anyone can hunt the Whitewater WMA after the B period ends. Like many other states, Minnesota also has a fall turkey hunting season. That season runs Oct. 1-30. Unlike the spring turkey season, there are no lotteries in the fall, and anyone can purchase a license after Aug. 1. The same applies to Mille Lacs and Carlos Avery after the C period ends.
Fortunately, Minnesota keeps things simple statewide when it comes to the paperwork you'll need. It is also highly affordable, even for a nonresident hunting license. The only hard part is deciding whether you'll be an archery or firearms hunter for the season because, as we already noted, you only get to pick one per year. The nice thing about Minnesota is that it includes the $5.00 wild turkey stamp validation in the license price without having to buy an additional stamp. There is also a misconception that a small game hunting license is required for turkeys, but that is not the case for the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The different licenses and their costs are as follows:
- Resident age 18 and over - $26.00
- Resident age 13 to 17 - $4.00
- Resident age 12 and younger - Free with a $1 issuing fee
- Nonresident age 18 and older - $96.00
- Nonresident age 13 to 17 - $4.00
- Nonresident age 12 and younger - free with a $1 issuing fee
If you are looking for a place to take a youngster for their first turkey hunt, it is hard to get much more affordable than what Minnesota offers. The other benefit for youth is that they are not restricted to any of the individual seasons with a firearm. That means hunters 17 and younger can hunt the entire season, April 12 - May 31, with a firearm if they choose.
If you want to hunt the three WMA areas we mentioned earlier—the Carlos Avery, Whitewater, or Mille Lacs—in the A through C seasons, you will need to put in for the lottery for an additional $4. The Minnesota DNR has a phone number at 888-665-4236 where you can do this, but it can also be done at any license retailer. Minnesota doles out its turkey hunting licenses over the counter beginning March 1 every year, so circle your calendar, because it is coming up fast!
Bag Limits and Other Notable Regulations
The bag limit is slightly different for the spring and fall eastern wild turkey seasons. In the spring, you are only allowed one bird with a visible beard. The fall is the only time you can harvest a hen, as the bag limit there is one bird of either sex. According to the DNR, you can harvest a turkey in both seasons so long as you have the proper hunting license for each of those seasons.
Minnesota is a state that mandates the registration of all harvested wild turkeys within 24 hours of your harvest. The nice thing is that the DNR gives you multiple options to do this. The easiest is through its website, but it also has a number at 888-706-6367 to do it. There are also check stations throughout the state. You need to ensure you have your bird registered before you transport it outside the turkey permit area where you took it. Keep a leg and foot or a fully feathered wing intact while transporting the bird to your destination. This just helps verify your harvest if a conservation officer wants to inspect it. Don't forget to fill out your tag and attach it to the bird.
As far as legal equipment goes, Minnesota allows shot sizes that are No. 4 or smaller only for turkeys. However, you can use just about any shotgun 10 gauge and smaller; this includes the increasingly popular .410 bore turkey guns many manufacturers are releasing these days.
For archers, make sure your draw weight is at least 30 pounds at full draw to stay legal. Minnesota also mandates that broadheads must be blunt or have at least two cutting edges at least 7/8 of an inch in diameter. Expandable blades are legal so long as they hit that same 7/8-inch diameter requirement.
The only other regulation to watch out for involves restrictions on using electronics to pursue turkeys. You can use a red dot scope and rangefinder; but other than that, you will need to rely on old-fashioned turkey calls and decoys.
Those are the most important things to know about hunting Minnesota's wild turkey seasons. Time to get out there and find a big gobbler this spring!
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