New Brunswick’s second wild turkey hunt is underway

The New Brunswick wild turkey hunt kicked off Monday, giving 450 hunters 13 days to capture a bird.

This year’s hunt, which runs until May 21, is only the second ever in the province, which means new hunters are getting ready.

“It attracts 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, ammo, different weapons, camos, clothes, and then calls too.”

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

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

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

Turkey hunting is restricted to six wildlife areas in New Brunswick (Submitted by Steve Leslie)

This year’s permit allocation is up from last year’s inaugural hunt. A random computer draw selected 400 applicants for a wild turkey hunt in 2021. Of those 350 hunters, they chose to purchase the license. A total of 126 turkeys were harvested this first year.

Functioning much like the province’s moose draw, where hunters are only allowed to get one animal, and each hunter is restricted to one of the province’s 27 wildlife areas.

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

Mike Holland, the province’s natural resources minister, said he hopes the number of turkey hunting areas will increase in the future.

“We see and hear about birds in various different areas that are not open for hunting,” he said Monday. “While the population exists, we need to make sure it’s sustainable if you’re going to introduce hunting of any kind.”

Before becoming Minister of Natural Resources, Mike Holland lobbied for a turkey hunt in New Brunswick as president of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation. (File photo Shane Fowler/CBC)

Holland was a hunting advocate and president of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation for years before becoming Minister of Natural Resources.

Wild turkey hunting has been controversial, with some experts saying they believe the turkey population was inflated by someone releasing domesticated birds into the wild, as opposed to a natural migration of birds from neighboring Maine.

Anyway, the wild turkey was added to the province’s provincial bird list in 2019, and its provincial hunt was 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 researching ways to collect “biologicals” or physical parts of carcasses to give biologists a better understanding of the health, age and dispersal of populations, much like how teeth are collected and the inspected hides of moose during the fall hunt.

“We do that in a limited way there now, but every year we put more plans on the table to deepen the pool of data that we collect,” Holland said.

Sharon P. Juarez