LANSING - More turkey hunting licenses will be issued this year to lure young people outdoors, a step which may help improve the state's economy said Rodney Stokes, director of the Department of Natural Resources.
A new $7.50 mentored youth hunting license package started on March 1, according to the DNR. The spring turkey season which runs from next Wednesay to May 13.
"It is a good way to teach children about the importance of conserving the state's unmatched natural resources and ensure the hunting tradition continues to thrive," Stokes said.
A turkey is seen in a Michigan forest in this file photo. (Journal file photo)
The new mentoring program will eliminate the minimum hunting age and let parents decide if and when their child is ready to hunt. The change is geared toward parents and other adult mentors who want to teach children younger than 10 how to hunt, trap and fish, according to the DNR.
"We hope our children can go outside and enjoy the amazing nature of Michigan rather than just sit on the couch and play with the computer. Hunting is the best way to achieve it," Stokes said.
Nationally, nearly 2.8 million turkey hunting licenses are sold every year, according to Brent Lawrence, public relations and web director at the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield, S.C.
"Wild turkey numbers remain strong nationwide, with an estimated population of 7 million turkeys across North America," Lawrence said. "Michigan is home to some of the best turkey hunting in the upper Midwest, with huntable populations in most counties including the Upper Peninsula."
New youth licensing procedures coincide with a newly passed bill, sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, requiring a specific license to hunt turkey. The fee would be $15 per resident and $69 for a non-resident.
The bill is a promise to turkey hunters that if they are willing to purchase a special license, the proceeds would be used to manage wild turkeys across their entire range, according to the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association.
The other sponsors are Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, Sen. John Proos, R-Lansing, Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion and Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.
The bill is awaiting action by Gov. Rick Snyder.
And regardless of age, the DNR strongly suggests parents have their children attend a hunting safety course.
"Our department provides various hunting safety education programs and people can find related courses online," Stokes said.
According to a report from the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation in Washington, hunting generates nearly $25 billion a year in federal, state and local revenue. Also, there are more than 19,500 jobs supported by hunting in Michigan alone.
Federal excise taxes and state license revenue have helped bring back dozens of species, including wild turkeys, the foundation said.
Fewer than 100,000 wild turkeys remained in the nation in 1900, but now there are more than 7 million.
Jim Maturen, president of the Pere Marquette chapter of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association, said turkey hunting is a boon for the state's businesses, especially in the spring season.
"Having more turkey hunters will definitely support local business because they need equipment," Maturen said.
Also, turkey hunting will boost tourism and help children better understand the environment, he said.
More information about youth licenses can be found at www.michigan.gov/dnr.