FAIRPLAIN TOWNSHIP, MICH. - Turkey hunters can now enjoy a Turkey Tracts information kiosk located right within Montcalm County.
Members of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Michigan Department of Natural Resources unveiled its newest information kiosk in the Flat River State Game Area.
According to NWTF Regional Biologist Ryan Boyer, the new kiosk comes as the result of a partnership with the MDNR. The kiosk is aimed at providing education to hunters.
"There are three main goals: To emphasize and highlight some of the great public hunting access sites, provide information for folks about ongoing habitat work, and make a connection with local communities where the kiosks are being placed, so there's an economic benefit," Boyer told The Daily News.
Wild turkeys were common in southern Michigan until about 1875, but populations then plummeted due to increases in development, unregulated market hunting and habitat loss.
In 1954, MDNR biologists chose the Allegan State Game Area in southwest Michigan as the first location to re-establish wild turkeys.
In partnership with conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation the MDNR's aggressive restocking and habitat restoration program for the wild turkey has been an achievement in wildlife conservation.
Today, with a statewide population exceeding 200,000 birds, wild turkeys are found in nearly every one of Michigan's 83 counties.
According to MDNR Upland Game Bird Specialist Al Stewart, Michigan has become one of the top states in the nation for turkey habitats and hunting, with the Flat River State Game Area providing one of those environments.
As Stewart welcomed guests at the unveiling ceremony from throughout the United Stations, he noted that many of them often visit Michigan specifically for hunting.
"It's hard to believe that for some of you that come from other areas of the country, that Michigan is (top 10) in the country for hunting turkeys, but when you think about that, not all of Michigan is prime turkey habitat, but we're happy to be in that realm," he said. "We have people who come from every state in the nation to Michigan to hunt turkey, and nearly every province in Canada, as well as many European countries. Areas like the Flat River State Game Area, it's a little secret that's not a secret anymore. Now the world knows."
In addition to the kiosk, Boyer said work is being done to improve the habitat for turkeys and other wildlife within the state game area.
"We're taking the hard-earned dollars that our volunteers work all year round to raise, and leverage those funds, making sure we can impact wild turkey habitats across the state to do the most good," he said. "We want to promote more hunting and more wildlife species."
One way Boyer said those goals are being accomplished, is by restoring oak forests, which turkeys thrive in as a natural habitat.
Those methods include timber harvests, selective use of herbicides, invasive species treatment and removal, and prescribed fire.
In addition to providing information on the kiosk sign, local connections have been established as well. Students from Belding High School helped construct the sign.
Discounts at Hilltop Sports and the WWC Armory in Greenville can be achieved by taking a "selfie" photo with the turkey tracts kiosk and presenting the photo to those businesses.
© 2017, The Daily News