Sportsman’s Corner: Turkey Federation recognizes Mass Wildlife Director Mark Tisa

Published: 3/23/2023 4:23:00 PM
Modified: 3/23/2023 4:22:59 PM

By Mike Roche

During their annual convention in February, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) presented MassWildlife Director Mark Tisa with its new Innovation Award. The award recognizes MassWildlife’s use of creative strategies to address conservation issues and declining hunting participation.

“I am honored to receive NWTF’s Innovation Award,” Tisa said. “MassWildlife and NWTF continue to grow our important partnership, collaborating on mentorship and learn-to-hunt programs, as well as habitat and access improvement projects. Through sound wildlife management and the support of conservation partners like NWTF, MassWildlife is proud to continue expanding turkey hunting opportunities in Massachusetts by increasing the annual bag limit, expanding opportunities for youth, and extending the fall season in recent years.”

MassWildlife has partnered with the NWTF Massachusetts State Chapter to provide learning and mentorship opportunities for hunters and to promote habitat management and wildlife conservation.

“This partnership has only strengthened under the leadership of Director Tisa,” said Keith Fritze, NWTF Massachusetts State Chapter President. “We share goals for implementing science-based species and habitat management, expanding hunting opportunities, and enhancing learn-to-hunt offerings for youth and adults. We appreciate the support and increased opportunities that Director Tisa’s guidance has afforded the sportsmen and women of Massachusetts.”

When presenting Tisa’s award, NWTF cited multiple regulation changes and initiatives made by MassWildlife that have improved hunting opportunities and wildlife habitat, including:

Increasing the annual turkey season limit from two to three birds to incentivize participation in the fall hunting season.

Expanding the archery-only fall turkey season to create more overlap with the fall archery deer season.

Eliminating smaller shot size restrictions to allow turkey hunters to take advantage of the new advances in heavier-than-lead ammunition, such as TSS.

Creating a late-season pheasant and quail season so hunters can pursue any previously stocked birds through Dec. 31, and simplifying regulations across Wildlife Management Areas during pheasant and deer seasons.

Promoting participation in turkey hunting through MassWildlife’s Youth Turkey Hunting Program. With help from NWTF and sporting clubs, MassWildlife’s Youth Turkey Hunting Program has been providing a mentored spring turkey hunt since 2009. Tisa was a key figure in getting this program off the ground.

With Tisa’s support, MassWildlife is also a critical partner to NWTF and the Ruffed Grouse Society on the USDA Forest Service’s Landscape Scale Restoration grant that seeks to improve forest health on approximately 2,000 acres of public and private forestlands in Western Massachusetts.

“We are proud to present Director Tisa with the Innovation Award,” NWTF Co-CEO Kurt Dyroff said. “To say the director utilized an innovative approach to conservation and hunter recruitment would be an understatement. Director Tisa has gone above and beyond to ensure both turkeys and turkey hunting are alive and well in the Bay State.”

Having known and worked closely with Mark Tisa for over 30 years, this recognition does not surprise this writer one bit. As he rose up in the ranks from fisheries biologist to ultimately director, no employee was ever more dependable, reliable and totally committed to the agency than Mark. He was given important tasks and always delivered quality programs. From the Housitanic River cleanup to youth hunting programs, he left his mark on more positive changes than there is space today to note.

On the subject of turkeys, this writer is counting the days until my annual trip to “visit my sister” in Kansas. By sheer coincidence, that trip always seems to occur on the opening week of Kansas turkey hunting season. How fortuitous! Over the years, my good sister Pat (formerly Tish) has hooked me up with some really wonderful turkey hunters and landowners and the trip is always great fun!

For most of those years, it was possible to buy a second turkey tag in most of the hunting zones in Kansas, not that my luck was ever good enough to bag two gobblers, but it was a nice dream. Right now, however, Kansas and a number of states in the southeastern part of the country are making changes in regulations in response to a marked decline in turkey numbers. The second tag is no longer offered in Kansas and a number of other states have reduced bag limits, shortened seasons and delayed the opening of the season. All these measures are designed to reduce the harvest as extensive study is ongoing to try to determine the cause, or more likely causes, of the drop in turkey populations might be.

At this time, most of the states in the Northeast are not experiencing a serious decline in turkey numbers but turkey biologists across the country are closely watching what is happening in the traditional turkey hunting areas in the southern half of the country.

Massachusetts, and most surrounding states, have a special Youth Turkey Hunt. The hunt in Massachusetts this year will take place on April 22. You should go to the MassWildlife web page ( to find out the details which includes a requirement that youth hunters have passed a hunter education class.

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the MaharFish’N Game Club, Counselor and Director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at

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