The wild turkey forecast

Maine’s spring wild turkey-hunting season is just around the corner.

Having hunted these big birds with a shotgun and a bow, I can attest to the hunting challenge and mystique of wild turkeys. The turkey woods, and the sounds of an early morning longbeard announcing his presence, still gives me goosebumps even to this day. And, if cooked properly, they are tasty table fare as well!

Veteran turkey hunters have already begun scouting for birds. Maine’s Stu Bristol, who literally wrote the book on successful turkey hunting tactics, observes: “If you haven’t narrowed your hunting strategies by this time, you are seriously behind the 8-ball so to speak. Instead of scanning fields looking for gobblers you’d like to kill, begin scouring the deeper woodlots where you will find the limb hangers of your dreams.”

Bristol says, “My goal is simply to hear a dominant gobbler. I don’t need to see him. I can tell by the sound of his gobbles that he is worthy of my time. Jakes gobble three or four times and, if you are close enough you will hear a cluck or yelp or two before and after the gobbles.”

What’s the wild turkey outlook for the spring season? Here is what state bird biologist Brad Allen, himself an avid turkey hunter, had to say: “Excellent wild turkey production in 2020 coupled with high overwinter survival should lead to an abundant wild turkey population on the landscape this spring.” 

Allen says we have in excess of 65,000 birds, of which about half are longbeards. He also says that the population continues to grow. This is amazing since only about 26 percent of nests are successfully incubated and, as with other game bird nesting, many more nests fail than succeed.

For wildlife management districts (WMDs) 7 and 9-29, Maine’s spring turkey season begins a half hour before sunrise May 3. In these districts two spring male turkeys may be taken. In WMDs 1-6 and 8, northern Maine, the season begins May 3 and only one male turkey may be taken. There is Youth Day for turkeys statewide May 1. In all zones there is an all-day hunt, a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Turkey season ends in all zones on June 5. 

To hunt, you must possess either a big game license or a small game license. In either case, you must also buy a $20 turkey permit. With appropriate educational certificates, you may hunt with bow, crossbow or shotgun. Although there is legislation pending that would allow turkey hunters to tag their birds online, as is done in some other states, registering your gobblers at a licensed tagging station is still the law — unless you hear otherwise.

And hunt safely. Turkey hunters must always avoid wearing certain colors — red, blue and white — for obvious reasons. Stalking a wild turkey is not recommended, either.

If you have never hunted wild turkeys, you are missing a wonderful opportunity, not only to enjoy the spring woods in Maine before bug season, but to hunt an exceedingly plentiful game bird.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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