Spring turkey season gets under way for Maine hunters

AUGUSTA, Maine - Spring turkey season starts April 29th throughout the state, and youth hunters have their own day on April 27th. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists believe that hunters are in for a successful season.

“The timing of the season seems perfect this year, and if we get some decent weather, we should have a great spring hunt,” says Brad Allen, wildlife biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Last year was a productive year for nesting turkeys, with favorable drier weather conditions during the spring, which means more turkeys on the landscape this spring.

“Everyone was seeing quite a few birds all last summer, and there are lots of birds out there right now, including a number of jakes, which will make for a productive hunt,” says Allen.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in conjunction with the University of Maine and the National Wild Turkey Federation, is now halfway through a three-year study that looks at turkey reproductive success and mortality, and provide more insight into how wild turkeys interact with the landscape.

The department is capturing and placing transmitting collars on turkeys in several areas around the state, then tracking movements, monitoring nesting success and mortalities. The department is also banding birds and asking hunters to call if they take a banded turkey. To date, the department has banded 200 males and 200 females. There also are 75 female and 20 male turkeys that have been fitted with transmitting collars so they can be tracked.

With data from the current study, the department will use seasonal harvest numbers in addition to factors such as weather, turkey productivity, and natural mortality to estimate the population at the Wildlife Management district scale. Maine is divided into 29 wildlife management districts.

The results of the study will enable MDIFW to fine tune it’s wild turkey management system to address publicly derived turkey management goals across the state.

In southern and central Maine, the new model for assessing population trends will help with management of a growing turkey population and the challenges of human/turkey conflicts. With hunting as the primary tool for managing wild turkey populations, a better understanding of what factors influence the turkey population will allow biologists to adjust the harvest of female turkeys in some areas during the fall hunting season by altering bag limits and season lengths more confidently.

If you encounter a turkey with a band or transmitter, contact the number printed on it to help with the research.

With a valid Maine big-game or small-game hunting license, resident and nonresident turkey hunters can purchase a wild turkey permit for $20. This permit allows turkey hunters to take up to two bearded wild turkeys in the spring, and an additional two turkeys in the fall. Legal hunting hours for turkey hunting stretch from a half hour before sunrise and a half hour after sunset. The regular spring season runs from April 29th until June 1st.

For more information on hunting season dates, times, licenses and bag limits, refer to the hunting lawbook or visit www.mefishwildlife.com.

The Department strongly encourages all turkey hunters to reach out to landowners before hunting. Remember to ask first before accessing private land, and respect any and all requests of the landowners.

Wild turkeys are a wildlife success story in Maine. Once gone completely from Maine landscapes, they are now a familiar sight in all Maine’s 16 counties, thanks to a reintroduction and management plan started in the 1970s by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.