RUMFORD — Leave the patriotic clothing at home Saturday and next month when hitting the woods for spring hikes or heading out to hunt gobblers.
That’s right, Maine’s spring wild turkey hunting season arrives Saturday, May 1, for children ages 10 through 15, and for everyone else, Monday, May 3. The full five-week season for all turkey-permit holders ends Saturday, June 5.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is urging hunters to avoid wearing red, white or blue because the heads of male turkeys, also called “toms,” have similar colors.
To hunt wild gobblers, hunters must have a valid spring wild turkey permit and a valid Maine big-game hunting license. Children participating in Youth Day on Saturday must have a junior hunting license and adult supervision.
New this year is a significant change in the spring bag limit, department spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte stated in a Wednesday report.
Plunk down $40 instead of $20 for the first permit and you can bag a second bearded wild turkey during the spring hunt only.
Turcotte said that buying an initial permit for $20 will allow turkey hunters to take only one bearded wild turkey in the spring, and a wild turkey of either sex in the fall.
A second permit for $20 can also be bought anytime after the purchase of the first permit, enabling the harvest of another bearded wild turkey in the spring only, she said.
However, youth-day hunters can take up to two bearded wild turkeys during the spring season without any additional permit fees.
The spring wild turkey hunt is only allowed in certain Wildlife Management Districts, which are Nos. 7, 10-18 and 20-26. To learn where these are, online go to: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/management/wmd/index.htm.
Licenses and permits are available at department headquarters in Augusta, at licensing agents statewide, and at www.mefishwildlife.com.
Prior to heading into the backcountry, the department also urges turkey hunters to review the following safety tips:
• Never try to stalk a gobbling turkey. Your chances of getting close are poor, and you may be sneaking up on another hunter.
• Avoid hunting the same gobbler as your hunting companion or other hunters. Pick a different area to hunt.
• Stick with hen calls. A gobbler call is intended for special situations and might attract other hunters.
• Don’t be patriotic — Avoid red, white or blue. A tom turkey’s head has similar colors.
• Avoid unnecessary movement. It could alert turkeys and attract hunters.
• Don’t hide so well that you impair your field of vision.
• Wrap your turkey in some blaze orange cloth for the hike back to the car.
• Always sit with your back against a tree trunk, big log or a boulder that is wider than your body. This protects you from being accidentally struck by pellets fired from behind you.
• If using a decoy, place it on the far side of a tree trunk or a rock so you can see the birds approaching from all directions, but cannot actually see the decoy. This prevents you from being directly in the line of fire should another hunter mistakenly shoot at your decoy.
• Never shoot unless you’re absolutely sure of your target. Since only turkeys with beards are legal during the spring season, lack of positive identification could result in shooting an illegal bird, or worse, another hunter.
• Consider wearing hunter orange while moving from set-up to set-up. Take it off when you are in position.