“Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

The first time I heard a wild turkey, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. We were scouting the hardwoods of Western Massachusetts at dusk. The air was still, and a bright spring sun had just settled beneath the hills near a pipeline in Granville.

Responding to my owl call, the Tom was, I learned, at roost, probably in one of the large hemlocks on the edge of the swamp below the hardwoods.

Adhering to the turkey hunter’s doctrine, I made like an owl only once. That’s all it took. Hearing that turkey’s callback gobble break the stillness was as memorable as it was spine-tingling.

Wait until you hear your first one. There’s something so prehistoric about that sound in the woods. You expect to see a dinosaur materialize from the descending mist.

No birds were taken by me that day, but I was hooked. Since then, I have hunted these remarkable game birds in three states, and taken a few.

Maine’s turkey population is expanding at a remarkable rate.

The progress is actually astonishing when you consider that Maine’s entire wild turkey population, which now covers at least 12 counties, sprang from just two stockings that I know of. In 1977, 41 Vermont turkeys were released in southern Maine. And again in 1987, 70 birds from Connecticut were released. Most encouraging of all, these birds have shown a capacity to propagate and survive that has far exceeded biologists’ expectations.

Maine no longer holds a draw for turkey permits. All you need is a hunting license and a turkey permit from your town office. Your legal hunt dates are tied to the year you were born. Here is how that works.

Hunters with “odd” birth years are authorized to hunt during Season A. Hunters with “even” birth years get Season B.

Season A

Week 1: April 30-May 5

Week 4: May 21-May 26

Week 5: May 28-June 2

Season B

Week 2: May 7-May 12

Week 3: May 14-May 19

Week 5: May 28-June 2

The hunting tips below provided by the Fish and Wildlife folks may help. Remember, scouting is 90 percent of the equation for successful turkey hunters. The trick is to locate your bird before the opening day. If you can find some hens, the Toms won’t be far away.

Hunting tips

• Preseason scouting is the single most important part of turkey hunting. Scout several different areas to lessen your chances of conflict with other hunters.

• Practice your turkey calling diligently.

• Pattern your shotgun on a life-sized target to know your effective killing range.

• Plan on hunting on weekdays, if possible, rather than Saturdays. Hunting pressure is lighter during the week, reducing chances for conflicts with other hunters.

• Be patient. With a four-week season, there is plenty of time. Birds are still active at the end of May, and there is less hunting pressure at that time.

• If bow hunting, use a string-tracker to aid in retrieving crippled birds.

• Be patient when calling, give each set up to 30-45 minutes, as birds sometimes come in silently, especially in areas that have heavy hunting pressure.

• Do not walk in on another hunter who is “working” a bird. Repeated gobbling is often a sign of a hunter working a bird. Attempting to stalk the “gobbler” is not only dangerous, it is also interfering with the caller.

• Do not wear any clothing with the colors red, white or blue. These are the same colors as a gobblers head and may draw fire from a careless hunter.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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