If you are a turkey hunter — novice or veteran — it’s not too early to start making plans. About this time every spring, I dust off my “turkey hunt duffle” and take stock. You might want to, also. Are your calls still working? Does that box call still do the job? I always make sure that my slate call is clean and roughed up with fine sandpaper. I pocket my Primos mouth call and, during household lulls, practice my yelps, clucks, and purrs.

 Perhaps one of the most important pre-season preps is patterning your turkey gun. Make sure that you pattern your gun well ahead of the opening day. The idea is simply to shoot some turkey loads at a paper target from a distance of 20 yards or so. Your shot patterns should be tight enough to put a bunch of BBs in a turkey’s head and neck at a shooting distance that is comfortable for you. If your gun’s pattern is unsatisfactory, you might want to experiment with a different choke, or perhaps a higher-numbered turkey load.

Now you are all ready for the big day, May 3rd, right? Wrong.

Don’t forget to purchase your 2010 Maine big-game license and your turkey permit. By the way, speaking of regulations, there are some changes this year that should be welcomed by turkey hunters. The split season has been eliminated at long last. This means, of course, that all licensed turkey hunters may take advantage of the entire 6 week season. No more odd or even weeks based on your birthday. There is another inviting new twist. Just because you bag a big ole longbeard at the crack of dawn on opening day doesn’t mean that you are done for the season. If you are willing to lay down another $20, you can get a permit for a second spring turkey! Again, the second bird must also be a male. One more plus this year: Youth Hunters do not need a turkey permit, just a junior hunting license. Caution: a youth hunter, who is after a second bird, must have a second bird permit! You should also check your hunting law book to see if turkey hunting is lawful in your area. Turkey hunting is not legal in all wildlife management districts.

Here’s the rest of the lowdown from MDIF&W’s website:

Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Dates:

May 3, 2010 through June 5, 2010

Youth Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Day – May 1, 2010

(Note: A valid archery license in addition to a Spring/Fall Wild Turkey Permit also permits hunting of Wild Turkey with bow and arrow only.)

A person may assist in a hunt without a license or permit for that activity as long as that person does not carry hunting equipment.

Youth Hunting Day:

Youth 10 years of age or older and under 16 years of age who possess a junior hunting license may hunt, under adult supervision, on the first Saturday preceding the opening day of the spring Wild Turkey hunting season – May 1, 2010

Permit Fees:

Resident Spring/Fall Wild Turkey Permit – $20*

Nonresident Spring/Fall Wild Turkey Permit – $54*

Second Spring Turkey Permit – $20

Note: The Spring/Fall Turkey Permit allows the taking of one (1) bearded wild turkey in the spring and one (1) wild turkey of either sex in the fall.

*Plus agent fee.

Legal hunting hours are one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise until 12:00 p.m. (noon) local time.

Good luck with your spring turkey hunt. Remember that ethical hunters steer clear of other hunters. Hunt safely and don’t still hunt or stalk birds. Call and wait for the bird to come to you.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. 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]