“Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

The hair stood up on the back of my neck the first time I heard a wild turkey. 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 hunt, but I was hooked good. Since then I have hunted these remarkable game birds in three states, including Maine and taken a few. With Maine’s turkey population doing so well, the turkey hunting regulations have really loosened up. Today, turkeys are found in every county in Maine. Surprisingly, it’s not the winter cold and snow that impacts turkey numbers; it is the cold, wet springs that kill young birds. Biologists tell us that during severe winter weather a turkey can roost in trees up to two weeks while waiting for more moderate weather. It is becoming obvious that these are tough critters who seem destined to, not only survive, but thrive in Maine.

If you haven’t tried turkey hunting, you are missing out. The rules for this spring’s hunt shape up like this:

The spring season is April 28 to May 31st. During the spring season it is legal to take two bearded turkeys in all Wildlife Management Districts except WMD 8, in which the bag limit is one bearded turkey. Additionally, the spring hunt has been suspended in much of Aroostook County due to the severe winter and deep snows. There will be no spring hunt in WMDs 1-6. Bows and crossbows are allowed as well as shotguns using shot sizes 4 -6.

Turkey permits are required along with a big game hunting license. The permits are $20. Hunting hours are a half hour before sunrise and a half hour after sunset.

Turkey hunting tips

Pre-season 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 4 – 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 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.

The author 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, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.” Online information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com .

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