When it comes to Maine sportsman and wild turkeys, there are two distinct groups: those who hunt ’em and those who hate ’em.

Count me among the former. Having hunted them with a shotgun and a bow, it’s beyond me why anyone who loves to hunt is not enjoying this spring opportunity. There is a mysterious allure to these homely critters whose primordial sounds in the turkey woods still give me goose bumps even to this day.

As state game bird biologist Brad Allen points out, turkeys take a lot of grief in the public opinion department. They get blamed for everything from low deer numbers to Lyme disease. So far as I can tell, there has yet to be a credible, hard and fast answer to this question: Do turkeys compete with whitetail deer for forage, and do they displace deer?

Biologists contend that they do not, but many respected, woods-savvy sportsman aren’t so sure. One thing we do know is that a wild turkey is a tough, resilient wild creature. Their winter survivability levels have amazed even the scientific folks. It is said that a wild turkey can go for four or five weeks with no food!

Certainly, this winter in Maine, with its record cold and snow depths, will be a litmus test — not only for turkeys, but deer as well.

Biologist Brad Allen doesn’t hesitate when asked if the winter just past took a toll on Maine’s wild turkey population. “Yes,” says Brad.


He goes on:

“So what can we expect for the upcoming 2015 spring wild turkey hunt? Last year, despite efforts to increase opportunity for hunters to take more wild turkeys during Maine’s spring hunt, the harvest actually dropped to around 4,500 birds. The running average for harvest had been around 6,000 birds. This most likely reflects fewer birds in the population, because hunter numbers have been stable across the years. And again, wild turkey populations are not static, they naturally fluctuate up and down. That said, I believe this year’s harvest will again be well below average.”

The open season on bearded wild turkeys runs from May 4 to June 6. There is no lottery anymore. You simply need a big game license and a $20 turkey stamp.

You can hunt turkeys all day now, a half hour before sunrise until a half hour after sunset. During the season you can kill (possess) up to two bearded turkeys. (In some game management areas you are limited to one bird, so check your law book).

Although there is legislation pending, which would allow turkey hunters to register their birds online as is currently done in some states, that is not yet the law. You are still required to attach a transportation tag to your bird and register it at the nearest tagging station, where there is a $2.00 charge.

There is also a special Youth Day on May 2 to give youngsters first dibs at the spring gobblers. Young hunters must have a junior license and be accompanied by a qualified adult.

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 vpaulr@tds.net . 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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