“Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

In the hardwoods on a ridge in Granby, Massachusetts, a number of years ago, that sound of a wild turkey shattered the pre-dawn quiet. In the floating mist and the half-light there was something chilling and mystical about this almost prehistoric vocalization.  I had never before experienced any sound in the wild quite like it.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

I can still feel the goose bumps. If you enjoy the outdoors and wild things, you must get yourself in the turkey woods early in the morning during spring mating season.

This is all part of what makes turkey hunting so exciting and captivating.

In spring, when love is in the air, the Tom turkeys are single-minded, not unlike a rutting buck in late November.

Spring turkey hunting tactics are quite straightforward. The hunter, after scouting the turkey’s location and habitat, hunkers down against a big tree or in a blind alongside an open field. Sometimes, but not always, hen decoys are placed out in front of the hunter. If the Tom is within earshot or eyeshot, a few hen vocalizations from the hunter’s slate call will draw the attention of the long-bearded Lothario.

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To close the deal, a hunter must “seduce” the Tom into shooting range. The mature birds can be very wary, so there are no guarantees. Often the male turkey, suspecting a setup, will “hang up” just out of shotgun range. At this point, patience and perseverance, along with well-timed and skilled hen vocalizations, will determine outcome.

Try turkey hunting if you haven’t already. The season opens on May 2, a half-hour before sunrise, and you can legally hunt until a half-hour after sunset. Only males, Jakes or Toms, can be harvested.  The limit is either one or two birds, depending upon the area being hunted (check your lawbook).

Maine turkey hunters must hold a small or big game license and a turkey permit, which is $20. Shotguns, conventional bows and crossbows are permitted. Of course, bow and crossbow hunters must also have taken and passed the appropriate hunter safety courses for whatever hunting device the hunter plans to employ.

Wild turkeys are tough, tenacious birds, which may explain the unexpected proliferation and survival rate since they were first introduced to the state in 1977.

According to IF&W’s turkey biologist, Kelsy Sullivan, the statewide turkey population is quite variable and is really season specific. That is to say that today there may be 70,000 birds but, come midsummer, that number can quadruple as hens wander the fields and roadsides with a dozen or more newborn poults. Each year, turkey hunters cull less than 10 percent from the overall turkey numbers.

The robust turkey population keeps it interesting for the turkey hunter. Turkey hunting is therefore a natural starting point for any aspiring young hunter.

And wild turkey meat-free of hormones and preservatives — and properly field-handled and prepared in the kitchen — is excellent table fare.

 

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at [email protected]


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