Spring turkey season started on Monday, May 2. With this year’s milder-than-usual winter, hunters should be seeing a lot of birds.
“This was an easy winter on turkeys, even up in northern Maine,” said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife game-bird biologist Kelsey Sullivan. “We had good survival rates through the winter, and this was on top of a good production year for turkeys last spring.”
The light snow meant a lot of open ground where turkeys could feed through the winter, resulting in higher survival rates and healthy birds.
“There are a lot of younger birds around, and the weights on some of them are impressive,” said Sullivan who had captured and weighed some year-old jakes earlier this spring. “We had some healthy 14-15 pound jakes and even measured one that was 19 pounds.”
Wild turkeys are a wildlife success story in Maine. Once gone completely from Maine landscapes, they are now a familiar sight in all Maine’s 16 counties, thanks to a reintroduction and management plan started in the 1970s by the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.
“Maine has some excellent turkey hunting,” Sullivan said. “Success rates are very good, the birds are lightly hunted compared to other states, and you can hunt turkeys throughout the state.”
With a valid Maine big game or small game hunting license, turkey hunters can purchase a wild turkey permit for just $20 for both residents and nonresidents. This permit allows turkey hunters to take up to two wild turkeys in the spring, and an additional two turkeys in the fall. Legal hunting hours for turkey hunting stretch from ½ hour before sunrise and 1/2 hour after sunset. The spring season runs from May 2 until June 4.
While the turkey season is open throughout the state in all wildlife management districts, hunters should note that that there is a split season in northern Maine in WMDs 1-6, as well as one turkey bag limit in WMDs 1-6 and 8. Hunters may take two bearded turkeys, but no more than one of these bearded turkeys can come from WMDs 1-6 or 8.
If turkey hunting in northern Maine, in WMDs 1-6, turkey hunters in are assigned to either Season A or Season B based on their year of birth. During “even” numbered calendar years such as this (2016), hunters with “even” birth years will be authorized to hunt during Season A (May 2-7 and May 16-21 this year); hunters with “odd” birth years will be authorized to hunt during Season B (May 9-14 and May 23-28 this year). All turkey hunters can hunt the last week (May 30- June 4).
During “odd” numbered calendar years (2017, 2019, etc.), hunters with “odd” birth years will be authorized to hunt during Season A; hunters with “even” birth years will be authorized to hunt during Season B. Many turkey hunters are familiar with this split season as it was in place statewide prior to 2007. More information and WMD maps are available at mefishwildlife.com.
The Department strongly encourages all turkey hunters to reach out to landowners before hunting. Please remember to ask first before accessing private land, and respect any and all requests of the landowners.