Turkey time is nearly upon us

For weeks now — ever since it turned 80 degrees for a few days in mid-March — I’ve been talking to hunters about turkeys.

Some say the burly birds were showing signs of mating behavior weeks ago.

And that, as you might expect, made those hunters nervous.

This turkey was strutting around in Bangor two weeks ago. Hunters will be heading afield for the beginning of wild turkey season on Monday. Youth hunters get a head start, and are allowed to hunt with a qualified adult on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Brown)

Maine’s spring wild turkey season typically takes place during that mating season, when male turkeys are susceptible to being wooed by the siren call of a lovesick female. They’re also susceptible to being tricked into wandering within bow or shotgun range by hunters who can make calls that sound like a lovesick female.

After several anxious weeks, the wait is nearly over: Hunting season kicks off on Saturday with Youth Turkey Day, then commences for the rest of us on Monday. The season will run until June 2.

Some hunters may have been left wondering about the season dates, as the printed Maine Hunting and Trapping rule book that came out in 2011 (and covers 2012) does not contain this year’s dates. Ditto an on-line version of the guide which you can access from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s website.

A quick Google search for “Maine spring turkey season 2012” produced the page I was looking for, and you can find it here: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/wild_turkey.htm

As we head afield in the coming days, it’s incumbent upon all of us to be as safe as we can while waiting for Tom Turkey to come ambling past.

Over the past several years, there have been a number of shooting incidents during turkey season; it’s up to all of us to try to reverse that trend.

To that end, it’s important for turkey hunters to avoid the temptation to stalk turkeys that they hear gobbling in the distance.

Often, those gobblers are not turkeys at all. Instead, they’re guys dressed in camouflage clothing, sitting against a tree, trying to sound like a turkey.

Avoiding making calls that mimic male turkeys will also help make things safer for all, but that approach isn’t foolproof.

Last year a hunter stalked within 75 yards of my decoy, cocking his head attentively as he approached, trying to discern the location of the hen he’d heard calling.

I was that hen. And I quickly made my presence known, abandoning my hiding spot, putting on a blaze-orange cap, and tromping noisily through the woods to retrieve my decoy.

Chagrined (or so I imagined), the other hunter skulked back toward the road, leaving the spot to me and my hunting buddy.

That was a good outcome. Unfortunately, not all mistaken-identity cases turn out so well.

We all ought to remember that as we head out on Monday morning.




John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.