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While you’re out there wading around in leftover snow hoping to fool a few brook trout or salmon for the table, keep in mind that we’re only a few weeks from the opening of another Maine spring turkey-hunting season. This doesn’t leave much time to get your gear in order, so fish fast!
The 2007 hunt is open in Wildlife Management Districts 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26.
The season is split into two periods: Season A is Week No 1: April 30, 2007 through May 5, 2007; and Week No. 4: May 21, 2007 through May 26, 2007
Season B includes Week No. 2: May 7, 2007 through May 12, 2007; and Week No. 3: May 14, 2007 through May 19, 2007.
All permit holders may hunt during Week No. 5: May 28, 2007 through June 2, 2007.
To participate, a Spring Wild Turkey Permit is required in addition to a big game hunting license. Permits holders may hunt only one season — Season A or Season B — depending on their year of birth. For the 2007 spring turkey hunt, hunters with odd birth years years (ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) will be authorized to hunt during Season A. Hunters with even-numbered birth years (years ending in 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) will be authorized to hunt during Season B.
The annual Youth Spring Wild Turkey will be held April 28, 2007. In addition, junior hunters (10 to 15 years of age) may hunt any Saturday during the open spring wild turkey hunting season.
The season bag limit is one bearded turkey per permit holder. And, yes, that includes the rare bearded hen!
First-time hunters will find that putting a tag on a spring turkey is no easy task. You’re dealing with one of the most alert, observant and flighty animals in the state. The turkey’s first response to just about anything unusual is to run (or fly) away. If they spot you from a distance they’ll simply fade into the woods like ghosts and there’s no calling them back. Hens normally rule the roost (naturally!) and make all the important decisions, such as . . . “RUN!” Gobblers (bearded birds) follow the hens’ lead and will rarely come back for a second look, so you have to get it right the first time.
Most turkey hunters spend a lot of time perfecting their calling skills. Believe it or not, there are state, regional and national turkey-calling championships and these guys’ performances are impressive, at least to attending crowds. I’ve noticed, however, that there are never any live turkeys in the audience and no turkeys are in the judges’ stands, which suggests that the competitors are mostly concerned with convincing other hunters.
Learn the basic calls (clucks, yelps, purrs and gobbles) and you’ll be able to bring a turkey into range. Any turkey-hunting video will show you the basics of calling, and even a novice can learn the crucial calls in an afternoon. If you want to branch out to competitive calling that’s fine, but it’s not necessary to be a virtuoso to fool a turkey. For example, last season I walked into an open field only to spot two gobblers strutting around in the far corner of the pasture. My partner dug for his ($4,000!) custom box call as I got into a sitting position in front of the only brush available. My buddy dropped his call, which made a tremendous squawk, and both turkeys literally ran over to us to see what the trouble was. I had no trouble dropping the biggest bird at about 20 yards – and no other calling was done! Of course, we made all kinds of jokes about new calls we could invent (the Throw Call, the Stomp and Drop Call, The Sit-On-It Call, etc.), but the turkeys responded to a pretty poor rendition of “I’m Falling Down the Stairs,” which just illustrates my point: Don’t worry about being a master caller, just master the basics and you’ll do fine.
The general technique for fooling gobblers is to locate roosting birds just at sunset the night before your hunt. Make a few crow calls or owl hoots just before dark and listen for gobblers to respond, usually from high ground where large hardwoods exist. Plan to be above and about 100 yards from the birds well before daylight the next morning. Walk in quietly, set up a decoy or two between you and the birds and just sit tight till you hear the turkeys start their pre-dawn yelps and purrs. Make a few yelps of your own just to let the gobbler know you are there. Sometime around dawn the birds will leave the roost and, with luck, head your way to investigate. Ideally, the tom will come in strutting and gobbling, putting on a great show, and you’ll be on your way out of the woods with your trophy as the sun begins to peek over the horizon.
Of course, this is the ideal situation – you may experience any number of unplanned glitches such as a delayed fly-down (when the birds don’t leave the roost till 9 a.m. or later), they go out the back way opposite your position or they simply ignore you and walk away untouched. Don’t get discouraged by failure! You have other options: You can stay put and wait for the gobbler to return (usually two or three hours later) or you can cut and run ahead of the flock and try to lure them in again. Keep in mind that turkeys can see movement from a mile or more away, so be sure to keep plenty of cover between you as you make your end-around move. Set up, start calling and be ready – once the birds are on the ground it’s anybody’s guess as to where they are and when they’ll show up again.
Remember to wear your camouflage clothing (including face mask, gloves and dark-colored socks) and sit still whenever birds are in sight. Feeding turkeys always look for movement and they run at the least sign of danger – they allow no mistakes.
Spring turkey hunting is an enjoyable, interesting and challenging sport. You won’t shoot a bird every time but I guarantee you’ll learn something new on each trip. These “dumb birds” are smarter than you might think!
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