In the turkey woods

I will never forget it. In the hardwoods at dawn on a ridge in Granby, Massachusetts, many years ago, I heard my first Tom turkey gobble.

V. Paul Reynolds, outdoor columnist

The voice of this wild turkey broke the pre-dawn silence. The sound was shocking. It gave me goosebumps. In the drifting mist and dim light, there was something chilling and mystical about this almost prehistoric mating call.

If you love the outdoors and wild things, you should head to the turkey woods early in the morning during spring mating season.

Maine’s turkey season kicked off on April 27 with Youth Day and was followed by the general opener on Monday, April 29. You have until June 1 to harvest your birds. If you hunt in the southern wildlife management districts, you can take two bearded turkeys during the season. Consult your law book for more information.

If you are a Maine resident and do not have a lifetime permit, you will need a special turkey permit, which covers you for both spring and fall hunting. The turkey permits cost $20.

Once again, hunters have the option to register a turkey themselves online or in person at a registration station.

To register a turkey online yourself, hunters can use a phone, computer or other electronic device with an Internet connection. If a hunter has a poor internet connection, he should attach a transportation tag (with name, license number and address) and drive to a location with a better internet connection. After self-registration, hunters will receive a seal number via email confirming that the wild turkey has been registered. The confirmation can be saved to the device or printed. There is no fee to register a turkey online.

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, you’ll need the following information to register a turkey yourself online:

• MOSES ID (found on your hunting license)
• Last name
• Date of birth
• Current hunting license
• Current turkey license, if not included in the license
• Current email address

The link to register your own turkey online is now available on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website.

Hunters who prefer to register their harvest in person at a registration station are encouraged to do so. A state list of tagging stations is available on the MDIF&W website.

Depending on the severity of the Maine winter, the Maine turkey population would be around 70,000. State biologists and experienced turkey hunters expect good numbers of turkeys this spring, especially because of relatively low snow levels last winter.

Hunters are reminded that hunter safety protocol requires strict avoidance of these colors when hunting turkeys: red, white and blue. If you’ve ever seen the colorful head of a Tom turkey in full mating, you know why you shouldn’t wear the patriotic colors. For safety reasons, stalking a wild turkey is also not a wise practice. Sitting still and calling is always best.

Oh, by the way, what better way to introduce a youngster to hunting than spending a day in the turkey woods.

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

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