Sports

Fall turkey hunt features big changes

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Traditionally in Maine, the two big fall hunts have been partridge in October and deer in November. That still may be the case, but with so many wild turkeys roaming the Maine woods fall hunters looking for some added hunt challenges might want to give fall turkeys a go. As most sportsmen and back country roamers have begun to realize, turkeys are thriving everywhere in Maine with a staying power that even amazes wildlife biologists.

Maine’s chief bird research biologist, Brad Allen, pointed out recently on my Sunday night radio program, the Maine Outdoors, that wild turkeys are a tough, resilient critter that are habitat adaptable and capable of withstanding the toughest Maine winters. Brad also noted that for the first time, there is an in-depth study being done on these game birds. Hopefully, if the study bears fruit, we will obtain a better handle on turkey numbers district by district. This will better allow biologists to manage turkey numbers district by district, much like we do with deer.

The big changes in the fall turkey-hunt regulations are these: First, the season enjoyed an early opener (Sept 16 as opposed to last year’s October 5). Secondly, and most exciting of all, a generous bag limit of five birds a day has been established for a wide range of wildlife management districts (15-17 and 20-25). Consult your hunting law book for the bag limits in other districts. Be advised as well that fish and wildlife folks have attached tags and collars to some of these birds as a way of tracking their whereabouts through telemetry. If you harvest a turkey with a device, you must turn it over at your nearest tagging station.

Interestingly enough, the Maine State Legislature debated a SAM-sponsored proposal to increase the fall turkey bag limit to 6 birds in some WMDs! No doubt this reflected public sentiment and a concern that turkey numbers are getting out of hand in some areas of the state. Allen cautions that, contrary to popular notions in some circles, turkeys in the wild do not compete with deer for browse in any significant way. Although the fish and wildlife department was initially resistant to the bag increase, it is to be commended for working with SAM and finding middle ground.

Of course, a fall hunt for turkeys is not quite the same as calling in a lovesick Tom across a field in the spring. Nonetheless, turkey hunters with more time in the woods than I insist that you can still attract both hens and gobblers with hen yelps and well-placed decoys. As always, patience is the key.

Hunting a quarry that is so plentiful only adds to the fun! What about wild turkeys as table fare? Not bad, I have found, if you breast them out, just like a grouse, and cook in a Crockpot Express (pressure cooker) or deep fry in peanut oil.

Good hunting!

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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also 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. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.

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