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There was a time when participating in a Maine hunting season was about as complicated as buying a license and heading out the door the next chance you had, but those days are far in the past. Heck, the ice-fishing regulations (What's complicated there - if there's ice, you fish, right? Not hardly!) require a booklet of their own now, and the application process for a Maine moose hunter permit is almost as mind-boggling as this year's income tax form - E-Z my eye!
Now we come to the spring turkey season, and again figuring out when and where you can hunt takes more than a passing glance. For example, consider the following: For the 2006 Spring Turkey hunt, hunters with “even” birth years (years ending in 0,2,4,6 or 8) will be authorized to hunt during Season A. For 2006, hunters with odd birth years (years ending in 1,3,5,7 or 9) will be authorized to hunt during Season B.
Season A is week No. 1: May 1, 2006 - May 6, 2006; week No. 4: May 22, 2006 - May 27, 2006; and week No. 5: May 29, 2006 - June 3, 2006.
Season B includes week No. 2: May 8, 2006 - May 13, 2006;
week No. 3: May 15, 2006 - May 20, 2006; and week No. 5: May 29, 2006 - June 3, 2006.
The good news is that any hunter may now purchase a license to hunt turkeys (no pre-hunt permit application is necessary), which practically brings us back to the days when if, on your way to work or school, you happened to see game in a field on the side of the road, you could stop at the corner store, buy a license and get to it. Turkey hunting is still a tad more complicated than that, but we're getting there.
Once you have bagged a tag, let's say, and have selected your hunting dates from the above options, it's time to get serious about it. Most folks who haven't hunted turkeys don't realize what a challenge these birds can be. Think of a panic button with wings and feet and you have the hunter's definition of a wild turkey. It's not so much that turkeys are smart, but their reaction to danger (real or perceived) is simply to get away . . . fast! They'll avoid dogs, humans, bobcats, foxes, owls and coyotes, of course, but a crackling branch, a wind-whipped bough or a sudden noise in the distance will send them trotting for the hills without a second look. The turkey's primary survival tool is flight - run as fast as possible and don't stop till you forget what you're running from!
While turkeys don't (and can't) live their lives constantly running from every little threat, it's good to remember that they will quickly vacate the area if that's what seems prudent. Most of the time they peck and wander through the woods and fields like the most common of barnyard fowl. Most folks see turkeys in roadside pastures looking like giant, black chickens, moving slowly with hunched shoulders, heads down, as they scratch and dig for insects, succulent plant sprouts, mast and buds. The good news is that an un-alarmed turkey will feed along without a care in the world, and if you can sit still (without so much as blinking) they will practically step over you as they go by.
The key, of course, is to be still, quiet and camouflaged. It's possible to kill a turkey while dressed in a tuxedo, but the high odds are with the hunter who dresses in a camo color that blends in with the local vegetation. Shades of brown, black and green are good for Maine's spring turkey season. Just be sure that nothing white or colored (especially red, blue or white) are exposed to view. Turkeys will spot the white of clean socks glowing beneath your pant legs, and other hunters may mistake a splash of red, white or blue for the mating colors on a spring gobbler's head.
The basics of turkey hunting have been covered here before. Get to the woods before sunrise; locate roosted turkeys using owl or crow calling; stalk to within 75 yards or so of roosted birds (as close as you can get without being spotted); set out a decoy or two and sit facing the birds with a large, comfortable tree at your back. “Comfortable” is the key because you may be sitting there for an hour . . . or two . . . or three! Turkeys may leave the roost at dawn or maybe not till 11 a.m. If you're set up on a gobbler that doesn't want to fly down early, just sit tight, keep calling (using seductive yelps and purrs generated by a slate, box or mouth call), and be patient. In textbook situations the gobbler flies off the roost at sunrise, struts over to the decoy, gobbles a few times and . . . boom! The season is over.
But, most often the birds will not come down or will fly away from the decoys, or won't gobble, or won't do any of the above. Now you can decide to a) stay put or b) walk and call till a gobbler responds. I've killed turkeys both ways and not matter how you do it, sooner or later you start thinking you should have done the opposite! This is where patience comes in. If turkeys responded to your earliest calls, the odds are that some time during the day they are going to come back to check things out. It could be 9 a.m. or 11:45 a.m., but they will come back. If you have the fortitude, sit still, call sparingly (a few yelps every 40 minutes or so will do) and let the real turkeys do their thing.
Stay as long as you can, wait an hour longer than that and then wait another hour before leaving. In most cases, hunters get antsy, decide no birds are around and stand up to find themselves in the middle of a flock of (momentarily surprised) birds!
Of course, in this scenario the turkeys always win, and it's embarrassing and frustrating to say the least if you count yourself as a great hunter of all game. Turkeys will do that to you!
The 2006 turkey season is only a week away. Do you really think you're ready for it?
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