Spring turkey hunting season begins on Monday, April 30 throughout the state, while youth hunters had their own day on Saturday, April 28. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists believe hunters are in for a successful season.

Hunters should take note that through a proclamation by Governor Paul R. LePage, an area in Somerset County remains closed to hunting until further notice as police sought a fugitive, considered armed and dangerous, in connection with the shooting death of a Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy.

That fugitive was apprehended on Sunday, April 29; however, the emergency proclamation issued by the governor, which closed to hunting in the area surrounding the recent manhunt, continued to be in effect through Monday, April 30, the opening day of the hunting season.

The governor lifted the hunting ban on Tuesday afternoon, May 1, said MDIFW officials.

Biologists said they expect a successful turkey hunt.

“Although winter was prolonged this year, two summers of better-than-average nesting success and turkey young survival provided a boost to the turkey population going into this past winter,” said Kelsey Sullivan, MDIFW turkey biologist.

The last two years — 2016 and 2017 — had very favorable spring nesting conditions, with relatively long dry periods in May and June. Drier conditions increase egg hatching success and turkey young (poult) survival, Sullivan said. This helped offset any turkey mortality associated with the past winter, and should translate into hunters seeing a good number of Jakes and Toms.

The MDIFW, in conjunction with the University of Maine and the National Wild Turkey Federation, continues work on a research program that will assist in wild turkey management and provide more insight into how wild turkeys interact with the landscape.

“We captured and placed transmitting collars on turkeys in several locations around the state this winter,” said Sullivan, “These collars will allow us to track their movements, monitor nest success, see how they interact with the landscape and provide more insight into wild turkey nesting ecology and annual survival rates.”

With data from the current study, the department will use seasonal harvest numbers, in addition to factors such as weather, turkey productivity and natural mortality, to estimate the population at the Wildlife Management District scale. Maine is divided into 29 WMD.

The results of the study will enable MDIFW to fine tune its wild turkey management system to address publicly-derived turkey management goals across the state.

In southern and central Maine, the new model for assessing population trends will help with management of a growing turkey population and the challenges of human/turkey conflicts. With hunting as the primary tool for managing wild turkey populations, a better understanding of what factors influence the turkey population will allow biologists to adjust the harvest of female turkeys in some areas during the fall hunting season by altering bag limits and season lengths more confidently, said MDIFW officials.

If one encounters a turkey with a band or transmitter, contact the number printed on it to help with the research.

With a valid Maine big game or small game hunting license, resident and nonresident turkey hunters can purchase a wild turkey permit for $20. This permit allows turkey hunters to take up to two bearded wild turkeys in the spring, and an additional two turkeys in the fall.

Legal hunting hours for turkey hunting stretch from one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset. The regular spring season runs from April 30 until June 2.

For more information on hunting season dates, times, licenses and bag limits, refer to the hunting lawbook or visit mefishwildlife.com.

The department strongly encourages all turkey hunters to reach out to landowners before hunting. Remember to ask first before accessing private land, and respect any and all requests of the landowners, department officials urged.

Wild turkeys are a wildlife success story in Maine, officials said. Once gone completely from Maine landscapes, they are now a familiar sight in all Maine’s 16 counties, thanks to a reintroduction and management plan started in the 1970s by the department.

MDIFW preserves, protects, and enhances the inland fisheries and wildlife resources of the state. Established in 1880 to protect big game populations, MDIFW has since evolved in scope to include protection and management of fish, non-game wildlife, and habitats, as well as restoration of endangered species like the bald eagle. In addition to its conservation duties, MDIFW is also responsible for enabling and promoting the safe enjoyment of Maine’s outdoors — from whitewater rafting to boating, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation. The agency’s constituents include the fish, wildlife, and people who call Maine home, as well as the visiting outdoor enthusiasts and ecotourists who call Maine Vacationland and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the state’s economy.