Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists believe hunters are in for success as the Maine spring turkey season started on Monday, April 29. Youth hunters had their own day on Saturday, April 27.

“The timing of the season seems perfect this year, and if we get some decent weather, we should have a great spring hunt,” said Brad Allen, wildlife biologist for the MDIFW.

Last year was a productive year for nesting turkeys, with favorable drier weather conditions during the spring, which means more turkeys on the landscape this spring.

“Everyone was seeing quite a few birds all last summer, and there are lots of birds out there right now, including a number of jakes, which will make for a productive hunt,” said Allen.

The MDIFW, in conjunction with the University of Maine and the National Wild Turkey Federation, is halfway through a three-year study that looks at turkey reproductive success and mortality, and provides more insight into how wild turkeys interact with the landscape.

The department is capturing and placing transmitting collars on turkeys in areas around the state, then tracking movements, monitoring nesting success and mortalities. The department also isbanding birds and asking hunters to call if they take a banded turkey. To date, the department has banded 200 males and 200 females. There also are 75 female and 20 male turkeys that have been fitted with transmitting collars so they can be tracked.

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 WMDs.

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

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 stretch from one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset. The regular spring season runs Monday, April 29 through Saturday, June 1.

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 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.

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

MDIFW preserves, protects and enhances the inland fisheries and wildlife resources of the state. Established in 1880 to protect big game populations, MDIFW has 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.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.