Wild Turkey HuntingTurkey Registration Information
On this page:
- Why hunt for wild turkey in Maine?
- Who can hunt turkey in Maine?
- When can you hunt for turkey?
- Where can you hunt for turkey?
- What are the laws and guidelines for turkey hunting in Maine?
- Turkey Hunting Gear
- Tips for a Successful Turkey Hunt
- Wild Turkey Recipes
Why hunt for wild turkey in Maine?
If you are eager to spend more time outside in the spring or fall, turkey hunting could be your next big adventure! Calling in a tom turkey and chatting with them is often cited as a spring turkey hunter's favorite experience. This fast-paced, engaging hunt is perfect for beginner hunters.
Turkey hunting requires less gear than many other hunts and the small size makes it the easiest big game species to prepare for the dinner table. Wild turkeys are abundant and there is lots of opportunity throughout the state, making it easier to find a location close to home.
Who can hunt turkey in Maine?
The spring and fall wild turkey hunting seasons are open to all hunters with valid big or small game hunting licenses (firearms or archery). A combination spring/fall wild turkey permit is also required and available for $20, plus agent fee. Junior hunters and Maine resident lifetime license holders over the age of 70 are exempt from the $20 permit fee. Buy a license or permit online.
A person hunting with a crossbow must possess either a valid big or small game firearms hunting license or an archery license as well as a turkey permit and crossbow permit.
To obtain a hunting license, new hunters must complete a hunter safety course, demonstrating their capabilities to properly and safely hunt wild turkey and other game.
When can you hunt for turkey?
Maine has two wild turkey hunting seasons:
- Fall wild turkey hunting season: The fall wild turkey hunting season begins with a youth hunting day and the season is open to all hunters late September through the first week in November.
- Spring wild turkey hunting season: The spring wild turkey hunting season begins with a youth hunting day, and the season is open to all hunters from early May through early June.
Where can you hunt for turkey?
Wild turkeys are most common in the southern and central parts of the State, and less common in the northern parts. Still, wild turkeys can be found in every Wildlife Management District (WMD) in the State. In the spring, all WMDs are open to wild turkey hunting. In the fall, some northern WMDs are closed to the take of wild turkey.
Maine has over 17 million acres of extraordinary land available to hunters. When it comes to finding where you want to hunt, you have two options: private land or public land. Click here to learn more about accessing private or public land. Many of the State-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) open to hunting have exceptional turkey habitat, find a WMA near you. Always be a good land user to help continue access for generations to come.
Understanding turkey behavior
In late March, winter flocks start breaking up a bit and flock dynamics change. Jakes (juvenile males) are going away from the bigger flocks. Toms (mature males), hens (mature females), and jennies (juvenile females) are sticking together. Jakes will probably be hanging out in groups together on the edge of where bigger flocks may be.
Spring turkey hunting season doesn’t begin until early May, so where you see birds in March or early April doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll see them on opening day. By mid-April, they are where they are going to nest. The Department has radio telemetry data that shows some females will nest up to 28 miles from where they were in the winter. But, if a location such as a farm has available food resources, they may breed and nest in that location.
In the spring, females are running the show and the males are working hard for female attention. In the morning, especially on sunny days, you’ll see male turkeys strutting. The warm weather will get them keyed up, so they may be more active. Their behavior, more than anything else, revolves around mating and pre-nesting. Feeding and water certainly play a part and as the season wanes on, your tactics and locations may change.
Locating turkeys in the spring
When pre-season scouting, it’s better not to “test call” to get a sense of turkey activity in the area. Pre-season calling may educate turkeys to be wary of such calls and make them “call shy,” and they’ll be less likely to respond during the season. A better option when scouting is using a locator call—such as a crow call—which will spook the turkey into making a noise in response. These calls don’t train turkeys to be wary of hunters calling but can help give you a sense of where they’re at during pre-season scouting.
The night before you go out to hunt, go to your spots and “roost birds”—this means you’re checking out those fields where you’ve seen turkey sign or turkeys in groups. As the turkeys fly up to the trees to sleep for the evening, you’ll have a great idea of where they’re going to come down at night. This gives you an advantage. You can pick a safe place to set up in the morning that conceals you from the turkeys and doesn’t spook them on your way to your spot. A common tactic is to approach a field quietly and let out a shock call such as an owl hoot, and pinpoint where the gobbler respond from. You may not see them, but you’ll hear them!
What are the laws and guidelines for turkey hunting in Maine?
Turkey Hunting Gear
Clothing: Dress in layers and wear dark colors (or camo)
Dress warm for the early morning but have layers you can easily take off as the sun and temperature rise. Turkeys have incredible eyesight (they can even see you blink) and they can also see color. Note: for safety reasons, avoid wearing red, blue, and white, the head colors of a male wild turkey. While camo is not necessary—wearing dark colored clothing and remaining still is extremely important. Wear a face cover to hide your eyes, face structure, and skin, and a pair of camo gloves will help to keep you concealed and protected from mosquitos.
Hunter orange requirement: Hunter orange is not required during the spring wild turkey hunt. During the fall wild turkey hunt, two articles of orange are required when hunting with a firearm or crossbow during the firearms hunting season on deer, the muzzleloader season on deer, or within an open moose hunting district during moose hunting season.
While not 100% necessary, blinds can enhance your experience. They will help wary turkeys come within range without knowing you are there, and allow you to move your firearm or reposition without being detected. Novice hunters will especially benefit from a blind. You can make a simple blind using a bucket or milk crate for a seat and boughs and natural materials for cover.
Decoys can help bring a turkey into shooting range but are not essential. When placing decoys, place them 15-20 yards from your position. That way if a tom turkey stops a few yards from the decoy, he is still hopefully within safe shooting range. A great place to start is with a hen and jake (young male) turkey decoy. The jake will hopefully attract a more dominant tom turkey. Tom turkeys will almost always come in on a hen turkey during breeding season. Some folks use just one, and often, a lone jake works excellent in the spring.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to turkey calls! The most important consideration is which call you feel most comfortable with, and to not over call to avoid making tom turkey suspicious.
Box or slate (pot) calls are ideal for beginners as they are inexpensive, easy to operate, and sound very realistic. By holding them differently, you can sound like more than one turkey. Electronic calls are also a great option while learning to call and seeing how turkeys react to different sounds. Mouth calls (or diaphragm calls) are great as they do not require movement but are trickier to master.
More importantly than the call you choose, learn what each sound means, and when to use it.
Method of harvest
For harvesting a spring turkey with a shotgun, a person can use shotgun gauges 10 through 20, using shot sizes 4 through 6 or mixed loads that include shot sizes 4 through 7. In addition, shotgun gauges 10 through 28, including .410, may be used with shot sizes 7 through 9 in Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). You may also use a bow and arrow or crossbow (draw weight must be at least 100 lbs).
Regardless of which method you decide, make sure you are confident. Start practicing far in advance of the season so that you are more accurate with shot placement.
If you harvest a turkey, you’ll want a knife to break down the turkey so you can enjoy your harvest at the dinner table later. Any knife with a sharp, long skinny blade will do the trick – you likely have a knife in your kitchen that will work well.
A small pair of binoculars is very helpful. It will allow you to spy a bird at great distance, as well as to identify other animals as well as human activity. A range finder is a device often used to judge distance, but you can easily pace off the yardage in front of your blind and mark various distances with a stick. It’s helpful to mark 15, 25, 35 yards for reference.
Keep hunting safe
Hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities in Maine! Let's keep it that way by following these safety tips when heading into the woods:
- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded
- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
- Use safe carrying methods
- Always be certain of your target and beyond
- Flag your hunting area with orange tape or fabric to indicate your location to other hunters - a simple wrap of orange tape around a nearby tree does the trick
- Be aware of your surroundings and others around you - Remember that you will be sharing the woods with hikers, utility workers, woods operators, and fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Be courteous, there are millions of acres to share!
- Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return
- Always bring a survival kit
Don't forget to protect yourself from ticks. Consider treating your clothes with permethrin or other tick repellent according to the instructions on the container, tuck the loose ends of your clothing in, and check yourself routinely.
Hunter orange requirement:
Spring wild turkey hunt: Hunters are not required to wear hunter orange during the spring turkey hunt but hanging a piece of hunter orange in a tree nearby can help alert fellow hunters you are in the area.
Fall wild turkey hunt: Two articles of orange are required when hunting with a firearm or crossbow during the firearms hunting season on deer, the muzzleloader season on deer, or within an open moose hunting district during moose hunting season.
Tips for a Successful Turkey Hunt
Sign to look for
Scrapings: In the spring, turkeys are looking for acorns and seeds that dropped last fall and are hiding under debris. On sunny days, turkeys will linger along the forest edge abutting a clearing and dig at the ground looking for this food. Hunters should look for large patches (as big as 10 feet long and 3 feet wide) of Earth scratched up by the turkeys. Keep in mind, deer do something similar when they’re digging up their food sources, so look for turkey prints in the mud.
Scat: Another good indicator of turkey is their scat. You can tell the sex of the turkey by the shape of their scat—female scat is curly and male scat is a J shape.
Listen up: Auditorily, 2 weeks prior to the spring hunt, go to the areas you’ve been scouting early in the morning—around 4-5:30 am. If you’re quiet and undetected, you will hear gobbling. Around this time of day, turkeys are roosted—usually in the lower branches of pine trees on the edges of fields—and they will call from their roost prior to flying down to feed or socialize.