June 21, 2018
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Bird hunters head afield

Brian Swartz | BDN
Brian Swartz | BDN
Five wild tom turkeys feed in a Lamoine field in this 2012 file photo.
By Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Special to the BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wildlife biologists are preparing reports that may help hunters in the weeks ahead. Here’s the most recent report.

Southern Lakes Region

In the southern region of the state, hunters are gearing up for pheasant season. Pheasant season begins on Oct. 1, and over 2,300 pheasants will be released at 22 different sites in York and Cumberland counties.

“If you are looking for an area to hunt, we have a list of release sites on our website,” said DIF&W wildlife biologist Cory Stearns, who recommended the Vern Walker and Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management areas as good locations to hunt.

Hunters are reminded that you need to purchase a pheasant permit before going out to hunt pheasants in York and Cumberland Counties. The permit is available on the department’s website or wherever you purchase your license. Proceeds from the sale fund the pheasant program.

Turkey hunters are also looking forward to a successful season, new rules allow for a longer season (Oct. 3–Nov. 1), and up to two turkeys this fall.

“The turkey population is doing really well throughout southern Maine, and I expect hunters to do very well this fall,” added Stearns.

Central and Midcoast

In Central Maine, upland bird hunting means Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area, a destination for many bird hunters.

“People fly in all the way from Germany to hunt Frye Mountain,” said DIF&W wildlife biologist Keel Kemper, “It should be a pretty good year at Frye because there are always birds there.”

Kemper did remind hunters that there was quite a lot of rain this spring and in early summer which has impacted grouse broods. There will be birds, but perhaps just not as many.

Of course, Central Maine is also “ground zero for wild turkeys” says Kemper. Central Maine and its robust turkey population supplied birds for much of the state’s reintroduction program, and hunters should have no problems finding birds this fall season.

Kemper said that waterfowl hunters may want to try Madawaska Bog in Palmyra. A strong wild rice year has that wildlife management area brimming with ducks.

“It’s socked with wild rice. There are lots of hiding spots for hunters, and lots of birds,” said Kemper, who said Ruffingham Meadow in Searsmont is also a good destination.

“I was pretty impressed with the quantity of teal and the quality of the rice,” said Kemper, “Wild rice is an annual, and it can be boom or bust, and this year seems to be exceptional.”

Downeast Region

Down East, it looks like a good year for waterfowl and turkeys, but not quite as good for upland birds. DIF&W wildlife biologist Tom Schaeffer thinks it is going to be an average year for grouse hunters in the area.

“We had a cold and wet spring just about the time that birds would be hatching,” said Schaeffer, “Expectations for grouse season should be about average.”

However, Schaeffer noted that there have been spring conditions on rivers and streams right through the summer, creating favorable conditions for waterfowl hunters who like to jump shoot. There have also been quite a few hunters who are taking advantage of the early goose season, since there are “a favorable number of geese around.”

Turkey hunters will be able to hunt Wildlife Management District 28 this fall, and next spring, District 27 will be open.

“This time of year, we are seeing some small turkeys, which means they re-nested, most likely because the first nest failed,” said Schaeffer.

If you are looking for areas to hunt this fall, Schaeffer said to check out the Cobscook Wildlife Management area. There are ten units that make up the Cobscook WMA, and there are some really nice upland areas. Waterfowl hunters will want to check out the Lyle Frost WMA in Eastbrook, which has a nice, canoeable flowage.

Western Mountains Region

Up in the Western mountains area, things are looking good for the turkey season this fall.

“We have lots of turkeys, and plenty of excellent turkey hunting opportunities in our region,” said biologist Charles Hulsey, “I would grade it an ‘A’”

Hulsey added that brood counts were normal for waterfowl, and that while he doesn’t have a good feel for grouse, he has heard some encouraging news from others.

“I was out all day with a forester in the Rangeley area, and he said that he’s seen some pretty good numbers of birds,” said Hulsey. “Overall, I think it will be an average year for grouse, with some areas a little better than others.

Waterfowl hunters may want to check out Mercer Bog. While Hulsey said the middle of the day can be hit or miss, get there early or late for more action.

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