The spring wild turkey hunt has been suspended in portions of northern Maine, specifically Wildlife Management Districts 1-6, due to the effect of this year’s severe winter, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recently announced.
The hunting season will remain unchanged in all other areas of the state.
“This winter has taken a toll on younger wild turkeys, including hens,” DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said in a recent press release. “A spring hunting season in addition to the severe winter could impact not only this turkey season, but future seasons as well.”
The National Weather Service ranked March 2014 as the third snowiest March on record in northern Maine. DIF&W biologists believe the northern Maine wild turkey population has potentially suffered above-average winter mortality rates.
In addition, state biologists are concerned that the lingering snow cover in northern parts of the state will affect the turkey’s breeding season.
“Wild turkeys breed in April and May, and there is still over two feet of snow in the northern Maine woods, and 80 percent of our fields are snow-covered, making nesting conditions extremely difficult for turkeys,” DIF&W wildlife biologist Rich Hoppe said in the release.
Wild turkeys nest on the ground at the base of trees or near brush piles. The snow and excessive water may delay their nesting and hinder overall nesting success, according to the DIF&W.
To top it all off, the wild turkey population in northern Maine is actually thought to be more vulnerable to severe winters because it is not as well established as the wild turkeys in other parts of the state.
Wild turkeys vanished from the Maine landscape in the 1800s due to a shrinking forest habitat and unrestricted hunting. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that wild turkeys returned to the state, transported to York County by DIF&W biologists in an effort to restore wild turkeys throughout their historical range in Maine.
The reintroduction program was a success, and now wild turkeys are abundant in Maine once more. Careful stewardship and partnerships with outdoor groups and landowners has helped expanded the birds’ range. And this past fall, the DIF&W expanded turkey hunting opportunities to include the entire state, including northern Maine.
To hunt wild turkey in Maine, you need a permit ($20 for Maine residents and $54 for nonresidents) and a valid hunting license that allows hunting of big game. The 2014 spring wild turkey hunting season is April 28-May 31, with the Youth Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Day (for youth 10-15 years old who possess a junior hunting license) set for April 26. The 2014 fall season is Oct. 2-31.
To learn about Maine’s wild turkey population and hunting seasons, visit state.me.us/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/wild_turkey.htm.