In order to provide more opportunity for youth and adult wild turkey hunters — and abide by current executive orders related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic — the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will open the spring turkey season early to provide hunters additional days to pursue the bird.

The organization also will suspend the requirement to register a harvested turkey.

MDIFW Commissioner Judy Camuso, with the support of Governor Janet Mills, announced the changes.

Under the revised season framework, youth will get two hunting days — Saturday April 25 and Monday, April 27 — instead of one on Saturday, May 2.

The regular season for all turkey hunters will start on Saturday, May 2, instead of on Monday, May 4. This will give youth hunters and adult hunters an extra day to hunt, and will start the season earlier.

The season will conclude as scheduled on Saturday, June 6.

“The extra days will provide hunters with more opportunities to enjoy one of Maine’s most popular hunts, and the temporary suspension of the registration requirement ensures that all involved in Maine’s turkey hunt will do their part to keep Maine safe during this unprecedented time,” said Camuso.

In order to comply with the governor’s executive order requiring social distancing, the requirement to register a harvested turkey also will be suspended for the spring season only.

While biologists gather vital information about harvest numbers and turkey population health through the registration, this temporary, one-time suspension of the tagging requirement is not expected to have long-term impacts on the turkey population health. All other current bag limits, license and permit requirements apply.

“Temporarily removing the requirement to register turkeys during the spring season will be a challenge when it comes to determining the harvest,” said Nate Webb, wildlife division director for MDIFW, “Fortunately we have captured and banded a large number of turkeys for the department’s wild turkey study and that will help us generate population estimates in the short term to help manage the turkey population.”

In order to try and gather the biological data lost through the suspension of the registration requirement, the department may send turkey permit holders a post-hunt survey to gather information about how many birds they harvested, their location and other pertinent information.

Hunters are asked to fill out the survey, and also report a banded turkey if they harvest one. Information on how to report the turkey is on the band, including visiting wildturkeyme.org/report-a-tag/ or call 1-844-234-9237.

“Turkey hunting continues to grow in popularity, and I hope these extra days of hunting will provide a welcome break during this unique time,” said Camuso.

Summary

To encourage Mainers to enjoy outdoor resources and support a happy, healthy state, Mills and Camuso enacted the following changes to Maine's spring turkey hunt:

On youth days, junior hunters who hold a valid junior hunting license may hunt wild turkeys. Participants may take up to two bearded wild turkeys with a shotgun, bow and arrow, or crossbow, but cannot exceed an individual Wildlife Management District bag limit. Those two dates are April 25 and 27.

The start of the regular spring turkey hunting season will be on May 2.

All current bag limits, license, and permit requirements apply.

Hunters who participate in the 2020 spring wild turkey hunting season will not be required to tag their harvested turkey(s). Transportation tags also will not be required. This is specific to the spring 2020 season only.

Hunters will receive a postseason survey and are asked to participate to help provide data used to monitor Maine's wild turkey population.

All other current bag limits, license and permit requirements apply.

Visit mefishwildlife.com/covid19 for additional MDIFW updates related to COVID-19

COVID-19 safety reminders for turkey hunting season

• Hunt a spot close to home and be sure to respect private landowners.

• Ask permission first.

• Be safe and prepared.

• Do not share a ride, blind or equipment with non-household members.

• Follow CDC guidelines on physical distancing.

• If one exhibits symptoms or has recently been exposed to COVID-19, stay home.

Temporarily waiving the requirement to register wild turkeys during the spring 2020 hunting season will come as a challenge to the harvest management. Fortunately, the department’s efforts to capture and band a subset of the turkey population will help to generate population estimates to inform future seasons and bag limits.

There are several hundred banded wild turkeys across the WMDs. Reporting banded turkeys is a reliable method to estimate the harvest when total harvest cannot be accounted. Wildlife biologists have a record of the number of turkeys that were banded this past winter and will use the number of harvested banded birds shot that are reported to estimate the total spring harvest.

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