Heading into the last week of spring turkey season, the ranks of camo clad hunters have thinned considerably. Many have tagged out while others have simply moved on to more pastoral pastimes. Before you know it, another fall hunting season will be at hand, and it’s never too early to begin planning.

Bear season starts Aug. 27. Several hunters reported an “off” year last fall, quite possibly the result of an abundant mast crop — particularly beechnuts. Bears had plenty of natural food to eat and so weren’t coming to bait sites as readily.

That all translates to good news for this season. The beechnut crop tends to alternate, being more abundant in odd years. Assuming there are fewer nuts around this fall, bears may be more inclined to come to baits. Bears went into their dens in good shape, and with fewer bears taken last year, there should be more healthy bears around this fall for all hunters, including houndsmen and those who take bears incidentally while deer hunting.

The expanded archery season for deer starts Sept. 8, followed by the statewide archery season on Sept. 27 and the firearms season on Oct. 29. The mild winter should go a long way toward helping Maine’s deer herd rebound. Deer numbers and success rates should be up, and deer should be in good condition.

Bowhunters get the first crack at fall turkeys, starting Sept. 27 in some districts, and Oct. 6 in the others open to fall turkey hunting, followed by a week of shotgun hunting.

Thanks to several mild, relatively dry springs, the turkey population seems to be on the rebound in established areas, and continues to grow in newer areas.

Early June weather this year will be a big factor in determining how this spring’s hatch goes. Regardless, there should be plenty of birds around for the either-sex season.

Much the same applies to the grouse population. Periodic rain through early May could depress production, but if the weather ever clears up long enough, the birds should be able to brood enough young’uns to adulthood to offer some decent upland gunning.

Meanwhile, woodcock have shown up in fairly decent numbers over the last couple years. Assuming decent hatch and brood success, fall weather will be more of a determining factor in hunting success. Sometimes it takes a good cold snap to drive the migrant birds down. If that happens in mid-to late October, the gunning will be good. By November, many bird hunters have switched over to deer and waterfowl, while others are reluctant to run their dogs during deer season.

Waterfowl hunters may see some changes this fall. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been holding public informational meetings on a proposal to modify the current waterfowl hunting zones, adding a third, coastal zone and moving the current North/South zone line further north. The decision should come by early summer.

Results from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey won’t be out until mid- to late July. Preliminary reports indicate the mild winter had some impact on seasonal wetlands with fair to good conditions in central Canada, and heavy spring rains recharging many areas in the East.

For now it’s time to tend to lawns, wet a line or otherwise enjoy summer’s ease. All too soon, however, the northwest winds will carry cool dry air, reminding us it’s time to mend decoy lines, set out scouting cameras and start bending a bow before another season arrives.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]