Maine’s turkey seasons have seen a lot of changes over the last decade or so, but with the exception of adding a fall hunt, none has been more significant than this year’s newest opportunity. Originally Mainers had to cease spring turkey hunting at 11 a.m. Closure was then extended to noon, similar to the other New England states. This year, Maine becomes the first in the six-state region to allow all-day hunting, joining most other turkey hunting states outside the Northeast.
It offers folks who work a regular shift and more importantly, school kids, a much greater window of opportunity. It provides an alternative for those not particularly fond of rising before the birds. And it gives everyone a chance to spend more time afield. However, even veterans may find afternoon hunting slightly different.
Morning hunts typically begin with a flurry of activity as randy toms gobble and strut for their hens, who are preoccupied with filling their crops. Hunters start close but not too close to the roost, hoping to intercept the birds before they disperse. Activity tapers off as the sun climbs and unsuccessful hunters strike out across the land, pausing occasionally to call in hopes of raising a gobble.
An afternoon hunt begins much as a morning hunt ends – slowly. Afternoon gobblers are far less vocal and less likely to answer a call. Your calling should be accordingly more subtle and less frequent.
If you do get an answer, get ready. Lonely afternoon gobblers may be more inclined to approach. There’s also a better chance they’ll come in silently, so patience and stealth take on added importance.
As the sun slowly sinks, feeding intensity picks up but the gobblers remain fairly reticent.
The birds are backtracking toward the roost and hunters should do likewise, but avoid the temptation to get too close.
Setting up too close to a roost site is akin to waterfowlers shooting a roost pond. In addition to being ethically questionable, it’s also not smart. It’s a one-shot proposition and the consequences of failure are long-lasting.
Your best hunting still occurs in the morning and often depends on reliability. If you know where the turkeys regularly roost you can start each day nearby. It may still take several days to nail them down and be in the right place, but failed attempts along the way seldom affect where the flock roosts.
Mess up in the evening and it’s a different story. You’ll almost certainly change the flock’s routine, nullifying all the hours and days of scouting that you and other hunters put in.
There’s really no need to push your hunt to the limit, either. The new law allows hunting until a half-hour after sunset. By then the birds have long gone to roost, and hunting even within the last hour is more likely to result in messing things up for future hunts.
Give the birds a wide margin and they’ll still be there tomorrow and the day after. And with the new framework, you’ll have lots more time to enjoy chasing them.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]