For over two hours I worked a squad of birds that casually fed across the expanse of green field before me. Six hens, four jakes and five big longbeards milled about the middle of the field.

The toms would gobble and the jakes yelp in their coarse, deep-throated voices in response to my calls, but none showed a strong inclination to move my way. At least not until I hit just the right note.

It was a hen, not a tom or a jake that suddenly got fired up, perhaps perceiving me as a potential rival. Regardless, she started toward me with a scolding cacophony of calling, which her suitors apparently mistook as being directed at them for they followed along obediently. The long hours were about to pay off.

Then the group stopped en masse and every head went up like a periscope. I hoped against hope for any other possibility but was pretty sure what it meant. The group first trotted, then ran out of the field and several seconds later a hunter stepped out of the woods on the far side. I was frustrated, but not all that surprised as interference is a pretty common occurrence where I hunt turkeys.

One of the objectives of Maine’s wild turkey management plan is to provide a quality hunt. The working group that developed that plan defined quality hunting as “… hearing, seeing, working and hopefully harvesting a turkey without interference from others.” Four out of five ain’t bad.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) has done a commendable job of providing ever-increasing opportunities for hunters to hear, see, work and harvest some of this tremendous wildlife resource. They’ve helped grow the turkey population in terms of both number and range, while continuing to increase hunting opportunities through longer seasons and larger bag limits. In some ways turkeys have helped to pick up the slack created by our diminished deer herd in terms of hunting opportunity and revenue. However, the one area over which they have the least control, interference, continues to be an issue.

Fortunately, it’s not that way all over the state. Where I live and hunt it’s the routine rather than the exception. My hunts were interfered with on three of the first four days of this season alone, which is about average.

Sometimes interference is unintentional, but it’s interference none the less. And a lot of it boils down to knowing and more importantly following a few basic rules.

Don’t enter the woods where you know another hunter is present. If you see another vehicle parked by the side of the road, drive on to another location; not a different access point to the same place, a completely different location. If you hear another hunter calling or see their decoys, leave the area.

Turkey hunting is not like deer hunting, where sometimes having a few other hunters in the woods gets the deer moving. Having multiple hunters in the same block of woods hunting the same birds reduces everyone’s chances while also increasing everyone’s risk of injury.

When spring turkey hunting was still relatively new in Maine and hunters had to be drawn for a permit to participate, IFW used to send a questionnaire along with that permit that hunters were required to fill out at the conclusion of the hunting season. One of the questions asked if they had been interfered with. That question no longer gets asked, but maybe it should. Wildlife managers continue to seek ways of creating more turkey hunting opportunity and potentially attracting more hunters while ensuring those efforts do not put the population at risk. However, they’re no longer considering the impact putting more hunters in the woods has on those already there, or the quality and safety of everyone’s hunting experience. Perhaps it’s time they step back and take another look.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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