MAINE - Saturday's youth hunting day marks the beginning of turkey hunting season in Maine, and with the number of turkey permits and the turkey population rising, it could be another record year for turkey hunters. Monday marks the start for all other hunters
This year, 15,600 permits were issued. Last year, 12,000 turkey permits were allocated, and 3,994 hunters were successful.
The turkey hunting season begins a ½ hour before sunrise on Saturday, May 1 for youth hunters with a turkey permit (over the age of 10 and under 16), and continues on Monday for all other hunters with a turkey permit marked season A. Season B permit holders start their hunt on May 10. The season continues until Saturday, June 5. Legal hunting hours for turkey hunters is ½ hour before sunrise to 12:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. There is no hunting in Maine on Sunday.
15,600 hunters were awarded turkey permits in a random chance drawing this past February. There were 24,040 hunters who applied for the 15,600 permits. Three percent of the permits went to nonresidents.
Hunters with a turkey permit are allowed to take one bearded turkey. Male turkeys grow beards of varying length. Because male turkeys mate with several females in the spring, the removal of male turkeys by hunting does not affect population levels. Many young male turkeys never mate, due to competition from dominant males.
Maine's turkey population is estimated to be over 25,000 birds, up from approximately 10,000 birds in 2000. In 1985, the population was estimated at less than 900.
Wild turkeys, once extirpated in Maine due to the clearing of land and excessive shooting in the 1800's, are now a familiar site in much of Maine, and their range is still expanding. Turkeys were reintroduced successfully into Maine in the late 70's when the state received 41 turkeys from Vermont and released them in York and Eliot. The first modern turkey hunt was in 1986.
In 1986, 9 birds were harvested; in 1987, there were 8; 1988 - 16, 1989 - 19; 1990-15; 1991 - 21; 1992 -53; 1994 - 62; 1995 - 117; 1996 - 288; 1997 - 417; 1998 - 594, 1999 - 890; 2000 - 1,559; 2001 - 2,544; 2002 - 3,391; 2003 - 3,994.