Spring Turkey Season Opens April 16

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With the first days of spring upon us, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters that the start of the statewide spring turkey hunting season is quickly approaching. This year, the five-week spring turkey season kicks off on Monday, April 18 and will continue through Monday, May 23. In addition, a one-day Junior Turkey Hunt will be held on Saturday, April 16.

“The comeback of Maryland’s wild turkeys is a tremendous conservation success story. As a result, spring turkey hunting continues to grow in popularity, and hunters should find ample opportunities to experience the thrill and excitement of gobbler hunting,” Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul A. Peditto said.

Hunters are encouraged to take a young hunter afield on the Junior Turkey Hunt day. This one-day hunt allows hunters 16 years of age or younger to hunt wild turkeys when accompanied by an unarmed adult of at least 21 years of age. Both hunters must possess a valid hunting license unless exempt from Maryland hunting license requirements.

“The Junior Turkey hunt day is a great opportunity for Maryland’s next generation of hunters,” Peditto said. “With gobbling activity at its peak and limited hunting pressure, the chance to make life-long memories couldn’t be better.”

Bob Long, turkey project leader for DNR agreed: “Wild turkey populations are near record levels throughout most of Maryland, so this season should be exciting and productive.”

After two consecutive years of poor reproduction, the DNR’s annual brood survey suggests that last summer was a banner year for turkey poult production throughout much of the state. This means that young gobblers, known as jakes, should be exceptionally abundant this spring. However hunters who choose to hold off for a mature tom may have to work harder, Long added.

While excellent hunting can still be found in Western Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore, hunters should not overlook non-traditional areas. A 20-year restoration effort spearheaded by DNR with assistance from conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has resulted in well-established turkey populations in every county in the state.

Many public properties across Maryland boast excellent wild turkey populations and hunters may find heavy hunting pressure on some, especially on opening day and the first Saturday. However most receive less hunting pressure as the season progresses, making it an enjoyable time to hunt this magnificent bird.

Although turkey-hunting accidents are rare in Maryland, the NWTF, in conjunction with the DNR, urges all turkey hunters to practice safe and ethical hunting this spring. Make sure to positively identify your target as a bearded turkey and eliminate the colors of a gobbler’s head (red, blue and white) from your clothing. Hunters are also encouraged to wear a fluorescent orange cap while moving and tie an orange ribbon, string or piece of cloth around a nearby tree while calling.

For additional information concerning Maryland turkey hunting regulations and public land opportunities, consult the DNR publication Hunting and Trapping in Maryland 2004-05 that is issued to hunters when they purchase a hunting license. They are also available at all DNR Service Centers and on DNR’s website at www.dnr.maryland.gov. Further information about the NWTF can be found at www.nwtf.org.