The Easter eggs have been found. The first trout of the season have been caught and the shad are spawning up the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. That could mean only one thing, time to get beat up and abused by Mr. Tom.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR) 2014-15 Wild Turkey Annual Report, the statewide wild turkey population has increase slightly over the last 10 years and numbers nearly 40,000 birds. Even with the increased number of wild turkeys in the state, Turkey hunting remains a tiresome endeavor with more failures than successes. But when that long bread struts in front of you as you sit motionless on the ground with your heart pounding your chest, all else is forgotten.
Over 10,000 Maryland hunters pursue wild turkeys in Maryland mainly during the most popular spring season. In 2015 spring turkey hunters set a new record with 3,767 reported birds harvested. Increasing Wild Turkey populations, good weather and the additional Sunday hunting opportunities likely helped boost the 2015 spring harvest.
Garrett County still ranks No. 1 as the top turkey-hunting county in the state with 412 gobblers harvested in spring 2015. The top Eastern Shore County in 2015 was Dorchester with 252 turkeys harvested and Charles County is the sleeper southern Maryland county with 253 gobblers harvested in 2015.
•The Junior Turkey Hunt Days are for hunters age 16 or younger only. These junior hunters must have a Certificate of Competency in Firearms and Hunting Safety and a Junior Hunting License (or be exempt from the license requirement). They must be accompanied by a licensed (or exempt from the license requirement) unarmed adult age 21 or older.
•The Junior Turkey Hunt Days have a separate bag limit. Turkeys taken by junior hunters during these days do not count towards the entire spring season bag limit.
•The spring Junior Turkey Hunt Days daily hunting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Spring Turkey Season
•The dates are April 18-May 23 statewide (includes Sundays, see below).
•The Spring Turkey Season is open on all Sundays on private and designated public lands in Allegany, Garrett, and Washington counties. See below for a list of designated public lands.
Designated public lands open to Sunday hunting in Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties are ONLY: Billmeyer-Belle Grove WMA, Cunningham Swamp WMA, Dan's Mountain WMA, Indian Springs WMA, Mount Nebo WMA, Prather's Neck WMA, Sideling Hill WMA, and Warrior Mountain WMA.
10 safety tips from the National Wild Turkey Federation to consider when you're in the woods:
• Leave the area if you suspect there's another hunter already working the same bird.
• Resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. It is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey. It is also unethical and could lead to an accident.
• Select a spot that is in open timber rather than thick brush: wearing camouflage clothing and eliminating movement is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover.
• Sit against a large stump, blow-down, tree trunk or rock that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head when calling wild turkeys.
• Never wear bright colors, especially not red, white, blue or black because these are the colors of a wild turkey gobbler. Watch out for red, white or blue on your socks, T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, hats, bandanas, etc. Wear dark undershirts and socks, and pants long enough to be tucked into boots.
• Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce your presence to other hunters if necessary. Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence.
• Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling.
• Maintain a clear field of view when using a camouflage blind or netting.
• Ensure your decoy is not visible when you are transporting it. Stash the decoy in your vest and make sure the head is not sticking out.
• Put your gun's safety on and approach the downed bird with your firearm pointed in a safe direction after firing. Never run with a firearm.
Spring turkey hunting is a great excuse to venture out into the spring woods; even if the Old Tom on top of the hill doesn't respond to your calls.