In 1979, the Cove Point area in Calvert County was stocked with 21 turkeys trapped in Washington and Garrett counties. From that simple beginning, Maryland has built a viable spring hunting season for bearded turkeys.
"The first county stocked was Calvert County," said Ed Golden, director of the forest game program for the Department of Natural Resources. "Some of the last birds we stocked, in Prince George's County, came from that original stocking."
Every county in Maryland now has a population of wild turkeys -- and during this spring season all or parts of 14 counties will be open to hunting.
Queen Anne's and Caroline counties will be completely open this spring, and Wicomico County east of Route 13 will be open to hunters.
DNR expects to add all of Kent County in the 1994 season, Golden said, and by 1995 the whole state should be open for spring or fall seasons.
"Considering we have almost 5 million people," Golden said, "that is pretty good that we have turkeys in every county."
In the years since Calvert County was stocked, 607 turkeys have been trapped and transplanted throughout Maryland, with all but 15 taken from within the state.
Western Maryland has taken the brunt of the trap and transplant operations for many years, but Golden said that turkey populations elsewhere in the state have done so well that this year more birds were moved from outside the western region than from within it.
In 1991, the statewide population of wild turkeys was estimated to have grown to 12,000.
Golden said that speaks well for game management and habitat. And good management and habitat make for good hunting.
"I'm going to stick my neck out and predict that between 1,150 and 1,300 gobblers will be killed this spring," Golden said.
"But last year we didn't have a great reproductive season, so we don't expect the kill to jump up quite as much as it has in the past few years."
The counties that will be open for spring turkey this year are: Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester (south of Route 50), Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Kent (east of Route 301), Montgomery, Somerset, Queen Anne's, Washington, Wicomico (east of Route 13) and Worcester.
The spring season runs April 17 to May 15, with a limit of one bearded turkey per season.
If a hunter failed to take a turkey during the last fall season, however, two birds may be taken on different days in the spring.