Spring Turkey Season Takes Flight: Great Spots to Find Gobblers
Turkeys usually conjure images of colorful leaves and crisp fall days, but with the arrival of spring comes the start of turkey hunting in Maryland. The 2019 season begins April 18 and lasts through May 23, with a special youth turkey season scheduled the weekend of April 13-14.
Found across Maryland, eastern wild turkey populations are near an all-time high – now numbering around 40,000 – thanks in part to an intensive trap and translocation effort by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with assistance from the National Wild Turkey Federation. The mixture of fields and forests in Maryland are ideal living conditions for turkeys, so it’s your choice where you would like to travel to bag your turkey this year.
Only bearded turkeys are legal during the spring season and they can only be harvested using shotguns (loaded with #4 shot or smaller), crossbows or vertical bows. Dogs and organized drives are prohibited.
Where to Go
The Eastern Shore is home to a good number of turkeys and abundant public lands, especially on the lower shore. Upland pine woods and bottomland hardwood forests provide great turkey habitat and a range of hunting environments.
Pocomoke State Forest consists of 17,676 acres, with the vast majority located in Worcester County. Hunting is one of the more popular recreational activities in Pocomoke State Forest and you’ll find healthy wild turkey populations for your hunt here.
Idylwild Wildlife Management Area is a 3,800-acre tract in southeastern Caroline County. Hunters will enjoy a day afield pursuing turkey, with roads and trails promising easier access. Mature hardwoods, loblolly pine and Virginia pine forests blanket most of this wildlife management area, making for perfect wild turkey habitat.
From protecting several endangered species of plants and animals to providing hunting and outdoor recreation, as well as demonstrating wildlife management techniques, Millington Wildlife Management Area fulfills several roles. This 4,000-acre parcel is located in eastern Kent County and consists of hard-wood forests, with pine stands and various types of wetlands that play home to abundant turkey populations.
Maryland’s southern region turkey populations have steadily increased over the years, making for good hunting throughout the area. Thanks to some recent acquisitions, the region now contains a moderate amount of public hunting land. Try these areas when hunting in the southern region:
Located in western-central Charles County, Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area contains hardwood forests, wildlife plantings, natural and man-made wetlands and early succession habitats. This 4,460-acre tract is located in the forested bottomlands of Mattawoman Creek and was once home to the Piscataway Indians. Myrtle Grove is dominated by mature upland and bottomland forests consisting of oaks, hickories, maples, sycamores, poplars, beech and several other tree species.
Cedar Point Wildlife Management Area is a 1,926-acre site situated on a peninsula between Nanjemoy Creek and the Potomac River, in southwestern Charles County. It consists of a mix of forested and upland habitats, as well as tidal marsh, non-tidal ponds and wet-lands and agricultural fields. Hunters can enjoy the pursuit of numerous wild turkey that are found on the property. The forest and fields abound with wildlife.
Maryland’s central region has a growing number of turkeys. Public lands are generally fewer and smaller, but hunters have good success when visiting the following areas.
Located in western Montgomery County, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area is a 2,000-acre tract in a mixture of woodlands, fields, wooded bottomland and managed wetland impoundments (green-tree reservoirs). McKee-Beshers shares a common boundary with the National Park Service’s Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to the south. To the east, this wildlife management area borders Seneca Creek State Park hunting areas, with more than 1,000-acres of public hunting—perfect for dense populations of turkey.
Located in Howard and Montgomery counties, along the upper 12 miles of the Patuxent River, Patuxent River State Park hunting areas comprise more than 5,000 acres of natural areas and farmlands. Recreational use is primarily hunting, fishing and hiking.
The western region’s vast public forests and mountainous terrain gives hunters plenty of room and natural scenery. For a better chance at harvesting a bird, visit one of these areas:
Savage River State Forest, at more than 50,000 acres, is the largest parcel in the state forest system, and is home to a healthy turkey population. The northern hardwood forest preserves an important watershed in Garrett County.
At 47,560 acres, Green Ridge State For-est is the largest contiguous block of public land in Maryland. Green Ridge is located in Allegany County, within the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian Mountains, and is home to dense flocks of turkeys. It is rich in both natural and cultural heritage and remains a “working forest” today, managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service.
There are a number of Wildlife Management Areas in western Maryland; however, Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located in western Allegany County, is an ideal place for your turkey hunt. The 9,783-acre tract is prized by hunters for its large turkey populations and quiet landscape.
Article by Nancy Doran—information and education program manager for the department’s Wildlife and Heritage Service. Appears in Vol. 22, No. 2 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2019.