First-Rate Springtime Turkey Hunts

First-Rate Springtime Turkey Hunts

Here's a look at where to find some great spring turkey hunting on public land near you in 2006. (April 2006)

According to New England's wild turkey biologists, bird populations throughout New England are generally holding their own or increasing. Barring any unforeseen circumstance or hardship, turkey experts in the region are optimistic about this spring's hunting prospects.

CONNECTICUT

While turkeys may be found throughout the Nutmeg State, some of the best hunting opportunities are in the northwest, northeast and south-central regions.

At more than 10,000 acres, Housatonic State Forest is one of the largest public-hunting areas in the state. It is easily reached from Route 7 traveling through Cornwall Bridge or Route 4 from the Torrington area.

With more than 17,100 acres open to hunting, Cockaponsett State Forest offers plenty of room as well. Route 9 cuts through it, and routes 81 and 148 provide additional access. Hunters should be aware that some portions of the state forest are closed to hunting with firearms.

Naugatuck State Forest is much smaller in size at 4,480 acres, but judging by harvest reports, it has its share of birds. It is south of Naugatuck and north of Oxford west of Route 8. Keep in mind the Great Hill Block area is limited to archery hunting only.

For more information on spring turkey hunting, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Wildlife Division at (860) 424-3555, or visit the DEP's Web site at www.dep.state.ct.us.

RHODE ISLAND

About 7 percent of Rhode Island's land mass, about 46,000 acres, is held in the public domain, primarily in the form of wildlife management areas (WMA).

One of the best is Arcadia WMA north of Hope Valley. At more than 13,800 acres, this is the largest piece of public ground in the state and was the site where turkeys were first reintroduced in 1980. Route 165 creating north and south sections bisects it, and numerous roads and trails lead into both areas.

Two other good spots are the Buck Hill and George Washington WMAs in the northeast corner of the state. Combined, they offer over 5,500 acres of public hunting opportunities.

Buck Hill may be reached from Route 100 traveling west out of Pascoag, while the George Washington WMA is north and south of Route 4A west of Chepachet.

The Burlingame WMA has turkeys, too. It is in Charlestown and covers 1,390 acres of deciduous forest, wetlands and agricultural habitat. Access is north of Buckeye Road at Clawson Trail.

For more information, contact the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife at (401) 789-0281, or visit their Web site at www.dem.ri.gov.

MASSACHUSETTS

With a population of approximately 20,000 birds, wild turkeys are doing well in the Bay State. In fact, the spring bag limit is two bearded birds.

A rather small state with some six million people occupying a land base of just over five million acres, the Commonwealth still has a respectable amount of public land open to hunting. There are about 600,000 acres of open space in outright ownership or under publicly held restrictions. That is more than 11 percent of the state's landmass. Included are nearly 100,000 acres of wildlife management areas open to hunting. Hunting is also allowed within most state forests and state parks.

Some of the best turkey habitat and hunting opportunities are in the western part of the state along the Connecticut River valley and areas to the east, where hunters will find some big blocks of public land.

The Western District, for example, has 48 WMAs ranging in size from the 5,354-acre Chalet WMA in Cheshire, Dalton and Windsor to the 54-acre Farmington River WMA in Otis. Most WMAs cover several hundred acres, however, and offer prime hunting opportunities.

There are also several state forests where turkey hunting is allowed, including Stafford Hill WMA in Cheshire, the Hiram H. Fox WMA in Chester and neighboring towns, Peru WMA in Peru and Windsor, the 7,500-acre Monroe and Haley state forests, Pittsfield State Forest and October Mountain State Forest, which covers more than 14,000 acres.

In the Valley District, the Herman Covey WMA in Belchertown and Ware contains over 1,400 acres of good turkey habitat, and Satan's Kingdom WMA in Bernardston and Northfield covers over 1,700 acres.

Colrain, Tolland and Granville state forests also offer good hunting opportunities.

The Central District has plenty of opportunities, too. Barre Falls WMA in Barre covers over 10,500 acres, while the Phillipston WMA in Phillipston and Barre offers another 3,383 acres. In all, there are over 70 WMAs in the district.

Maps and directions to state public hunting areas as well as general hunting information are available by contacting MassWildlife at (508) 792-7270, or by visiting the agency's Web site at http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/dfwrec.htm

VERMONT

With an estimated population of 40,000 birds, the Green Mountain State has one of the largest turkey populations in New England. Hunters are allowed two bearded birds during the spring hunt. The annual harvest has been running between 3,000 to 4,000 birds the past few years, which is one of the highest harvests in the region.

Some of the best habitat and hunting is in Vermont's southern foothills, the southern and central Champlain Valley and the eastern foothills regions. Some of Vermont's 85 WMAs, 38 state forests and 56 state parks, all of which are open to hunting with some exceptions, as well as a large chunk of the Green Mountain National Forest's 400,000 acres, are found in these productive turkey regions.

In the southern foothills, top choices include Hubbardston Battlefield WMA, Whipple Hollow WMA in Pittsfield, West Rutland State Forest, Birdseye Mountain WMA in Poultney, Tinmouth Channel WMA and Rupert State Forest.

In the eastern foothill region, hunters should check out Pine Mountain WMA, Clover Hill WMA, Densmore WMA, the Knapp Brook WMA, Little Ascutney WMA and Ascutney State Park, Hawk Mountain WMA, Skitchewaug WMA and Roaring Brook WMA.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Vermont Fish and Game Department at (802) 241-3700, o

r by visiting the agency's Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

According to Ted Walski, New Hampshire's Turkey Project leader, bird populations are doing well in the Granite State. The biologist estimated that there are about 25,000 birds statewide, and while hunters find success just about everywhere, some of the highest annual harvests come from the western counties along the Connecticut River, including Grafton County, parts of Hillsborough County and areas south of the lakes region.

Two good areas to start from include the Kearsarge WMA and Kearsarge State Forest in Andover, which offer about 6,000 acres of prime territory for turkeys.

The Enfield WMA and Lower Shaker WMA in Enfield are also good spots. The same is true of the Jones Brook WMA in Brookfield and Middleton.

A more extensive list and description of the state's WMAs may be obtained by contacting the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-3421, or on the agency's Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.

MAINE

According to Phil Bozenhard, Maine's top turkey biologist, birds are now found in most areas of the state and the population is estimated at 20,000 to 25,000 birds.

Two of the state's best public hunting grounds are in York County, the southernmost county in the state. One is the Mt. Agamenticus WMA in York and South Berwick. Officially, the WMA covers just 1,117 acres, but about three years ago, 10 conservation and water district groups merged and created an 11,500-acre protection zone around Mt. Agamenticus creating a public recreation area roughly covering 12,600 acres. Hunting is allowed on much of the area.

Access is from Route 1 in York via the Mountain Road.

Also, try Vernon S. Walker WMA in Newfield and Shapleigh. It covers nearly 4,000 acres and does not receive heavy hunting pressure.

There is a parking area on Route 11 just north of Shapleigh Village.

For a list of wildlife management areas in Maine and additional information on turkey hunting, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000 or visit the agency's Web site at www.mefishandwildlife.com.

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