New England'™s Public-Land Turkey Hunts
September 30, 2010
Spring turkey harvests are expected to reach near-record levels in 2007, and that's good news for New England's hunters. Here's where to find your gobbler this spring. (April 2007)
Photo by Kenny Bahr
Perhaps the last hunter's shot fired in New England occurred on a goose hunt during the extended February seasons. Now, after two months of idleness, shotgunners are ready to get back into the field again. Fortunately, a thriving wild turkey population stands ready to fulfill hunters' desires with more great sport this spring.
Hunters can expect to find good numbers of birds in each of the six New England states. Here's a sampling of best bets to get your season started:
Like most of the New England states, Vermont has reported increased turkey harvests over the past few years. The 2006 spring hunt was a record season, with 4,677 birds taken. This year could be even better.
Hawks Mountain WMA
Vermont turkey hunters should find something to their liking at this 2,183-acre forest. Generally, the terrain is steep and rugged, with its elevation running from the Black River at 700 feet above sea level to the Hawks Mountain Ledge outcroppings at 1,940 feet.
Ledge outcrops are a common feature of the property, which is mostly wooded with maple, birch and beech trees. But red oaks scattered throughout the property provide a good supply of mast for roving flocks of turkeys.
The Black River flows along the forest's western boundary. Access is limited, making it an ideal place to pursue turkeys with little competition.
The WMA may be accessed from Cavendish Gulf Road. Take Route 131 into Cavendish. Turn south onto Densmore Road. After crossing the Black River, turn left onto Cavendish Gulf Road. There are roadside parking areas and a steep walk-in access.
There are also several roadside-parking areas on Route 131. But to enter the forest here, hunters must be prepared to cross the Black River. Savvy turkey hunters bring a canoe to paddle across the river to access nearly untouched turkey habitat.
Atherton Meadows WMA
After a steep workout at Hawks Mountain, hunters may want to visit the less strenuous Atherton Meadows WMA. Except for some beaver ponds, this 799-acres area is forested with a mixture of hardwoods and evergreens.
This WMA sits in a valley surrounded by higher hills. Harriman Reservoir borders the area to the north. Farms and rural homesteads line Route 100, which bisects the property to the south. Several small streams and old apple trees also keep the turkeys in the area.
The WMA is in the town of Whitingham, about eight miles west of Jacksonville. Route 100 divides the forest, with 646 acres on the northern side of Route 100 and the remaining land sandwiched between the south side of Route 100 and Head Of The Lake Road. Parking for both parcels may be found Route 100, about one mile west of Whitingham center.
For more information on Vermont's turkey-hunting seasons, licenses and regulations call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit their Web site at VTFishAndWildlife.com.
For tourist information, call 1-800-837-6668.
Rhode Island is not usually noted for its hunting opportunities because of the state's small size and high urban population. Surprisingly, the Ocean State has the highest spring turkey season hunter-success rate in all of New England -- nearly 20 percent of all hunters bag a bird!
Last year, hunters took 234 birds, a 13-percent increase from the 207 birds shot in 2005. With increases in the turkey population, the 2007 season should be even better.
This forest is the state's largest, spreading out over 14,000 acres in the towns of West Greenwich, Richmond and Exeter. Land managers keep areas clear, so hunters will find hundreds of acres of open fields, farmlands and hedgerows. The Department of Environmental Management also manages several special food plots for wildlife.
Open-field hunters will want to spend some extra time setting up blinds. Good calling skills are also required to bring birds up close.
For forest access, take Exit 4 off Interstate Route 95 and head north on Route 3 to Route 165. Turn west on Route 165 for about three miles to the main entrance. Follow the entrance road to designated parking areas.
Turkey hunters will enjoy this 2,300-acre forest, which is also heavily managed for turkeys. According to recent DEM reports, about 23 acres of the forest contains wildlife food plots. Another 100 acres is leased farmland planted with corn, sunflower and buckwheat. The DEM also mows another 100 acres of land to maintain open meadows.
The Carolina WMA access is close to Exit 3 off I-95 in Richmond. Follow Route 138 east to Route 112 south. From Route 112, turn right onto Kenyon Hill Road, where parking is available. Another parking area is available on Pine Hill Road.
Continue on Route 112 south for two miles past Kenyon Hill Road. Turn right and follow Pine Hill Road into the forest.
For more information on Rhode Island's turkey-hunting seasons and licensing, call the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife at (401) 789-3094, or visit the division's Website at www.state.ri.us/dem.
For tourism information, call 1-800-556-2484.
Granite State hunters have done very well with wild turkeys over the past several years. Last season, more than 3,500 birds made their way to the dinner table. The best harvests were in Hillsboro, Manchester, Littleton and Walpole counties.
Two state forests worth checking this spring are:
Fox State Forest
This small 1,500-acre forest has a lot to offer hunters, including plenty of roadside access, a mixture of forest and small open patches, several streams and swamp ponds. Wild turkeys thrive in this state-owned forest because of the surrounding rural homesteads that provide the birds with additional food and habitat.
The forest can be divided into three distinct sections. "Bible Hill" is the western (and largest) section of the forest. It is relatively flat with thre
e streams running through it. Find a strutting area along one these streams for your best opportunity of getting a turkey.
Access to this section is directly off Bible Hill Road, which is east of the Route 9-Route 202 merge in Hillsborough. Travel north on Bible Hill Road for about one mile. Watch for state forest signs and roadside parking areas.
Two smaller sections are on the east side of Hillsborough Center Road. The Mud Pond section is flat and contains two small ponds and several streams. It may also be somewhat wet during the spring season. The best turkey hunting will be found on the drier portions of this forest section.
Roadside parking and public access are off Whitney Road and Bog Road. From Route 9/202 in Hillsborough, turn north on Hillsborough Center Road. After about one mile, turn right on Whitney Road. Bog Road will be the first left.
To get to the third and smallest section of the forest, continue on Hillsborough Center Road to the fork at Concord End Road. Bear right into the forest. A few dirt roads and paths lead into the forest. Parking areas may be found on Concord End Road and Gould Pond Road.
Black Mountain State Forest
New Hampshire's Connecticut River valley is dairy-farm heaven. Wild turkeys flock to these farms to feed on corn, alfalfa and clover. Black Mountain State Forest is sandwiched between the farmlands and the White Mountain National Forest to provide the birds with forest cover and easy access to the farmlands.
For New Hampshire, this forest is rather small, at only 729 acres. But turkeys don't need a lot of land, just a mixture of forest and open patches -- and this state forest has both.
The eastern portion is relatively level until it begins its ascent toward Black Mountain. Turkeys prefer the edges between the flats and the mountain slopes. Try to find a good shooting station between the old stonewalls that are scattered around the eastern portion of the forest.
Entry to the forest requires a bit of walking.
Turn east onto Route 116 from Route 10 in North Haverhill. After about two miles, turn right onto Lime Kiln Road toward East Haverhill. Dirt roads and paths lead into the forest about one mile down Lime Kiln Road. Continue on Route 116 for another two miles to another set of access trails. Watch for signs, since the forest is surrounded by private property.
For more information on Granite State turkey hunting seasons and licensing, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-3511, or visit the department's Web site at NHFishAndWildlife.com.
For tourist information, call 1-800-386-4664.
Maine is best known for its ruffed grouse hunting, but the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the National Wild Turkey Federation have transformed the state into a prime turkey-hunting destination.
Two areas to look for birds are:
Vernon S. Walker WMA
Turkey hunters have a good chance at a bird in this 3,900-acre parcel of land. This area has a mixture of marshland, ponds, hardwood forest and managed clear-cut areas. The terrain is generally flat to sloping, providing easy walking. Hunters should focus on the second-growth forest areas that lie close to evergreen stands.
This WMA is about halfway between the towns of Newfield and Shapleigh. From Exit 2 off I-95, take Route 109 north into Sanford. Continue for about seven miles before turning north onto Route 11. Follow Route 11 into North Shapleigh, then turn right on Mann Road. Look for roadside parking areas and walk-in access along Mann Road.
Frye Mountain WMA
Often the better turkey hunting in Maine is near the coast, where farms and open lands are more abundant. The area surrounding Belfast fits that turkey billing. Frye Mountain WMA lies about 12 miles west of Belfast in the towns of Montville, Knox and Morris.
Hunters will find a mixture of forestlands, open fields, second-growth areas and spring runoff streams. The turkeys use all of these features in their spring breeding rituals.
The northwest and southeast portions of the forest are level. Turkey hunters will want to work the areas where the lowlands meet the steep slopes of the mountain.
This area is easily accessed thanks to several roadside parking areas. Take Exit 41 off I-95 onto Route 7 south toward Belfast. After driving about 24 miles, turn right onto Route 131 for about three miles to Route 137. Turn north on Route 137 toward Knox. Turn left onto Getchell Road, which is about two miles from the Route 137-Route 131 junction. Access points are available along Getchell Road.
For more information on Maine's turkey-hunting seasons and licensing, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit the department's Website at State.ME.US.
For tourist information, call 1-888-624-6345.
Since the Bay State began its first turkey-hunting season in 1980, the sport has gained in popularity. Today, biologists estimate the turkey population in the state is around 15,000 birds.
Tully Mountain WMA
The north-central portion of Massachusetts offers some of the best turkey habitat in the state, with 1,187-acre Tully Mountain WMA being one of its showcases. The terrain here varies from steep slopes and mountains to flat open fields and wetlands.
Most hunters tend to overlook this area because it is located between the more popular Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area and Warwick State Forest. Unlike those areas, however, Tully Mountain has large tracts of open fields and abandoned brushy areas. Turkey hunting on the fringes of these fields could pay big dividends.
Access is via roadside parking areas. Take Exit 17 off Route 2 toward Athol. Travel north on Route 32 for about four miles. At Tully Lake, turn left onto Royalston Road into North Orange. Finally, turn left onto Athol Road for the access points.
Turkey hunters should have good luck on this WMA thanks to its on-going forest management practices. The terrain in this 1,017-acre tract is mostly hilly, with some relatively flat land in the central and northeastern sections of the forest.
The property is primarily wooded, but the MassWildlife maintains about 30 acres of open habitat in the WMA's center. Two manmade ponds located near the center of the property provide turkeys with water and easy access to the surrounding open lands, water and forests.
Palmer WMA is accessible by taking Exit 8 off I-90 onto Route 32 north.
About two miles from the I-90/Route 32 junction, turn right onto Rondeau Street, which runs along the western boundary of the forest.
For more information on turkey hunting seasons and licensing, call the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife at (508) 792-7270, or visit the division's Web site at MassWildlife.Org.
For tourist information, call 1-800- 227-MASS.
Turkey biologists with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection have worked diligently on enhancing the turkey population. Last year, hunters harvested about 2,000 turkeys, and the upcoming season is expected to be even better.
Robbins Swamp WMA
This area is one of the most unique hunting areas in the state. It consists of swampland, cultivated farm fields, brushy areas and open hay lots. Turkeys thrive in this 1,198-acre environment.
The swamp is divided into several small sections in the towns of Canaan, North Canaan, Ashley Falls and South Canaan. The better turkey hunting area is in Canaan along the Hollenbeck River.
Access to the Hollenbeck section is via a special parking lot off Route 126. Take Route 7 north from Kent toward Falls Village. Turn left onto Route 126. About one-half mile after crossing the railroad tracks, turn left down the dirt road marked by state-land signs. The road leads into the parking lot. Hunters may also use the roadside parking spot at the railroad-Route 126 junction.
Naugatuck State Forest
This forest, better known for its pheasant hunting, has undergone a major transformation over the past two years. Foresters have clear-cut dozens of acres into open fields within this 3,338 acre forest. Also, several large tracts of land have been timbered to create large openings within the forest. All of these actions benefit wild turkey.
Hunters should scout the forest well because the variable habitat and large areas of land leaves the birds free to move great distances.
In Beacon Falls, take Exit 23 off Route 8 onto Route 42 north. Take the first left off Route 42 to cross the Naugatuck River. At the T-intersection, turn right and follow this road along the railroad tracks. Most of this road is dirt and will end on Hunters Mountain Road. Turn left and drive up a steep grade for about one-half mile to the parking area.
For more information on Connecticut's turkey-hunting seasons and licensing, call the DEP's Wildlife Division at (860) 424-3011. Or you can visit the agency's Web site at .
For tourist information, call 1-800-282-6863.