Our Top State Forest Turkey Hunts

These highly rated state forests offer great habitat and plenty of birds for spring gobbler hunters. Here's where to find the birds this spring. (April 2008)

Photo by Rod Cochran.

The trees are beginning to show signs of life after the long winter. Over the greening countryside, a tom turkey sounds off with his spring love song. His lusty gobble not only attracts hen turkeys to mate, but also draws the attention of turkey hunters everywhere.

The sounds of spring gobblers should be easy to find at the following New England state forests:

CONNECTICUT
Every spring, hunters harvest about 2,000 wild turkeys in Connecticut. In their search for birds, Nutmeg State hunters have over 100 public lands that support spring turkey hunting.

Two prospects for this season are:

Aldo Leopold
Wildlife Management Area

Last fall, hunters received a gift of 544 acres of new hunting land from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection at the Aldo Leopold Wildlife Management Area in Southbury.

The area contains a mixture of dense forest and steep ledges. While these features don't seem overly turkey friendly on paper, they abut some great turkey haunts including old farm fields, active cornfields, marsh areas and a powerline right-of-way.

The WMA is divided into two sections. The western portion of the area borders Lake Lillinonah and is very steep. Hunters using this section will be forced to navigate hills and rock ledges. In the center of this section, hunters will find a plateau containing a marshy field known to hold turkeys.

Access is limited to two small parking areas. Take Exit 14 off Interstate Route 84 onto Route 172 north. In New Britain Center, turn left onto East Flat Hill Road. The first access point is about three miles from the turn on the left side of the road. This access gets hunters into the eastern section of the WMA.

To access the western section, continue on East Flat Hill Road until it ends on Purchase Brook Road. Turn left and watch for the parking area 100 yards from the intersection on the right side of Purchase Brook Road.

Cockaponset State Forest
Turkey hunters in central Connecticut focus their efforts on Cockaponset State Forest, since this public land consistently produces good numbers of birds. The forest encompasses about 17,186 acres, which is broken into a dozen separate parcels.

What makes the forest attractive to turkey hunters is that the private property between the broken-up state-land parcels is comprised of home developments, open farms and marshlands. For this reason, Cockaponset State Forest is also one of the best deer-hunting areas in the state.

The state forest consists of mature forest, with numerous clearings within the various subdivisions. Old logging trails and fire access roads also bisect the forest, for easy hunting access. Most of the land is flat to moderately hilly.

Due to the forest's sprawling acreage, hunters should thoroughly scout the area before hunting. The DEP's Web site offers a series of printable maps to help hunters better understand the boundaries and locate the various access points.

The main forest blocks can be found along Route 9 in Haddam and Chester and along Route 80 in Killingworth.

For more information on turkey hunting in Connecticut, call the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Wildlife Division at 1-860-424-3011, or visit them at www.dep.state.ct.us.

For travel information, call 1-800-282-6863.

VERMONT
Vermonters have had several years of good turkey hunting, with an annual harvest exceeding 4,000 birds. This year, they should continue to enjoy their favorite sport, especially at these two public hunting areas:

Les Newell
Wildlife Management Area

This WMA has gained the attention of fall grouse hunters because the 7,988-acre state land is surrounded by over 50,000 acres of timberlands.

Throughout the forest, lumber operations leave open patches that attract both grouse and turkeys. Hunters will find the best turkey hunting in these small forest clearings.

The area is divided into 10 separate parcels in the towns of Barnard, Bridgewater, Sherburne and Stockbridge. All the parcels have gentle slopes and one or more small streams.

The southern end of the WMA in the village of Notown is the largest and most turkey-friendly parcel. Here, hunters will find two large ravines around Davis Hill Brook and Perkins Brook.

Two other parcels worthy of a turkey-hunting trip are the Smith Hill section near the village of Morgan Corners and the Laury Road section near Stockbridge Center.

The Smith Hill parcel is generally flat, with a few swampy areas.

Laury Road is on a small plateau that provides comfortable walking and easy hunting.

All the WMA's parcels are forested with hardwood deciduous trees, balsam fir, hemlock and spruce.

To access Les Newell WMA, follow Route 100 south from Rochester to Stockbridge. From Stockbridge Center, take Lyon Road east to Laury Road. Another option is to take Route 107 east from Stockbridge to Route 12. Follow Route 12 to Morgan Corners and Smith Hill Road. Smith Hill Road leads to both the Smith Hill Parcel and the large southern section.

Pine Mountain
Wildlife Management Area

Pine Mountain WMA, at 2,274 acres, is small for Vermont. But the area is part of the Wells River watershed with numerous brooks, marshes, small beaver ponds and wild turkeys.

This WMA is forested with an equal mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. About the only non-wooded area is a 40-acre hayfield on the western end of the WMA.

The WMA has a miniature mountain range through its center, with the Whicher, Pine and Burnham mountain peaks reaching up to 1,500 feet.

Most of the access gates are at around 700 feet. So expect an 800-foot gain in elevation as you hunt through the forest.

Pine Mountain WMA lies in the towns of Groton, Ryegate, Newbury and Topsham. Take Exi

t 17 off I-91 onto Route 302 west. After about five miles, look for Swamp Road, Little Italy Road or Powder Spring Road. All three roads lead to access gates.

For more information on turkey hunting in Vermont, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit their Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

For travel information, call 1-800-837-6668.

RHODE ISLAND
Rhode Island's turkey population and spring harvests have increased steadily over the past decade. To help continue that trend, hunters should plan to visit these two state wildlife management areas:

Big River
Wildlife Management Area

Rhode Island hunters are usually limited to small parcels for hunting. But with nearly 8,300 acres, Big River WMA, in East and West Greenwich, gives turkey hunters room to spread out. This WMA is generally level with Big River as its centerpiece. Also, Carr River, Congdon Brook and Nooseneck River meander through the forest.

The WMA is mainly wooded with a mixture of oak, maple and conifer trees. Access to the WMA is plentiful, since several dirt fire roads and a few paved roads cut through the property. When hunting the WMA, be aware that I-95 also slices through the northern portion of the forest.

To reach the Big River WMA's access points, take Exit 6 off I-95 and travel south on Route 3. Parking is available along Route 3 at several entry gates. Or take Exit 6A and head south on Hopkins Hill Road, which bisects the forest and has access gateways.

Nicholas Farm
Wildlife Management Area

Many Ocean State hunters believe this WMA offers the best turkey hunting in the state. The birds seem to thrive in this mixed habitat, about 1,500 acres of mixed farm fields, mature forest and small shrub lots.

The Moosup River also flows through the northern end of the WMA, acting as a natural barrier to keep the turkeys within the forest.

Adding to the appeal of Nicholas Farm is its close proximity to Connecticut's 22,000-acre Pachaug State Forest. Nutmeg State hunters often push the turkeys from the larger forest into Rhode Island. Savvy hunters will set up blinds along the state border or near the Moosup River.

Access to Nicholas Farm WMA can be found off Route 117. Take Exit 5 off I-95 onto Route 102 north. Follow Route 102 to Route 117. Turn west toward Greene.

In Greene, Route 117 makes a sharp turn northward. The road then turns westward to a T-intersection. Route 117 continues to the right, but hunters must turn left onto Lewis Farm Road. Continue on Lewis Farm Road to Nicholas Road.

Several parking slots are available off Nicholas Road.

For more information, call the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife at (401) 789-3094, or visit them at www.state.ri.us/dem. For tourism information, call 1-800-556-2484.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Granite State hunters have done very well with wild turkeys in recent seasons, with annual harvests of well over 3,000 turkeys.

Two state forests worth checking out this spring are:

Blackwater Flood
Control Project

The 3,600-acre Blackwater Flood Control Project lands in Webster and Salisbury is one of the premiere turkey-hunting areas.

Turkey hunters will find that much of the land is damp during the May hunting season. But this wetness should not deter you because the Blackwater turkey flock feeds, drinks and, of course, breeds in this area.

Just come prepared with waterproof footwear!

The property lies in a long narrow valley bordered on the west by several foothills such as Beech Hill, Little Mountain and Sawyer Hill.

From these hills, several small to medium-sized streams flow to converge in the Blackwater Valley.

The better hunting possibilities will be found along the base of the foothills or in the center of the property near Salisbury and Smiths Corner.

Avoid the extreme southern portion of the property where the dam and reservoir are to be found.

Because Blackwater is a federal project, directional signage is very conspicuous. Take Exit 17 off I-93 in Canterbury. Then follow Route 4 north for about 10 miles to Salisbury Center. Turn left onto Route 127.

After about one mile, Route 127 makes a sharp southward bend. Continue straight onto Warner Road, which runs through the Blackwater Flood Control project into Smiths Corner. Several access points may be found along this roadway.

Enfield Wildlife
Management Area

In the Connecticut River Valley, turkey hunters should plan to visit the 2,800-acre Enfield WMA in Enfield. Its unique terrain features are ideal for the wild birds. Much of the property is flat, almost plateau-like, atop Montcalm Hill. Several small ponds also dot the hilltop.

Hunters coming in from the east can expect a bit of a climb. If you walk into the forest from the south or west, the terrain is friendlier.

Take Exit 15 off I-89 onto Smith Pond Road to access the WMA. Scout the area thoroughly before choosing your turkey-hunting spot. Several fire-access roads will aid in this endeavor.

Another option is to bypass Smith Pond and travel into Shaker Village to Route 4A. Travel south on Route 4A to Fish Market Center.

Turn right onto Bog Road and watch for access points.

For more information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-3511. You can also visit the department's Web site at www.nhfishandwildlife.com.

For travel information, call 1-800-386-4664.

MAINE
After a long, snowy winter, many Maine hunters exhibit symptoms of severe cabin fever. The spring turkey- hunting season is a sure cure for these and other ailments.

Here are two areas that might help:

Steep Falls
Wildlife Management Area

In the Sebago Lake region, hunters will find Steep Falls WMA in Standish and Baldwin offering 4,900 acres of prime turkey real estate.

The area is generally flat and wooded, with several marshy areas in the center of the property.

Numerous trails and old Jeep roads enter the forest along the east and west boundaries off Route 114 and Route 11. From Portland, take Route 25 into Standish. To ac

cess the southern portion of Steep Falls, take Oak Hill Road northward from Standish Center for about five miles.

Watch for access signs at the end of Oak Hill Road. Continue on Route 25 to Route 11, which passes by the western portion of the forest.

Gene Letourneau
Wildlife Management Area
Because of Maine's wintry climate, the better turkey hunting is usually found within the more temperate coastal counties. Farmlands, swamps and other open areas are more hospitable to the birds than the large lumbering forests of the interior.

The Gene Letourneau WMA, in the towns of Montville, Knox, and Morris lies within this turkey region.

Hunters will find a mixture of mature forest, open scrub fields and second-growth planted areas throughout the area. The WMA's northwest and southeast sections are level to moderately sloped. In the center, hunters will encounter Frye Mountain.

Vermonters have had several years of good turkey hunting, with an annual harvest exceeding 4,000 birds.

Often the best turkey hunting is along the open field fringes or in the second-growth forest areas that abut the mountain slopes.

To get there, take Exit 41 off I-95 onto Route 7 south toward Belfast. After 24 miles, turn right onto Route 131 for about three miles to Route 137. Drive north on Route 137 for about two miles. At Detchell Road, turn left.

Hunters will find several roadside parking areas along Detchell Road.

For more information, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000. Or visit the department's Web site at www.state.me.us/ifw/index.html.

For travel information, call 1-888-624-6345.

MASSACHUSETTS
Massachusetts has a thriving wild turkey population that yields annual harvests over 2,000 birds.

A good place to start is:

Leadmine
Wildlife Management Area

The Leadmine WMA in Brimfield and Sturbridge could be considered small for turkey hunting. It encompasses roughly about 640 acres adjacent to the Brimfield Flood Control Project.

The terrain in this WMA is generally sloped and rugged. Along the mountain slopes, mature hardwood forest with some scattered hemlock and white pine stands make up most of the turkey habitat.

Hunters looking for an easier walk should concentrate on the southern end of the WMA west of Leadmine Pond. Land in this area is more level. Either the hilly section or the southern "flatlands" harbor wild turkey.

Take Exit 3 off I-84 in Sturbridge. Follow Route 20 westward for about one mile. Turn south onto Leadmine Road. Several roadside parking areas may be found along this road.

After crossing the Hampden and Worcester county line, the road becomes Leno Road, where there are more parking areas.

Birch Hill
Wildlife Management Area

In the towns of Winchendon, Royalston and Templeton, spring turkey hunters will find the 7,431-acre Birch Hill WMA. The area has a well-rounded mixture of mature hardwood forests, conifer stands, open grass fields and brushy parcels. Thoroughly scout the conifer stands for possible roosting areas.

Birch Hill also contains an ample water supply with the Otter and Millers rivers.

Bay State turkey hunters may pursue their quarry in the mornings only. After the hunting ends at noon, these rivers could provide a little afternoon trout-fishing activity.

To get there, take Exit 19 off the Route 2 highway in Phillipston. Travel north on Route 202 for about 10 miles to Waterville. Turn left on River Street, which eventually bisects Birch Hill.

Alternative access may be had by driving through the Birch Hill Flood Control Project near the Lake Dennison Recreation Area. From there, travel north on New Boston Road. Roadside parking areas are found along New Boston Road as it enters the Birch Hill WMA.

For more information, call the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife at (508) 792-7270, or visit the division's Web site at www.masswildlife.org.

For tourist information, call 1-800-227-MASS.

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