Avid and novice sportsmen enjoy hunting Maryland’s abundant wild turkey populations. Whether taking the kids on their first turkey hunt, or heading out with hunting buddies for the weekend, Maryland’s turkey hunting opportunities stretch across the state. With seasons throughout most of the year, and statewide private and public land open to hunters, Maryland is a great choice to bag a turkey for any occasion.

Jay Fleming Stock Photography for SMI © Jay Fleming 02In 2013, a record Spring Gobbler harvest of 3,334 birds was taken and the 2014 harvest yielded only 19 birds less than the record. The 10-year average for Spring Gobbler Season is just under 3,000 birds. Western Maryland counties are the most productive, but counties in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore all hold healthy stocks of wild birds.

Of the five distinct subspecies in North America, only the Eastern wild turkey resides in Maryland. Wild turkeys are dark brown to black in color with many feathers that are iridescent, exhibiting a metallic green and bronze color. Male turkeys are called gobblers and average around 18-22 lbs. During breeding season, their heads turn various shades of red, white, and blue. Female turkeys (called hens) are about half the size of gobblers, their plumage is duller, and they lack the bright head colors. Adult gobblers have spurs, a sharp, bony spike on the back of each of their legs. They also have a rough, black beard that protrudes from its breast. The beard can grow up to 12 inches long. Hens do not have spurs and usually do not have a beard, although bearded hens are not exceptionally rare.

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Maryland’s vast public lands offer great turkey hunting opportunities. Grab your gear and head out on your own, or hook up with a guide on private lands to show you the local turkey hangouts.

Is this your first time hunting turkey? A first-time hunter may find a Regulated Shooting Area (RSA) more suitable for their first time harvesting turkey. A RSA is a tract of land, including any waters, on which the licensee may release and shoot captive-raised turkey, pheasant, bobwhite quail, chukar partridge, Hungarian partridge, and mallard ducks. Great for first-time bird hunters, RSAs offer a chance to hone their skills before heading out in the field to hunt. Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a full list of RSAs in Maryland.

With fall, winter, and spring seasons, along with Junior Hunt days in April, there’s plenty of time to head to Maryland for a great turkey hunt with friends and family. Western Maryland also has a long-standing either-sex Fall Turkey Season. Limited to the three western counties of Garrett, Allegany, and Washington, the season usually occurs during the first week of November and runs for only one week. Start planning your turkey hunt in Maryland by visiting the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website for a  full list of seasons.

Acquiring a hunting license in Maryland is easily done through DNR’s app, or through the application process online. Nonresident hunters seeking a Maryland hunting license can download the Hunting License Application & Instructions. DNR’s app is the easiest way to apply, register, and report a harvest with the push of a button.

A Regular Hunting License, Junior Hunting License, Senior Hunting License or Nonresident Hunting License is required to hunt turkeys. See Licenses, Stamps, & Permits for descriptions, prices, and availability of licenses, stamps, and permits.

It is illegal to hunt turkey with the aid of bait or over any baited area. Feed or bait placed for deer or other wildlife may be considered baiting if turkeys are being hunted. An area is considered by law to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait. It is illegal to use recorded or electronically amplified calls, or use motorized or electronic turkey decoys.

Money generated from the sale of licenses goes directly to the conservation, protection, and preservation of Maryland’s natural habitat and cherished wildlife. Maryland DNR works tirelessly to maintain a healthy population of turkey and the regulations needed to sustain hunting in Maryland. Changes in regulations, dates, and requirements vary year-to-year. Please check with DNR frequently for the most up-to-date information.