A realistic looking decoy like this hen being set in a field is crucial to coaxing a tom turkey into shotgun range. Head to toe camo clothing and efficient calling will help bag a bird. Credit: Courtesy of Bill Graves

Saturday begins a new era for hunting in Maine.

With the arrival of the annual Youth Spring Wild Turkey Day also comes the beginning of electronic registration — or at least the option of doing so.

Beginning this spring, successful turkey hunters may either have their birds tagged at a game registration station or they may use the state’s online platform to register the birds electronically.

Rolling out electronic registration for harvested game is a big step for the state. It will allow DIF&W to gauge interest in a more modern method for tagging, one that also likely will serve as a precursor for future efforts to enable electronic registration of other species.

Gov. Janet Mills in May 2022 signed a bill into law that requires the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to provide hunters with the option of tagging turkeys electronically. The measure applies only to turkeys.

This year, hunters must register turkeys shot during both the spring and fall seasons. A law passed in 2021 had eliminated that requirement for the fall season only.

Here’s what you need to know.

When does the spring turkey season start?

After Maine youngsters have their day on Saturday, hunters may target wild turkeys from May 1 through June 3. In Wildlife Management Districts 7 and 9-29, two bearded turkeys may be harvested. In WMDs 1-6 and 8, hunters may take only one bearded turkey.

Do I have to register my turkey online?

After affixing the required transportation tag in the field showing the hunter’s full name, address, year and hunting license number, hunters have a choice to make.

Anyone who harvests a turkey is welcome to keep with tradition, take it to the nearest tagging station, pay the $2 agent fee, maybe have the bird weighed, and head home.

Hunters who prefer to register their harvest in person can see a list of available registration stations here.

How do I register my turkey online?

Hunters may use a telephone, computer or electronic device with an internet connection to self-register a turkey online. The service is free, and the process can be done by going to the DIF&W website here. The link becomes active Saturday.

Hunters will need several pieces of information to register a turkey electronically. They include a MOSES ID (found on your hunting license), last name, date of birth, valid hunting license number, turkey permit number and email address.

Once the process is completed, hunters will receive a seal number via email to confirm the wild turkey was registered. The confirmation can be saved to the device or printed. The seal must stay attached to the bird until it is processed for eating.

Is there a time limit for registering a turkey?

Turkey hunters should remember that registering a bird falls under the same state rules for deer, bear and moose. A person may not keep an unregistered bear, deer, moose, or wild turkey for more than 18 hours after it was harvested.

A person may exceed the 18-hour limit under special circumstances, but that person must notify a game warden within the 18-hour timeframe.

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...