Dressing in full camouflage and hunkering down in the brush, this turkey hunter uses a box call to coax a bird to come check out his decoys. Credit: Courtesy of Bill Graves

Hunters are entering the second full week of the 2023 spring wild turkey season in Maine and seem to be embracing the new electronic registration process that helps them bypass finding tagging stations.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill requiring the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to give turkey hunters the option of registering their birds electronically. That’s in addition to the longstanding method of making a trip to the nearest tagging station.

Through Saturday, hunters had bagged 3,628 turkeys over the first six days of the spring season. And according to DIF&W, approximately 62 percent of them have embraced the electronic tagging option.

“Tagged mine online,” said Jason Spencer of Palermo. “It’s nice to be able to hunt and go home and tag the bird. Dinner was done and I sat and ate while tagging my tom.”

That opportunity is simply too good for many hunters to pass up.

“The convenience of not having to go to a physical location is very handy,” said Joshua Sparks of New Gloucester. “I would love to see this continue.”

Although all hunters must still affix a transportation tag to their turkey immediately after shooting it, a cell phone is all they need to get it registered. The bird can be registered by going to the DIF&W website.

That eliminates the need to drive to a game registration station, which for some folks may be located a considerable distance away.

However, that doesn’t mean some hunters don’t prefer to continue a tradition by visiting a tagging station to register their birds.

“I think younger turkey hunters and newer turkey enthusiasts will want to go to a tagging station,” said Hart Daley of Dixfield, the administrator of the Maine Turkey Hunters Facebook page.

Going to a tagging station can enhance the experience for young people, in particular, as they receive their introduction to the sport.

“The turkeys we have tagged so far this season, we have gone to the local tagging station,” said John Dykstra of Alton. “Kids get to tell their stories, and the physical tags are mementos. Not quite the same as a ‘confirmation number’ on a piece of paper.”

Those who won’t pass a tagging station on their way home can save time and money.

“Online is so much easier. I have had to drive around looking for tagging stations when I hunted down state,” said Becky Thibodeau of Wallagrass.

Aaron Chamberland of West Cumberland believes businesses that participate as game registration stations deserve the benefit of having hunters patronizing their establishments. That’s one of the reasons he will take his birds to a store and pay the $2 registration fee.

Those who go that route also may be able to get the turkey weighed, grab something to eat and chat with neighbors and friends.

Either way, the registration ensures that DIF&W biologists have important information about wild turkeys harvested by hunters. They request only basic details, including the sex of the bird and whether it is an adult or a juvenile. They also ask for the date and time of the kill.

Electronic tagging of wild turkeys could eventually open the door for the same system to be used for white-tailed deer or other game animals, so its success or failure likely will be important for future efforts.

Pete Warner

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...