Opening Day, Maine Fall Turkey Hunting
Opening day Maine fall turkey hunting sometimes includes everything but the birds. On the bright side, I still have a tag.
Handgun target practice is my guess, my buddy grinned. Well, it was a Saturday . . .
The dented, rusted-out classic red Chevy truck had just done a NASCAR-proud post-victory spin-out and rumble down the cow-paddy caked farm road to the edge of the woods — just a couple hundred yards from where we were hunting Maine fall turkeys on yesterday's shotgun opener. The day before a good flock of 20-plus birds had been there — so much for scouting. Instead, I glassed the Saturday afternoon shooters . . .
Passengers and driver had quickly bailed out, set joint-compound, upside-down bucket seats some distance away from paper targets — I quickly envisioned some of those new zombie options — and started unloading."I guarantee those boys aren't turkey huntin'," I joked.
It's all good, I guess. That was how we ended opening day.
Let's rewind a bit. Opening day of Maine fall turkey hunting had started with me in the big woods and my buddy sitting at the bottom of a hillside rise in another town not far from a turkey roost. He'd killed there before during previous seasons. I considered it his spot. His fly-down hunt involved calling a group close, passing on a young turkey leading the flock, holding off on a wadded-up bunch of birds, and watching as one juvenile turkey, then the brood hen and the whole group flew to her in a distant tree.
They learn how to go to roost with mama early in their lives. The lesson in this case mattered in their survival too.
Another hunter came along just then, and shortly after, my buddy left. I joined him for a quick cup of gas-station coffee and hatched a plan after my report of walking a couple miles, cold calling and hearing nothing. I could've shot a limit of gray squirrels and mentally did, but didn't. I could've been down on the tidal river with the waterfowl chasing crowd as their shots saluted daybreak and moving geese, but didn't. Instead I had a good walk, followed by an effort to check out the 20-plus birds the first time that day.
It didn't go well either. One guy was parked at the far end of the farm so I figured things were open on the other side. Wrong. Standing corn whispered in the morning breeze as a shot popped off and not far away. A pheasant cackled. I circled back to see two camouflage-clad teenagers running to a squat pine. They were silhouetted, crouching. I waved. One waved back.
I want to say they were fall turkey hunting and saw a pheasant and took a shot then stalked its position but I don't know. My mind couldn't get around the idea so I left.
As some of you know, I'm an avid fall turkey dog guy. As with other like-minded canines, they scatter autumn flocks with high energy efforts, then settle down in the blind for the call back. I apologized to the dogs on arriving home. I'd snuck out on them before dawn, vowing to return later in the day, but didn't.
They sniffed me up and down. Smelling nothing like a wild turkey I disappointed them again. They both sighed and went back to napping.
Next time, dog buds. Next time.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree's Turkey Hunting Editor.