Outdoors enthusiasts who’ve discovered the thrills of wild turkey hunting can often tell you exactly when they decided that they had to find a way to take part in the activity again.
It wasn’t when their alarm clock rang at 3 a.m. And it wasn’t when they discovered a tick crawling up their arm. (Both, for the record, can be occupational hazards of turkey hunting.)
Instead, it was probably the first time a tom turkey decided to show up and take part in the hunt. A gobble rings out in the otherwise still forest. The bird is close.
And after that, many fall victim to the more-is-better philosophy, raiding their local outdoor store and buying up every turkey-related call and doo-dad they can find.
Brhaun Parks of Glenburn chuckles at his own personal turkey-hunting eureka moment. He discovered the sport 24 years ago, and may be among the state’s most avid turkey hunters (and callers).
“You make the mistake where you’ve got to go buy the latest and the greatest everything on the market,” he said on Monday, opening day of turkey season in Maine.
That’s what happened to him. And after buying a turkey-hunting vest, he worked hard to fill up all of its pockets and pouches.
“I’ve had this [vest] since Day 1. This thing probably weighed 70 pounds, going through the woods that next year, because I thought I had to carry everything in the world,” he said. “Since then, it’s just the vest and a few essentials.”
Parks is an accomplished turkey caller, and demonstrated various techniques on Monday. Most of the time now he uses a mouth call that can be difficult for some to master. And his vest is no longer full of gear.
“I only carry five or six different mouth calls. I make my own calls … and then I carry a box call,” he said. “I don’t carry any slate. I’ll throw a gobble tube in every now and then. And I have an owl hoot that I don’t even have with me today because I knew we were coming right out at first light.”
A reminder that has been passed down through hunter safety classes and from veteran hunters: Using a call that makes a gobble can tempt other hunters in the area to stalk the male turkey that they hear. Staying put and calling the birds to you is the safest way to operate, and calling primarily while imitating a female turkey eliminates the allure to other hunters. Maine turkey hunters are only allowed to target bearded (male) birds during the spring season.
Among the tones he utilizes regularly: The yelp, the cut and the purr. All of those vocalizations are made by female turkeys. Mixing in other turkey vocalizations can pay off, too.
“You can vary the cadence of [the yelp],” he said, demonstrating. “That seems to be the one that most birds that I’ve found like. It’s not too fast and it’s not too slow. They should always be five to seven notes long for a yelp. You just kind of mix it up, add in a few cuts, some purrs.”