It began to spit snow just as I turned onto the gravel late last week. It was one final Maine-ish reminder that although the calendar might say it’s springtime, Mother Nature will always get the last word in these parts.
Hopefully, in a couple more weeks, it’ll be 10 degrees (or heck, why not 20?) warmer. Surely the grass will be greener, figuratively and literally. And by then, there ought to be leaves on the trees.
That’s the way it always is.
Yes, come the first week of May, when many of us will head to the woods for the opening day of turkey hunting season, it’ll be much nicer (unless it rains).
With that May 4 opener already in my sights, I figured a trip to the turkey woods (which also double as the deer woods, come November) seemed like a good idea. I’d scout out the areas we’d hunted a year ago, look for turkey sign and figure out a good spot to put my ground blind.
Either that, or I’d simply spend a few hours outdoors, recharging my batteries and paying no attention to the ongoing pandemic.
Before I got to the land that I plan to hunt, I saw some motion up ahead, gently pressed on the brake pedal, and pulled over. A lone turkey tilted its head toward me, giving me a subtle glance. It continued to walk, vanishing into the woods.
I don’t have permission to hunt that property, but it’s only a half mile from my destination. I took the sighting as a good sign.
This trip was different than many I’ve taken in the past. The situation we’re living in, with social distancing suddenly a life-saving requirement being observed across the country.
No, for my hunting buddies, the words “scouting trip” can also be defined as “excuse for getting together and putting some miles on the truck.”
We laugh, tell stories, and catch up with each other. Sometimes, we find spots we want to hunt. If we’re really fortunate, we see a critter or two. Once in a while we take a ground blind with us and set it up in a likely spot.
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That was then. This is now. I drove by myself. Scouted by myself. Pondered. Wondered. Enjoyed the woods.
Or, mostly by myself. That lone turkey did show up. And so did a woodpecker, who sounded a staccato greeting that echoed through the empty woods.
The last time I was really in this stand of trees, paying attention, was a year ago, when a buddy and I spent some time talking to a few turkeys. My buddy got a shot off at one, but neither of us ended up filling our tags.
But that was a May adventure. On this trip, I was amazed at how far I could see into the woods. None of the trees have leaves on them. Heck, none of them have a single bud yet. In some spots, if there’d been a turkey 100 yards into the forest, I’d have been able to spot it.
That won’t be the case in two weeks, I kept reminding myself. Come opening day on May 4, there will be plenty of leaves, and visibility will be much less.
I didn’t take a blind with me, and I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, each time I got to a likely spot, I’d crouch down, look at possible shooting lanes, and try to envision how many of the trees within 40 yards of the blind would have enough leaves to leave me blind to an approaching turkey.
Yes, a lot of things can change in a year’s time.
One short road that I’d been able to drive in to access my blind back in 2019 is now gated, for instance. I support the landowner’s decision, as it also leads to a gravel pit, and a quick glance through the woods prove that many have used the land as an informal dump for years.
I can walk. I should walk, for my health’s sake. I’ll be fine.
And the last time here, I was taking my blind down after the season ended. I didn’t know that it was covered with ticks, but it was. I spent the next several days finding ticks crawling all over my vehicle, hanging from the windshield, and making general nuisances of themselves.
On this day, I found no ticks. Not in the field, not in my truck, and not on me.
That, too, won’t be the case in a couple of weeks.
But for now, after my first scouting trip of the season, I’m willing to view a single tick-free day as a positive omen for the season ahead.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.
Watch turkeys taunt this outdoors reporter from the yard