There are a few realizations you have to make if you’re going to pursue wild turkeys in Maine.
Here are some ideas that were reinforced during a recent scouting trip:
— If possible, arrive early to identify the turkeys’ location on the roost. That way, you know where their day begins, and likely ends.
— Pick a calm day, because wind wreaks havoc on calling efforts.
— Be ready, as the situation can change in an instant.
— Expect to be disappointed. The birds don’t always play along with the hunter’s plans.
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The concept of roosting the turkeys — figuring out where they are spending the night in the trees — is great. It can make things easier.
When you arrive after 9 a.m., as I did on my trip, it’s on to Plan B.
The breeze was blowing from the outset and the forecast called for winds of 10-15 mph. The wind is not your friend if you are calling turkeys.
On breezy days, you’ll likely need to position yourself upwind of potential targets if you want them to hear the calls.
Turkey hunting can be unpredictable. It can be exhilarating and at other times maddening. There’s nothing like hearing that first gobble in response to a call.
That doesn’t mean the bird is ever going to come within shooting range, but it might be worth waiting it out.
This outing was designed to potentially identify a roosting area, find signs of turkey activity and practice using the diaphragm call. Upon my arrival, my landowner friend said he had seen turkeys only minutes earlier.
Having encountered a large group of turkeys during the deer hunting season, I set off in that direction. Along the way, I walked slowly, glassed with binoculars and called.
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I started up a hardwood ridge where I had encountered turkeys roosting the previous fall. While searching for droppings and feathers under trees, I continued to practice my diaphragm calls.
Out of nowhere, a gobble. I called. It gobbled. I called again and two of them gobbled back.
I quickly snuck partially behind a tree from which I might be able to get a clear view. The turkeys obliged as one hopped up on a blowdown some 50 yards away and fanned out its tail feathers.
They were headed my way, but I was not prepared to shoot. I had my camera out, but developed spontaneous amnesia as to how the video recording feature worked.
I focused, pushed the record button. Nothing. I fumbled and tried again with no results.
They were perhaps 35 yards away, but in the meantime they continued moving uphill past me. A couple of subtle yelps did not stop them. I assume they had “busted” me and they were gone.
The inability to get settled and be ready to “shoot” while calling would have cost me during the season. You have to know your equipment, whether it’s a camera, a shotgun or a bow.
A few minutes later, I rose to my feet and continued scouting. There were obvious places where turkeys had scratched away the leaves looking for acorns, beechnuts and bugs.
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I slowly moved uphill toward the 2019 mass sighting spot, letting out periodic calls. A curious hen responded.
I ducked behind a tree as it came into view. We exchanged vocalizations, which put her on alert, searching for the source.
I stopped squawking and she eventually moved along. I stayed put in the hope a lovesick male might be following, but none materialized.
My three-hour walk took me across ridges, along trails and through woods. I kept calling amid the blustery conditions.
There wasn’t much sign, save for a handful of turkey feathers that may have been remnant evidence that a coyote had found itself a meal.
During a brief stop for a snack, I spied a couple of [red-tailed?] hawks on patrol in the trees ( Sorry, Bob Duchesne! I couldn’t properly identify them).
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My final sweep took me across a stream and up a ridge into some good-looking turkey territory. At one point, out of the blue, I got a single gobble in response to a call.
Battling the unrelenting wind, and my unpolished calling, nothing more was heard.
It was a gorgeous day, one that provided a reminder about how relaxing it can be amid the COVID-19 pandemic to get out into the woods, breathe some fresh air and explore.
Thanks to lessons learned on the scouting trip, I should be much better prepared when the spring turkey hunting season begins on Saturday.
BDN Digital Sports editor Pete Warner can be reached at pwarner@bangordailynewscom
Watch: A hunting pro demonstrates a turkey call