On Saturday’s opening day of wild turkey season, I had no intention of waking up before dawn, waddling into the woods in the dark, and trying to find a wild turkey I wasn’t sure would be there.
No, my initial plan looked more like this: Wake up at the crack of nine, eat a little bit, gather up my gear, and then … maybe … waddle into the woods.
Then, at about 6 a.m., I rolled over in bed, felt a twinge in my back, and fired off a quick text message to all of my hunting buddies who I thought might show up to do some socially distant hunting: “Back acting up. I think I’ll sit out after all.”
I was, to be honest, being lazy. My back wasn’t that bad. Bed and sleep just seemed like a better option on a day when the breeze was already picking up, and when finding a bird that could hear my calls would be difficult at best.
But when my stepdaughter sent a text telling me that she was eager to hunt, I decided to stand up and see how bad my “bad” back really was.
Not very, as it turned out. In fact, it seemed about par for a 55-year-old spine. So, a-hunting we would go.
First, though, I had to find a couple sets of camouflage gear: One for me, and one for Georgia. If you’re going to hunt for wild turkeys, you see, it pays to dress yourself like a tree. Or, in this case, two trees.
And since she’s a rookie turkey-chaser, Georgia doesn’t have her own tree garb. Yet.
And after poking around a bit, I found what she’d need, in sizes that would more or less fit, and we headed to the woods.
There, not far from the family camp at Beech Hill Pond, a day I’d thought would be merely breezy was downright windy. We could hear that wind thrumming through the treetops, and if we paid careful attention, we could hear each other speaking from a couple feet away.
Getting the turkeys to hear our varied lovesick call imitations? Well, that would be a problem.
Undeterred, we carried a couple of folding chairs into a spot where I’d had some luck a year ago, set up, and hoped for the best.
Armed with a three-pack of diaphragm mouth calls, a slate call, and a show-stopping gobble tube that sounds just like a tom turkey looking for a mate, we got to work.
Or something like that.
There were a few intermissions in our turkey-talking performance, though.
I may have initially put the diaphragm call in my mouth backward (it had been a year since I’d last practiced, and I might not have been paying close enough attention).
Georgia, a curious young woman who is also quite creative and musically inclined, may have been playing tunes on the slate call that your typical turkey might not have been familiar with.
“Do they say this?” she’d ask, after a particularly humorous attempt at calling.
“No,” I’d say. “But keep having fun. I don’t think they can hear us anyway.”
And eventually, while waggling the show-stopping gobble tube back and forth, I may have dislodged our fake turkey’s vocal chords, leaving us to do a quick in-the-field repair job so that it would make any noise at all.
Through it all, we kept on smiling.
I hadn’t spent much time scouting, thanks in large part to the ongoing pandemic and the changes associated with working from home every day.
I wasn’t even sure that any of last year’s turkeys still lived in the same stand of woods.
But as we loaded up our gear for the trip home, I knew we’d be back, sooner rather than later.
“Can I keep these pants?” Georgia asked, referring to the hand-me-down camo that I’d dug out of a closet for her. “I’ve got to wear these to school when we get to go back.”
On a day when no turkeys participated in our hunt, I suppose helping to start a new Bangor High fashion trend was as good an outcome as I could hope for.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.