I'd tagged Vermont and Maine gobblers on respective state openers this month (VT: May 1 & Maine: May 4).
Yesterday, May 12, I returned to the scene of the crime where a New Hampshire gobbler outfoxed me three times on opening day (May 3): once coming to the calls from behind me, once hanging up in range but unseen in front of me, and yet a final time with a hen coming first and the gobbler out of range behind thick stuff.
Three strikes you’re out in baseball, but then you get to come to bat again. So I did. After all, a 2009 Northern New England Single-Season Slam is now at stake.
I had been trying for a 2009 Northern New England Single-Season Opening-Day Slam, but I digress.
The first calling setup (I'd arrived late, at 8:30 a.m. after some family-man duties) had me pull that hen in again. This time: no gobbler. In fact I didn’t hear anything. Easing to the field I found a fresh boot track—you scout other hunters too, right?—and reasoned maybe my opening day trickster had been tagged—or moved on; like me.
I drove to the next town, talked to a farmhand to get the turkey report (“Oh we’ve had a few guys this season”), and bid my goodbye to walk down the dirt two-track. The back field where I’d worked turkeys the year before (without a kill) was greened up. I plunked down three hen dekes, settled in at my white pine of choice, and called. For forty-five minutes. Suddenly no action went to game time. A hard-gobbling bird sounded off in the pasture corner around 80 yards away. Surely it could see my three dekes. Fakes in plain sight or not, that bird hung up, drifted (I didn’t hear a live hen, so I don’t know if that was the cause).
My alibi: that pressured bird had seen decoys in possibly the same scenario and didn’t like the deal. Or maybe half liked it.This morning a buddy, hunting fifteen road minutes away or so in Maine (less as the crow flies), reported this: “Set up not far from roosted turkeys. Tree called. Lots of gobbling. They flew down, moved off. I had decoys out, a jake and a hen. A gobbler came in to around 80 yards or so, and I watched it swing its beard at me for 10 minutes, staring at my decoys. And then it walked off, gobbling.”
Decoys. I’ve seen them work in DVDs, on TV, and even heard turkey camp buds describe success with them. It’s true, a decoy has helped me close the deal a time or two. But not this time. Pressured mid-season New England gobblers and fakes don’t always mix.
Then again maybe it was just one of those deals where the real gobbler wanted the decoys to walk to him, and couldn’t understand why they didn’t, so left. Yeah, that works for me.
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Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.