I killed a Maine longbeard this past Monday, the opener. As I’ve told buds since then, it involved a 3 a.m. rising with 10 intense mid-morning minutes of my calling and a bird gobbling punctuated by a shot. This season we can take two spring birds for the first time in modern history, so I was out again today.
This morning as I write this, Friday May 7, I took the more casual route. Up at 5:45, I made my daughter lunch for school, fed the English setters, and brought my wife coffee in bed. After settling the bird dogs, I drove north to one of my many spots, tag number two in my wallet.
I’d taken one of Scott Basehore’s fine custom box calls along with the intent of using it to work a bird. I wasn’t disappointed. After parking on the dirt road, I hiked into the gusty (20-30 mph, the radio said), and sun-dappled woods. I ran some yelps, then with more intensity.
Game on. Basehore had once told me nothing pleases him more than when a guy tells him one of his calls was used to call in and kill a gobbler. I thought that might be a cool challenge for the day. I swiftly halved the distance without breaking sticks or falling down or busting the turkey. My setup included several big stones (you heard right), and a broad-trunked tree on a rise above the bird, which seemed to be in a little ravine, no doubt staying out of the wind.
I called again, softer now; he hammered back. I settled in, and mentally gauged which lanes he’d pick to come my way. There were two. He took the third.
Footsteps in the leaves said he’d drifted from my 12 o’clock muzzle-point position to 11 o’clock. He sounded close, but the leafed-out cover didn’t present anything resembling gobbler. My ears said otherwise as he gobbled once again, and you could hear the thunder in it this time. Safety off.
Now at the 10 o’clock position, I pictured the turkey shifting slightly and moving out of cover, ahead of my muzzle, where I’d shoot him. Long minutes passed. He next gobbled at the 7 o’clock position, and I somehow wheeled to 6 o’clock, gun ready. I called softly, and he barked back.
Several gobbles followed, definitely in range, still with the thunder in it, but I still couldn’t see the gobbler: just greened-up leaves and piney woods. And then it got real, real quiet. Been there?
Back in the truck a bit later, now mid-morning with shooting hours done at noon, I read a map, gauging where I’d been; where I wanted to go. After a bit a guy on a motor scooter smoking a cigarette and wearing aviator sunglasses pulled up. (I kid you not.)
“So what’s going on here?” he asked, part-coplike, part-buddy, meaning what was I hunting. My head-to-toe Realtree flavored apparel suggested something.
“Gobblers this time of the year.”
“Well how’d you do?”
“No turkey today.”
“That’s too bad,” he said, offering that he was originally from Wisconsin where they had a lot of birds, and that he used to turkey hunt. I didn’t ask him about the “used to” part. He said, obviously a by-the-book former practitioner of the game: “We’d find where they roost and set up nearby early in the morning," suggesting maybe I try that next time out.
He nodded, smiling and waving as he drove off, pleased to have enlightened me.
(Steve Hickoff photo)
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Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.