The Boston Celtics lost Game 6 of their current playoff series by a point. In triple overtime. Against the Chicago Bulls.
I turned in. Couldn’t sleep. Why? Surely not just a little bitty hoops loss. The Vermont spring turkey opener began the next morning—this morning—May first, just two road hours to the border from my southern Maine log home, and then some to get where you’re going there.
I stepped into the Vermont woods at 7 a.m., took a deep breath of the moist spring air. Man, it was good to be out again. Now where were we?
Northern New England fog. Gusty rain that seemed better suited for a field honker hunt. The hint of road construction awaiting my return. Nothing could stop me on my appointed rounds: to hunt as many spring turkey openers as possible this season, be it Florida this past March (called in 11 jakes on Day 1; longbeard down, Day 2), Texas in early April (longbeard on the “north zone” opener), or today. I’ve even a couple more to come soon: Sunday, May 3 (New Hampshire), and Monday, May 4 (Maine).
This never gets old. Course you know that.
And speaking of fields, I set up on one first, just to get a feel for things. To watch, cold call, wait. It only took an hour or so for me to get antsy and annoyed by three ineffective hen fakes (“mobility limiters”) in front of me. While I can lounge forever waiting on Canada geese to land in my December decoy spread, multiple layers of Realtree and Advantage camouflaged apparel hiding and warming my frame, with turkeys, I’m often a run-and-gunner. I like to initiate a conversation. To me, raising a spring gobbler and calling it into your lap is the deal. Yeah, I’ll sit on some field somewhere soon, no doubt, but not this morning, at least not for long.
Showers early on, then a hint of sun through the clouds. I took a little walk, found turkey sign, set up nearby.
Not long after, the gobbler that answered me seemed about a quarter-mile off through the piney woods, just off a green field that held turkey sign (droppings; dusting areas; fresh tracks). I liked the feel of it. You would too. So I settled in, watching the field with my right eye, the woods with my left.
I’d call when the wind gusts dropped, wait, call some more. Working a mouth diaphragm and slate at the same time, the bird answered, now closer; maybe half the distance. Soon, two black bodies, red, white and blue heads at a distance through the woods, looking for me. My shotgun was on my knee, pointed in that direction. So I eased it up when they went behind pines a basketball court away. I waited. Then, a mild panic set in as when I realized the Celts would lose last night, and I didn’t see them anymore. Spooked? Hardly.
The. Seconds. Ticked. On. Maybe a minute. Felt longer. Movement out in front. A bird, right there, behind a little edge cover, 15 steps and closing. Gobbler, gobbler, and a hen I hadn't seen. I looked for beard length on the two male birds. Check, one would definitely do; the other male turkey, a shortbeard, would get a pass (it’s a two-bird-a-spring-season state).
The lead jake stepped through the shooting lane, and FAST, coming hard. The gobbler I wanted followed. I’d have to cluck and yelp several quick hard notes to get that second bearded bird to stop.
It worked. Up periscope. Turkey down. Alarm putting followed from the other two departing birds, as I walked the 10 steps toward my opening day Vermont gobbler.
Celtics. Game 7. Tomorrow night at the “Gahden.” I’ll be pacing in front of our hi-def screen, turn in, then hunt the Granite State opener the next day. Maine on Monday. I still have that second Vermont tag too.
(Photo Steve Hickoff)
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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.