Why Maine is a true sportsman’s paradise

turkey-570935_960_720Opening day of the Spring Gobbler season found a way to sneak up on me this year. Usually, I’m well planned and have my spots scouted and prepared. My gear is sorted through, replacing deer hunting equipment with turkey tools. My slate call is well roughed up and some practice calling has already taken place. This year though, none of that happened. To my surprise however, my procrastination set me up for a day that was a prime example of why Maine is truly the sportsman’s paradise.

Opening Day Eve

Sometimes you just have to go with what you’ve got.

I find myself running around the shop looking for gear. Where is my thermal seat? Where is my slate? Aha, at least my turkey loads are in the right spot. That makes me think, did I clean and check the seals & rings on my 1100? Notorious as they are for fouling and causing failure to eject malfunctions. Nope, don’t think I did. Have to strip it down right quick and get it squared away.

Now that my equipment is mostly squared away, not that there is such a thing as mostly squared away, it either is or isn’t, I move on to logistics. Where is my doggone license? Last time I saw it was the end of the snow shoe hare season. That’s right, it’s in my tackle box. When the opening day of fishing was bumped up, I started tossing lines right quick. I print off an extra copy for the monster gobbler’s leg in a show of astoundingly high expectations. And quite unreasonable ones at that.

Over the past month I’ve spotted turkey at various locations: corn field edges up in Kingman, crossing Rt 6 on my way to Lincoln outside of Lee and even had a gobbler calling to my rooster on the east side of Tucker Ridge in the wood line. Did I make further recon trips to pick sites to hunker down? Nope, add that fail to my report card.

A quick call to my buddy Jake (no kidding, turkey story and his name is Jake!) who is a turkey hunting fiend, helps me put together a ragged patchwork of ideas that somewhat resembles a strategy. Jake recommends edges of grassy fields with the weather we are expected to see in the morning: overcast and light rain. The field across the road is a great place to start.

By now it’s getting late and dawn comes early this time of year. Sometimes you just have to go with what you’ve got.

The hunt

Slowly I slip back into the zone all hunters know. The easy and peaceful feeling of being surrounded by nature, of being part of the environment, not merely in it.

As dawn breaks and the silence of the woods is broken by the sounds of wildlife, I find myself a little fidgety. It amazes me how just being out of the woods for a month has let a little rust build up. I need to consciously remind myself not to make sudden movements and to stifle coughs. Slowly I slip back into the zone all hunters know. The easy and peaceful feeling of being surrounded by nature, of being part of the environment, not merely in it. Per Jake’s advice, I’m not calling too heavy. Mostly I’m using clucks and purrs and my slate call is cooperating for the most part. After an hour of no activity, not even a response from a hen, I decide to move.

My second spot is on the east side of the ridge where I heard the gobbler last week. I pick a spot where a network of skidder trails come together and provide a nice little clearing. There is turkey sign around so I hunker down and after a half hour or so, I began calling. A sudden burst of speed 25 yards to my front moving left startles me. The coyote is long gone by the time I get the gun up. I guess I sounded plenty enough like a turkey, but when he picked up my scent or saw me first, he took off like a rocket. Missed opportunity there. Now I’m hunting turkey and coyote. With #4 shot turkey loads in my 3 inch magnum Remington 1100, I’m good to go.

Spot three is further south down the ridge along a nice hardwood stand. Good habitat and I’m familiar with it having hunted hares there just a month ago. There was sign there then and I’m hoping this will be the spot. As I move through a field of immature spruce and fir on my way to the hardwood ridge spur I’ve picked out, a flurry of thumps stops me in my tracks. Looking down under the trees ahead I see three snow shoe hare frozen in place. They are already back to brown, having shed their winter camouflage. I smile and tell them to have a nice day, see you next year and with a twitch of my foot they scamper off. Boy, they were some nice sized hare too.

The hardwood stand is just as void as my first two spots and I’ve not heard a single turkey, hen or gobbler. Until I’m heading back to the ATV that is. I stop and listen and faintly I can hear a gobbler to my south and west on the other side of the ridge.

Hunting or scouting?

I can’t help but hear Foghorn Leghorn in my head telling me “Focus boy! I says focus!”

I stick the 4 wheeler in the treeline and head down the west side of the ridge. As I pass the spot I shot my buck last season, I cut a trail of fresh moose tracks. Judging by the size and imprints, it’s either a cow of a juvenile bull. Either way, it makes my pulse quicken. Now I’m scouting for moose season, reinforcing my hare hunting spots, looking out for the coyote target of opportunity and oh yeah, hunting turkey. I can’t help but hear Foghorn Leghorn in my head telling me “Focus boy! I says focus!”

I set up further down the ridge where there is abundant sign, both moose and turkey. Another half hour of on and off calling with no takers goes by and I realize my heart just isn’t into it today. It’s probably reflecting in my calling. My head is wrapped up in all of the sign and game I’ve run across today and I’m already making plans for the upcoming seasons.

When I get back to the truck and get my equipment squared away, I have an epiphany. My day isn’t over just yet. It has warmed a little and the rain never really fell any heavier than a light drizzle or quick shower. My rod and tackle box are in the truck and I’m only a couple miles from a couple of nice fishing spots.

As I watch the Rooster Tail slowly spin through the water, hoping to entice a nice fat brookie into an afternoon snack, I can’t help but wonder where that gobbler I heard earlier went to. Maybe, just maybe, after I fish these three spots, I’ll head over to the southern edge of the ridge and see what I can see.

John Floyd

About John Floyd

John is a freelance writer and lives on a small homestead in northeast Maine. His passion for the outdoors and love of country are the influences behind his columns and blogs.