The Maine Event

I pulled a timeworn slate and striker from a zippered vest pocket, and settled in—not for long it turns out.

Casually late (forecasters had called for heavy rain, but it didn’t), I hadn't park my truck at the local southern Maine farm until around 7:15 a.m. that cloudy opening “A Season” morning. After the walk into the far woods over a big green pasture, I’d heard gobblers sound off on their own. Cursed briefly by indecision, I took longer than I should have to find a good setup, but settled on one. My first series of yelps were cut off with multiple gobbles. I laid the pot and peg down at my side, and aimed my shotgun in that direction, scanning the woods the way we do. They hammered back, closing the distance. I felt that sweet tension we all hunt for . . .

Two birds appeared out of range, heads painted red, white and blue with that taxidermist's brightness, and I pinched off the safety. Another came from behind them as the first two angled to my right. My gun barrel slowly flowed with them, eyeing the far turkey, which hopped up on a log, then down again. Would that bird bust me?

The other two were soon wing to wing, coming fast. Both gobbled at maybe 20 yards, and one popped into a hardcore chump-hummmmmm strut, then out of it, passing behind cover. Leaning slightly to my right side, I aimed my shotgun toward the empty space on the other side of a smallish tree where I hoped the strutter would pass. The rear bird stopped, periscope up—wary black eye burning a hole in me.

The strutter leaned forward, took a short tentative step and looked too—its last one ever. The 3-inch load of 5s did the job. At the shot, the Up Periscope bird jumped on the dead gobbler in a brief show of pecking order advancement, stepped back and putted. I stood, and it hustled off with the other survivor. My watch read 7:58. Maybe the shortest turkey hunt I've had in some time, but you'll hear no complaints about my “The 43 Minute Maine Gobbler.”—Steve Hickoff