Saturday, October 18, 2008: Shotgun hunt. York County, Maine. Opening day, frosty and cold, the sky full of stars. Roost pitting around daybreak told me treed turkeys were alerted, but I sat down any way. When some hit the ground, I called, imitating their vocalizations. I had the shotgun safety off as a young gobbler worked my way, but then it veered off, hustling toward the yapping brood hen.

I continued to call, and pull birds closer, but eventually the flock drifted away on assembling. Distant shotgun reports throughout the morning, starting not far off at first legal light as well, told me other hunters were seeing action—either on wild turkeys, or maybe waterfowl. I stuck it out, and eventually heard gobbler yelping, fighting purrs, wings colliding, gobbling, hen assembly yelping, and all manner of calling from young birds regrouping. Good deal right?

Wrong. They were on a nearby property I couldn’t hunt. I called. Some would answer. The racket was so loud I crept closer just for a look-see, and saw (no lie) several full-fan strutters fighting on the property edge, sorting out the pecking order. Don’t tell the desk biologists who might disagree about adult male turkeys running with birds of the year. I saw it, have seen it, and will see it again no doubt. I heard another game-over shot over in that direction (obviously someone with permission), and walked away to my truck, only to see a hunting buddy drive by. We broke for coffee, and returned several hours later.

Not long after we called, and talked a little with the distant birds. They answered, but wouldn’t cross the line to our setup. Then we heard the rumble of a four-wheeler approaching, right through the woods to my seated friend. He held out his camouflaged arms at the last second, and we heard one of the two teenage girls say: “Ohmigod you almost gave me a heart attack!” Likewise.

They moved on toward the once-vocal unhuntable turkeys. My buddy gave me that “what-the-heck” look. In disbelief we heard the renegade ATV rumble back our way, right back on the trail to my bud, the girls laughing and carrying on. The driver stopped, said, giggling: “DID WE SCARE ALL OF YOUR TURKEYS AWAY?” It wasn’t really a question. Her passenger then yelled, as if seeing an alien being: “Ohmigod there’s another one over there!” meaning me. At that, they wheeled off again. We packed up and left.
—Steve Hickoff