Hit or Miss Fall Flocks

NWTF Photo-11-10-08 SZ Post (Hickoff) Fall turkeys can be hit or miss. Food sources may or may not hold them — just like deer. In October '07, on the first Maine fall firearms season in modern history for turkeys, I tagged a fall jake on Saturday’s opening morning. (Did this past spring opener too, but I digress . . .)

I got in there early, hunted near a sloppily cut cornfield, heard no turkeys at daybreak, but kept calling. Far off, a bird answered. I eased toward that position, eventually peeked around the corner of some brush. Turkeys. Lots of them, spread across the field full of clover. Into the near woods I slipped, crossed the creek, called.

A brick-red-headed turkey came hustling to me so I shot him. One and done. Spent the rest of the season putting buddies into birds. Sent one friend into that spot the following Monday. He spent the morning in there, heard and saw nothing.

“You didn’t see a big flock in that field,” he half-joked. “Honest, a bunch of them, minus one,” I insisted. “There’s nothing back there now,” he whined.

This fall, I nearly took a bird right after fly-down on the opener, and got obsessed with a flock of 20-plus turkeys — some gobblers strutted and fought on assembling, and/or when I called aggressively. I could have taken a juvenile gobbler (15 steps), with its brood hen and other birds of the year in range too, and chose not to take a shot. This is sort of like you BBZ guys passing on a spikehorn for a bigger rack that might be in range on the next hunt. You gamble. You might just eat that tag . . .

Sure enough, on the last day of this past six-day season that same buddy and I went down in flames. More honor in doing that together, right? It only gets weird when some guy asks how I did in Maine. “I had a great time,” I’ll enthuse. “Did you kill?” they ask. “I didn’t say that,” I’ll smile.

Or as my wife likes to say, “Honey, you only say ‘It’s all good’ when you don’t come home with anything."—Steve Hickoff