May 1st–the Vermont spring turkey opener. The border, just two road hours from my southern Maine log home. Northern New England fog on the way. Gusty rain at times. The hint of road construction awaiting my return. Finally though, after a tall cup of coffee and radio rock music buoying me there, I’d made the run. I eased into the woods, took a deep breath of the moist spring air. Man, it was good to be out again.
Hunting alone in road-trip mode, I set up on a field first, just to get a feel for things. The misty showers would likely flush turkeys out of the woods. I listened, watched, cold-called, waited. It only took an hour or so for me to get antsy and annoyed by my three hen fakes (“mobility limiters”) in front of me. While I can lounge forever waiting on geese to land in my December decoy spread, I’m often a run-and-gunner with wild turkeys. 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 opening day Vermont morning, at least not for long. Decoys surely work for some of my buddies. And they do allow you to hunt while catching a setup power nap. And they’re great with a blind around you, and archery tackle in your hands. But I was ready to move.
I took a little walk, easing along the inside of the woods, skirting a different opening, turkey sign all around. And this: one huge, fresh turkey track in the mud. I called again. The gobbler that answered me seemed about a quarter-mile off through the piney woods, just off that green field. I liked the feel of it. So I settled in (no decoys this time), watching the field with my right eye, and the woods I sat in with my left.
I’d call, wait, call some more. Patience sometimes kills turkeys in this situation. Working a mouth diaphragm and slate at the same time, the gobbler 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 on the edge of the wooded area. I waited. Then, brief panic setting in, and I didn’t see them anymore. Scared off?
Maybe a minute passed; likely less time though it felt like more. Movement out in front. A turkey, right there, behind a little edge cover, 15 steps and closing. They looked for the source of the calling. Jake, gobbler, hen. I looked for beard length on the two male birds. One would definitely do, and my attention focused on it; the other male turkey, the lead shortbeard, would get a pass (it’s a two-bird-a-spring-season state).
The lead turkey, the jake, stepped through the shooting lane, and fast. The gobbler I wanted followed. I’d have to cutt hard, three sharp notes, to get the second turkey to stop. Cluck-yawp-yawp. It worked. Up periscope, looking right at me. K-pow. Bird down. Alarm putting followed, as I walked the 10 steps toward my opening day Vermont gobbler.
I was about halfway home when it hit me. War whoop. Fist pump. Goofy grin. The works. How sweet it is.