This turkey season got off to a slow, and somewhat frustrating, start for me.

Out-of-state travel prevented me from doing sufficient preseason scouting. I’d located plenty of birds, but wasn’t familiar enough with their daily routines to be too confident about my chances. At the last minute I stumbled onto something that seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, such things usually are. Still, I was cautiously optimistic when I slipped into my blind under cover of darkness on opening morning. The birds had roosted a bit farther into the woods than the day before, but I remained hopeful they’d pitch down and head east toward me.

They didn’t. Instead, they headed west, directly away from me. With no way to loop around and ahead, I left for greener pastures, but with a new plan for the following day.

On the second day, I set up on the west side of the roost. If they followed the same routine as the previous day, they’d walk right into my lap. They didn’t. This time they went north, and onto land I couldn’t hunt. I moved on, found some other birds in greener pastures but they, too, proved uncooperative.

The third day proved similarly frustrating. I set up to the north and the birds still managed to loop around me, then headed straight for the posted property. It was as if they knew where I was, and how to avoid me. And the greener-pasture birds were nowhere to be found.

That evening I finally caught a break when I spotted the flock, still a ways away, but headed to their usual roost. It was looking like another day of frustration awaited tomorrow.

That’s when inspiration hit me. These birds weren’t playing by the rules; so I decided to change them. I blocked the route to their usual roost, forcing them to roost where I wanted them too. Now I held the advantage.

I’d taken a bird out of the very same location the year before so I knew the terrain and where the birds should go. I tempered my enthusiasm on another too-good-to-be-true scenario, but figured the odds had finally tipped in my favor.

My good fortune continued the following morning. The previous night’s rain allowed me to slip silently into my ambush spot under cover of darkness. I didn’t know precisely where the birds had roosted, but I knew they’d be close, real close, so silence was of the essence. It was a good 30 minutes or so later when a distant gobbler sounded off. That elicited a response from nearly over my head. Thank goodness I’d gotten in early, and quietly. Now all I had to do was wait, or so I thought.

About the time I expected my bird to be flying down, a hen started yelping behind me. “Oh, no,” I thought. “If he goes toward her, there’s no way I can cut him off.” This called for some drastic action. I quickly pulled out a slate call and striker and started some soft tree yelps. Every time the real hen yelped, I called over her. I could tell she was getting agitated, but it also seemed to be firing the gobbler up. “Heck,” I thought, “this might actually work.”

I thought that again when first one, then another, then a third hen pitched down in the grassy opening in front of me. They were in range when they hit the ground. If they held there long enough, they might just draw Old Tom out into the open as well.

More trouble started when the first hen headed my way with still no sign of the tom. On she came, closer and closer until she was within a couple yards. I tried not to breath but my heart was pounding. If she picked me out now it would be game over. Fortunately she passed by, totally oblivious to my presence.

Then I saw the light bulb – the glowing whitish head of a strutting tom – clearing the underbrush and headed my way. Unfortunately, the other two hens had come in so quickly I didn’t have time to raise my gun. Now I had no choice, I had to move with the hens a scant few yards away. I waited until the tom went behind a tree. Then, not too fast, not too slowly, I fluidly moved the gun up to my shoulder and lowered my cheek to the stock. The hens froze but the tom stepped obligingly into my shooting lane and I touched off a shot, ending a very frustrating four days. Round four went to me.

One measure of a trophy is rarity. Each time I head to the turkey woods I hope for an easy bird, and I appreciate them when they come along because they’re so rare. But another measure of a trophy is the difficulty involved in obtaining it. Gaming with bad birds can be frustrating, but the rewards seem even greater if and when you finally beat them, even if you have to change the rules to do it.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

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