Cold, wet conditions had delayed the onset of spring and the wild turkey mating season by a week or two. With two weeks gone in the season, the naive longbeards had been weeded out, but the dominant toms were still tending their harems. Hope remained for those nimrods still holding tags, but that hope rested with remaining toms that were older, and still henned up. The most challenging of all turkeys, they have what they want, and are the hardest call to the gun.

The Marquis, was entering his third spring, and by all rights should have been among the aristocracy. Unfortunately, each time he tried to gather a harem of hens he’d been run off by gangs of unruly jakes. Still, he stuck close to home, where a shotgun blast nearly ended his life on two separate occasions. Both times he narrowly escaped, and ultimately he disappeared.

We found the Marquis — identifiable by his missing tail feather — while out scouting one evening. He’d moved across the river from his home, and found a place where he could reign supreme, displaying his dominance by strutting proudly for his ladies. The flock was just inside the woodline at the far back corner of a field. After checking several more areas we returned right before fly-up time to find the Marquis and his hens still in the same spot, where they’d most likely be the following morning.

With hens, he would not be callable. The only way to beat him would be to get to his landing zone ahead of him, which is precisely what we did. When the lights came on he roared from his treetop roost at barely 70 yards distance. Some competitive calling to his hens prompted them to pitch down in the field behind us. The Marquis’ feet hit the ground at 50 yards distance and he came on purposefully, in full strut and with lust in his eyes. The third time proved a charm and a young man’s shot ended his days.

We located the Jackal by sound rather than sight, barely an hour after the Marquis’ demise. He gobbled without prompting, which allowed us to move within a strategic distance before offering an enticing series of yelps, to which he boomed back enthusiastically. It seemed this encounter too would end very quickly.

Nearly an hour later the Jackal hadn’t moved. Through binoculars we could see his outspread fan as he strutted back and forth just inside the woodline and across the field. The suspected reason for his reluctance was revealed when we spied three hens. Like the Marquis, the Jackal had what he wanted, and would not leave his birds in hand for one in the bush.

We had two choices, discretion or patience. The better part of valor provided that we should leave the Jackal and strike out in search of a more willing opponent. The virtuous option recommended we stay put and pit ourselves against a more challenging adversary. We chose the latter.

Enticing him, we realized, would not be possible. But just maybe we could appeal to his companions. In truth, they ruled the roost and he would follow them wherever they went, even to his death if necessary; at least that was our hope.

Our calling shifted from excited and enticing to casual and matter of fact. Instead of demanding that the Jackal come at once, we simply offered to the hens that we were very content over here, and suggested they might be as well.

For the second time that morning luck was with us. The hens accepted our invitation and brought their gallant gobbler with them. On they came, as one by one each passed through the only opening that would afford my young companion a clear shot. The resplendent strutter was a step or two from the opening when the last hen in line spied something amiss, halting the procession prematurely. “Please, please,” I pleaded, softly purring on my mouth call. The Jackal stepped into the opening and my son’s shotgun roared for the second time that morning. It was a far, far better day than I had ever known before.

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

bhhunt@maine.rr.com