I start out each spring’s turkey season with renewed hope and high expectations – but I’m especially looking forward to this year.
We’ve had reasonably good hatches for the past couple springs and despite an unusually cold and snowy winter, the birds fared well. With plenty of birds around there should be ample options, but I’m particularly eager to set my sights on one specific bird.
He is what’s known in turkey hunting circles as a bad bird, one that despite a hunter’s best efforts somehow always manages to get away clean. At one time or another every veteran turkey hunter encounters at least one such fowl. This one’s beaten me the last two seasons and I aim to change that this year.
Like other protagonists that have plagued me in the past, I’ve even given him a name (which I’ll refrain from sharing for fear of giving away his location to my competitors). I’m far less fearful of them bagging this bird than of stumbling into him and altering his somewhat tenuous routine, which is about the only edge he offers.
His pattern is punctuated. He’ll settle in one area and develop a routine, which usually takes a couple days to learn. But he seems to be more adept at patterning me than the reverse. If I set up to the south, he leaves the roost and goes east. If I set up to the east he goes west, or makes a southward loop around me before turning back east.
Then, just when I think I’ve got him figured out, he moves to a new location and the deck gets reshuffled.
A disappearance of several days leads to anxiety that he’s fallen victim to another hunter. Then he’ll show up at another of his favorite haunts, strutting around in the middle of an open field, as if to taunt me before vanishing into the woods. Two more days of learning his movements invariably ends with him and his harem moving on to a new location.
I’ve even tried various tactics: decoys and no decoys, calling and no calling, always with the same result. Sometimes he even answers my calls and comes close, but never close enough.
Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.
Others say turkey hunters are all a bit insane.
I guess both apply to me as I’ll set out again this spring and try the same tactics to bag this bad bird. I really have no choice as I’ve tried every trick in the book, and a few that aren’t written about.
I’m pinning my hopes on the possibility that he makes a mistake. And if he doesn’t, I’ll look forward to next season even more.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: