It is the custom of many cultures to pay tribute to some deity, often by leaving a small token at some type of altar. It may be a hand-crafted item like a walrus tusk left on the sea ice to honor the gods of the hunt, a small sack of grain laid down in tribute to a successful crop, or merely a coin tossed in the fountain for good luck. I pay annual tribute to the turkey gods by leaving a small token in the woods, though it’s not exactly intentional.

The first one I recall was a Quaker Boy fighting purrs push-pin box call. It was a simple call, which suited my talents at the time. With no vest, I carried it in the cargo pocket of my tattered BDU pants. That pocket had a hole that, unbeknownst to me, was just large enough for a Quaker Boy fighting purrs push-pin box call to slip through.

I didn’t realize the call was gone until I’d hiked a mile and a half out of the woods one morning. Rather than try to retrace my steps over a square mile of woods I opted to pay tribute, and was rewarded the following morning when I sweet-talked a nice gobbler into range – using a mouth call.

The next tribute came after I’d spent the previous winter handcrafting strikers out of deer antlers and carbon arrow shafts. I was determined to call in a bird using one that I felt had the best balance and produced the sweetest sound on my slate call. And I did. In fact, I called in two birds to the same spot over a couple hours. I was so excited when I discovered the second bird had two beards that I forgot all about my striker, and left it lying at the base of a tree, in tribute.

There have been countless other tributes paid over a turkey hunting career that now spans some three decades. Several of my favorite mouth calls, meticulously broken in and made to sound just right have mysteriously slipped out of pockets unnoticed until the most inopportune times. Hats, gloves and other items were left in the woods or on the roadside while piling into or out of the truck. Decoy stakes have fallen out of my vest and once even a hunting license was accidentally left in tribute.

This year’s tribute was particularly dear. It was a collapsible, two-dimensional full-strut Montana decoy I’d dubbed Slim. I always carried it because it weighed next to nothing and took up almost no space in my game pouch. Slim and I had many memorable hunts together.

One morning I called four jakes and decided to have a little fun. I pulled out Slim, unfolded him and waved him at the jakes, who ran at me en masse. Turning him sideways made him disappear to the jakes, who then started away confused. When I turned him back to face him, they ran back over. This routine continued until I tired of it and let the jakes wander off.

Slim was so unobtrusive I didn’t even notice him missing for several days. I even tried retracing my steps at one of several locations I’d hunted, to no avail. I suppose it’s just as well because it’s almost certainly bad luck to retrieve a tribute, and I wouldn’t want to upset the turkey gods.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: bhunt@maine.rr.com