Regular readers of this column may recall a recent edition where I discussed my quandary over how to spend opening day, which was last Monday. It was a tough decision but for the morning hunt I finally settled on turkeys.

Truth be told it wasn’t that tough. Option 2, duck hunting, requires a considerable commitment to preparation. Blinds should already have been built (a task I usually address on Labor Day weekend), and equipment checked. Decoys should all have been inspected to see they have weights and lines; and any holes are patched to prevent leakage. And the same must be done for waders. Shotgun plugged? Check. State and federal duck stamps? Check. Steel shot shells? Check. The dog that you’ve been housing, feeding and paying the vet bill for all year is finally ready to earn back a fraction of his keep. Then the boat is loaded on the trailer or the canoe in the bed of the truck and all is ready for a morning alarm that’s second only to spring turkey hunters in terms of how early one must rise to be on time. Nah, I’ll pass this year.

Option 3 was bowhunting. But that already opened and there hasn’t been a ton of movement yet, mostly because it’s been so warm. But the nuts are falling and recent frost should spur the deer into increased activity.

Morning hunts are tough because again, you have to rise so early. Then you must make your way to the chosen stand, in the dark, as stealthily as possible. Make too much noise on the way in and you’ve wasted your time and effort. Nope, maybe I’ll save that for the afternoon.

Option 4, upland game, is a tempting one. One need not rise until a gentlemanly hour in order for the birds to move about and leave plenty of scent for the dogs, or so I am told by my hunting companions who own upland bird dogs. The equipment is simple – a vest, a pocket full of shells and a light-gauge bird gun. To be considered a true upland gunner the bird gun should be an extravagantly priced double gun, preferably over-and-under, though a side-by-side made bay an Italian company whose name is unpronounceable should sufficiently impress. I have neither, nor do I have a dog. Besides, the leaves are still on the trees and the flights of woodcock have yet to arrive so I’ll put that on the back burner for now.

So turkeys offered the best compromise. No need to rise too early, as you don’t need to be in the woods until it’s light enough to see (unlike spring turkey hunting when you have to be in place and set up well before the rooster crows.) If the birds are close by the action may be quick, but if not I’ll just stroll along and listen, hoping to hear them before they hear me.

Turkeys can be among the noisiest creatures in the forest. I’d say they’re even louder than squirrels, but largely because they travel in flocks. A single hen turkey and a single gray squirrel in a scratching-in-the-leaves contest just might be a draw. So I listen for the commotion.

You can’t stalk a turkey; it’s largely unsuccessful and quite unsafe. But you can try to figure out which way the birds are going and get there ahead of them. Then you plop down against a tree, as you would in the spring, and either call or just sit silently and wait.

In the spring, if the birds pass by out of range the game is over. Not so in the fall. Then you leap to your feet, running directly at the receding flock, all the while whooping and hollering at the top of your lungs. Some folks will even fire a shot in the air, though I don’t recommend it. And yes folks, I’m not making this up. If the tactic fails it will be the most exerting thing I do all morning. If it succeeds I’ll have to tote a dozen or so pounds of turkey in my vest.

That’s still easier than picking up decoys and paddling a canoe, or dragging a big buck out of the woods.

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

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