Like many serious turkey hunters I travel out of state to hunt. It offers not only an escape from our seemingly endless winter, but a chance for a little spring training before the first home games. This year’s trip to Texas also provided a perfect opportunity to roll an entire season’s worth of experience into just a few days.

The first morning started with all the usual hopes and expectations of Opening Day. Our host, Wade Middleton, escorted Scott Newby of Yamaha Outdoors and I to a set-up location with instruction on where the birds would be roosted and how they should (hopefully) come our way. Middleton admitted, and we knew, you can never truly predict where a turkey will go. Still, the odds seemed favorable when the pre-dawn air was filled with gobbling from the nearby roost. Before long the birds flew down, milled around for a bit, then the throng headed south – away from us.

Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” We elected to sit tight in hopes a few stragglers might happen by and it wasn’t long before five longbeards strutted into view down the two-track ranch road. On they came, shoulder to shoulder in lockstep. I mentally counted the range as Newby slowly swung his gun barrel, then pulled the trigger. The gun went off and so did the birds, unscathed and scattering in every direction.

With the action over we struck out after a distant gobbler headed to the southwest. Our objective was to get in front of the bird but it took some time before he finally turned our way, just as a group of jakes fired up close by, forcing us to make a hasty dash for the nearest cover.

It was less than ideal with much of my view obstructed by cactus, mesquite and huisache. The longbeard hung up behind a clump of bushes just long enough for me to make a quick move to a slightly more open location. There I had two small openings to the left and right, but would have to be pointing to the correct one when the bird stepped out.

Fortunately he offered one more gobble indicating he was going to my right. I swung and held on the opening but never saw the bird pass through. Instead he somehow made it around and was a step from being out of range when I picked up his red head peering above a clump of hisache. This time the load hit its mark and we were on the board with a real Texas limbhanger, sporting sharp, curved spurs over an inch long.

After the usual handshakes and high-fives, we set off for a new location. Scarcely five minutes after setting out our decoys and settling in, we had four longbeards pay us a visit, close but not close enough. That was followed by another longbeard that came similarly close but still too far for an effective shot.

For the rest of the day it seemed we could do no right. When we sat and called, the birds moved off or went silent. When we moved, we bumped them. We settled for a single bird and renewed hopes for the following morning.

Dawn found us again near the roost, a little farther east and hoping to intercept the birds where we thought they’d gone the previous morning. They too went east, and after several hours we packed up and headed for the other location.

The first birds to arrive showed the same indifference to our set-up as the previous day. A hen sauntered by with a strutting tom in tow. Locked in on the real thing, he paid little mind to our decoys. His low, spit-and-drum bass serenade was just fading when it seemed to increase in volume again, but from a different direction.

It was, in fact, a different bird, and the most direct route between him and the departing duo was right in front of us. Unfortunately he hung up and we watched in frustration as he strutted back and forth for 45 minutes, just beyond the edge of shotgun range. Then he simply folded up and walked away.

Not expecting much different but knowing there were birds in the area, we returned to the same location after a lunch break. The first hour passed slowly, until a rap on my box call generated a distant gobble. A second call several minutes later elicited a closer response.

I wondered: “Could it be?”

The bird walked in as if scripted. This time Newby sealed the deal when the longbeard stepped out into the open.

The following morning proved to be a microcosm of the previous two days, with all the frustration of unpredictable birds, indifference and, eventually, response. But that’s a story for another day. Meanwhile it’s back to preparing for another spring turkey season in Maine.

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

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