Maine’s two-bird spring bag limit can be a double-edged sword. It provides more opportunity, a chance to spend more time in the field, gain more experience and put more food on the table. But when things don’t go your way, it can become a ball and chain.

The first bird is the most important. Get one and worry about the second later. It’s a confidence booster, and with a bird in the hand the pressure is off. Your season is already successful. There’s meat for the table and now you can relax and enjoy the pursuit of a second bird, right?

There are some who take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself, filling both tags at once. I don’t, but don’t judge them; to each their own. I choose not to, for it is the experience more than the conclusion that’s most important. Tagging two toms in a single hunt, I would feel that I cheated myself. But pride goeth before a fall.

As the experiences mount without conclusion, I begin to question my logic. Were it a one-bird limit I would be done and able to move on to other pursuits like fishing and yard work. Instead, both are increasingly neglected. As long as you hold that second tag, you can’t give up.

Slowly, the tables turn. As the days wear on, whatever confidence you gained from the first bird wanes. You begin to question yourself: Am I calling too much? Should I use decoys, or not? You also find opportunities much fewer and further between.

The easy birds – those foolhardy 2-year-olds that make you feel like a turkey hunter – are long gone, most taken out in the first week. You rationalize that as the hens gradually leave the flocks to tend to their growing clutch, the older birds will eventually become lonely and more receptive to your sweet seductions. You failed to consider that they’ve been listening to your and others’ serenades for several weeks, and now turn a deaf ear to them.

You pick out what’s left, the toughest of the tough, and hope they make a mistake. On Day 1, you play conservatively, trying to learn the bird’s routine. But you can’t be too conservative, as there are others out there vying for the dwindling opportunities as well. That prompts you to be a bit more aggressive the next day, which only results in you educating the bird and setting you back to square one.

Meanwhile, you grow weary. The sun rises astonishingly early, requiring you to do likewise. You used to dread Sundays but now look forward to them because it means you can sleep in. And when Monday comes around again you wake and listen, hoping for rain, high winds or any excuse to skip a day.

The anticipation and excitement have long since faded away. The mornings start warmer, the grass is tall and biting, stinging insects are out in full force. Turkeys may gobble briefly from the roost but go mum the moment their feet hit the ground, and seem indifferent to your calling. Forget the turkey tactics; it will take patience and woodsmanship to bring home a bird now. So you keep going, as long as that second tag remains because, though it’s been a long season, it will be even longer before the next one rolls around.

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

[email protected]

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