It would be interesting to survey the mass of Maine turkey hunters and ask how many hours they log in the field each day. I’d venture to guess most are out of the woods early. After all, dawn is the most dynamic period of the day.

It begins in darkness, everything a mystery. A lonely peeper, outlasting his brethren whistles out the final notes of the previous night’s frog chorus. A distant barred owl beckons daylight but gets no reply. Then a cacophony of crows elicits a treetop gobble and the game is on.

Dawn is usually a hit-or-miss proposition. If you’ve done your homework and picked the right place, and the birds are hot and working well, your hunt may be over soon. If they’re being “uncooperative,” as turkey hunters like to say, no sweet seductive siren’s song will summon them into effective range. Discretion being the better part of valor, you either find another bird or call it a morning; get in a good hunt and still put in a full day’s work or attend to whatever other obligations you may have. It’s not a bad way to spend your season, but as the early mornings accumulate the rest of the day seems to lag.

Those with less pressing distractions may linger longer, hunting until mid to late morning. You can seek out new ground, implementing Plans B, C and D, or circle back and see if those stubborn dawn birds are a little more receptive to your pleading, now that the objects of their affection have gone off to their daytime duties. If the action has died you can head in for a big breakfast, and maybe a little siesta.

Bacon and eggs beckon, but if the birds are working you stay and soldier on. From late morning on it’s a different scenario. The woods seem downright deserted. The deafening din of songbirds has long since dissipated so now only the ovenbirds and vireos sing. Mosquitoes are gone but the black flies are out in force. The thundering gobbles that quickened your pulse have abated. But if you can make a turkey gobble after 10 your chances of killing it are exponentially greater.

You can play hit-and-run, covering long distances by foot or vehicle, banging on a box call to strike a gobble, then moving on to the next location when no response is elicited. Or you can go old school. Set out a decoy or two, settle into a shady spot with what little comfort you can find and wait them out, calling sparingly every 15 or 20 minutes.

It can be an effective technique but not without risks. The sun is high, the air warm and still. Any energy derived from breakfast has long since been used up. And your eyelids seem ponderously heavy. The thoughts you entertain to pass time gradually turn to dreams as consciousness fades.

Far fewer folks venture out after lunch. Being relatively new to us in the northeast, afternoon hunting is foreign and unfamiliar. Like the mid-day period it’s typically slow, and lying in ambush is as effective as any deliberate means of killing a turkey. Besides, the bass are biting and kids are on the ballfields. Better to save those precious hunting hours for the mornings.

Late season is a lot like late in the day. The sprint has become a marathon and most of the pack has fallen behind or left the course. Even the turkeys seem to have abandoned any sense of urgency. You might get a courtesy gobble here or there but the grass and the days have grown long and the longbeard’s lust has waned. If he comes to a call now it could just as easily be curiosity that motivates him. You can grind it out until the end or pack it in, take stock of this season and look forward to the next.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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