If you have spent summer, fall and winter getting ready for turkey season, make sure you don’t get beat to your favorite spot on the opening morning. All that preparation could be wasted. Wayne Parry/Associated Press

Let’s hope you knew that Maine’s turkey season got off to a two-day-early start on Saturday, or that your target is still there early Monday morning.

All summer long you basked in warm sunlight, striving to soak up every precious moment as the days raced by. You reveled in fall and frosty cold mornings spent traipsing aspen ridges or patiently waiting in a deer stand. You endured winter, perhaps slipping out on milder days for some ice fishing or snowmobiling.

Finally spring is here, and with it comes another turkey season.

After weeks of scouting, you’ve already developed a routine of rising early. Still, the day seems to come earlier when it’s follows a restless night’s sleep fueled by anticipation. You’re confident the birds will be there; you’ve watched them fly down and waltz out into the field on so many mornings, but you just never know.

There are no certainties in turkey hunting. Roosted ain’t roasted, as they say, and though the birds seemed to follow their schedule to bed last night it won’t take much to alter their morning fly-down routine. There’s also the very real possibility of interference from other hunters.

You not only have to outwit the birds, you’ve got to arrive at your destination well ahead of the competition if you’re going to have a chance. Other hunters went through similar motions, and your secret honey hole may not be as secret as you suspect. Plus if you failed to remember the early start to the season, you might be even further behind. So you race through breakfast – a cup of coffee and a muffin – do one last-minute gear check then jump in the truck and race off into the darkness, listening to stories of alien abduction and ethereal spirits on the AM radio.

The journey seems longer and you press a little harder on the accelerator. Rounding the last corner your pulse quickens and you hold your breath – moment of truth. Headlights dance down the treeline, stopping on an empty two-track woods road as you straighten your course and let off the accelerator. Phew, nobody else around.

You pause for a moment, take in a deep breath then step out into the crisp morning air. All is dark, and silent, except for the metallic ticking of contracting steel. Somewhere in the distance a great horned owl booms out its bassy call. Stars twinkle overhead.

The grass is covered with hoary frost that crunches underfoot as you flick on your flashlight and start down the path. Thin beads of perspiration form by the time you can make out an opening in the trees, a signal that it’s time to douse the light. You pause again to let your eyes adjust to the darkness, then continue on, slowly and quietly now, stopping where the field begins at a break in the stone wall. Back toward the road you hear an approaching vehicle as it slows, coming around that last bend, stops momentarily, then moves off briskly. The early hunter gets the bird.

It’s decision time. Any later and there would be no question you’d have to take the long way, hugging the field edge and using the woodline for cover from watchful eyes. It’s still dark though, and there’s no moon. So you risk a short, direct route across the open field to the east side, where you’ll eventually have the sun at your back.

There, you locate the bole of a big pine you’d picked out during a previous scouting foray. This is it, the closest patch of cover to where you hope the flock will eventually congregate. You doff your vest, pull out three decoys and hastily place them in front and slightly off to one side of your makeshift blind. By the time you settle in against the tree for what you hope won’t be too long a wait, the stars are fading and the sky changing from black to gray to deep purple.

Robins have already started their “cheery-up, cheery-oh” chirps when a barred owl belts out its “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all,” baritone. The owl’s call is answered shortly after by the sound you’ve waited through three seasons to hear. From the top of a nearby pine, Ol’ Tom announces his presence with a deep, raspy gobble. Another turkey season is here.

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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