There’s a saying among hunters that goes: “I’d rather be lucky than good any day.”

Sometimes no matter how knowledgeable, skillful and experienced you are, the vagaries of fate disrupt your plans; and other times, the pieces seem to fall into place for no apparent reason. More often however, it’s a combination of knowledge generating a certain level of luck and experience in recognizing what to do with it.

A day of rain had quieted things down to the point where you wouldn’t have thought there was a turkey in the world. Despite a worthy attempt, my efforts raised neither sight nor sound of a bird, so I called an early end to the morning hunt.

All the same, I knew there were birds there and returned the next morning to a completely different scenario. The treetops were ringing with gobbles so I planted my posterior in a strategic location and began the serenade. Though vocal, the birds were apparently tone deaf, or had other destinations in mind and eventually filtered off to outlying areas. As the woods grew quiet, I did likewise, striking out to where I’d heard distant gobbling earlier.

After a quarter-mile hike and finally finding a suitable set-up location I pulled out my trusty box call and made three loud yelps. The response was immediate and at sit-down, click-off-your-safety and get-ready proximity, which is precisely what I did.

Another call got another response but it became quickly apparent I was in an untenable situation. Between me and the gobblers was a dense and very wet maple swamp, something no turkey of right mind would ever cross unless they were hopelessly lovesick. These birds obviously weren’t and though they answered my calls, they would come no further.

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Rather than forcing the issue, I let them filter off, then made a wide loop, crossing the swamp and moving up onto higher ground, the highest knob I could find. The sun was well up and the songbirds had ceased so this little round top was where I would make my final stand for the morning. I made myself comfortable for the anticipated long sit and all was quiet for some time.

An hour later the silence was broken by another distant gobble, so far I couldn’t tell direction. Rapping on the box generated another response, and another, each one closer. Luck, it seemed, was on my side. It soon became obvious that this bird was coming and all I had to do was wait him out and sit still.

The former part worked but the latter failed when the bird popped into the open well out of range and in a position where I had no shot, unless I shifted. The movement was slight, but enough to catch the gobbler’s wary eye, prompting a plethora of alarm putts. That should have been the end … game over, but I fired back with clucks and yelps to assure the bird that movement he spied was just another turkey. He would come no closer, but he also wouldn’t leave.

The situation got more complicated when the commotion prompted yet another gobble from another bird. And soon they appeared, one, two, three jakes, all eager to see the source of the calls, but on edge from the putting, and holding their distance well out of range. I wasn’t too concerned about the standoff until a fourth bird, this one sporting a long beard, appeared.

That’s where luck intervened again, at least temporarily. Rather than joining his raucous underlings, he broke my way, albeit hesitantly. Having assumed they were all jakes I never made the necessary adjustment and now was again out of position. The bird moved closer still, but was too far to my right. I had to risk another move and rather than continue on his path, the bird paused, turned left and walked directly into my line of fire. Game over.

So many things can go wrong on a turkey hunt and we never really know what goes on inside the bird’s tiny, walnut-sized brain. The best we can do is hope for a little predictability and a lot of luck, then have the wherewithal to take advantage of it.

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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