What a difference a few weeks makes. Maine’s turkey season opened with temperatures in the 20s and the woods a stark pale palette of grays and browns.

Slowly – begrudgingly at first – pale hues gave way to green and temperatures oscillated up the scale. Then rains, followed by warmer days, brought May flowers, bugs and a verdant view. Looking out now on a lush green landscape it’s hard to believe the season is only four weeks old, winding down but still with time for those willing to endure the long run.

In the past I have described Maine’s deer season as a marathon, starting with a sprint, then slowing to a steady gait over its four weeks. Our five-week turkey season, on the other hand, is more like a track meet, replete with various disparate events.

The meet begins with sprinters, first and fastest out of the gate. Days, weeks of training – scouting and practice-calling – are now on the line and those who accomplish the proper intersection of preparation and opportunity will take home a blue ribbon in the form of a longbeard. Those whose skill set is limited strictly to sprinting may take their quick victories and exit the competition.

For the decathletes, the true sportsmen, that first win provides confidence and a cushion to slow down and appreciate it is the process rather than the end result that matters most.

As the days grow longer and increasingly early mornings take their toll, turkey hunters head out to face their next set of hurdles. Much of the competition has already left the field, either tagged out or conceded defeat and moved on to more menial pleasures like golf and fishing. But so too have the objects of their effort been depleted. Many of those randy toms they watched or listened to from the roadside just a week or two before have been transformed into palatable protein and they have to work harder to find and entice a bird to the gun.

By week three, the contestants must travel longer distances on and from the roads to find huntable birds. Faster-paced running and gunning has been replaced with a slow and steady approach. As the pack spreads out, the once-crowded field seems an almost lonely place. But there are still a few hoping they can put their shot in the proper place.

The fourth week has an entirely different feel. Dawn comes before any human being should be awake, with temperatures we were lucky to see at midday’s peak just four weeks ago. The highlight events are over and the star competitors have left. Many nonparticipants have even forgotten competition still goes on. The events are brief and punctuated, a morning here, a few hours there, then it’s back to the sidelines.

By week five there are only the marathoners left. They have literally seen the seasons change as once pale green and flat fields now await the first cutting of hay, a dense canopy of leaves blocks all but the most accurate rays of sunlight from reaching the forest floor, and biting insects fill the hot, humid air. The season will end with only the unluckiest or the most dedicated still on the field before it finally ends, vaulting us into the start of summer.

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

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