The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife used to send a survey to turkey hunters each year with an array of questions about their experience during the previous spring season.

One question asked hunters if they had been interfered with during the course of their hunt. The question referred to human interference, which unfortunately is a fairly common occurrence. I wonder what the responses would have been had they asked about other types of interference.

How many times has this happened to you? You’re calling to a distant, unseen gobbler when he suddenly goes silent. This could be it, the moment of truth. You hold dead still, moving only your eyeballs as you scan for movement or the black shape of an approaching tom. Instead you see a patch of tan slipping through the brush; a coyote is stalking your decoys.

It happens more often than you might think. Coyotes are abundant and always on the lookout for an easy meal. They typically beat a hasty retreat when they discover the ruse, but every so often they’ll mess up and charge the decoys or even an unsuspecting hunter. Though less common the same is true of bobcats, and I’ve read more than one account of a hapless hunter being accidentally pounced upon.

In addition to four-legged predators, turkeys and turkey hunters must be on the lookout for avian marauders, as I learned late one morning. The action had died down and as the sun climbed high in the sky I nodded off. I was awoken suddenly by a loud “smack!” Through fuzzy eyes I saw a very confused red-tailed hawk standing over my fallen decoy. I would swear he looked around to see if anyone had witnessed his error before he quickly retreated to the treetops.

Turkeys and livestock are common associates. In fact, if it weren’t for dairy farms, we probably wouldn’t have nearly as many turkeys or places to hunt them as we do. However, conflicts occasionally occur. More than once I’ve had curious cows come over to investigate my decoys, usually at the worst possible moment.

The most bizarre livestock interference I ever experienced involved horses. My son and I were sitting in a blind watching a group of longbeards feed leisurely alongside several horses in a pasture we were hunting. Slowly, gradually the birds drew closer and closer, all the while the horses paying them and us no attention. Then, just as the birds neared the critical distance, the horses went into a panic, snorting, whinnying and chasing the birds out of the pasture. The turkeys were as confused as we were, especially when they tried to approach a second time only to be chased off again.

Wayward house pets can be just as troublesome as livestock. I’ve had potential opportunities busted up by beagles, Labrador retrievers, mutts and one over-zealous sheep dog, and know several hunters whose hunts were spoiled by domestic felines.

The more time you spend in the turkey woods, the more bizarre interactions you’ll have. It can be initially very frustrating when an opportunity is spoiled by unexpected interference from the animal kingdom. But it adds measure to the breadth and spice to the broth of our outdoor experiences, and something to laugh about later while sharing turkey tales with kindred spirits.

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

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