What a morning it was. The birds were hammering from the roost before dawn and continued gobbling even after fly-down. We shared vocal volleys with two vociferous toms for a lengthy duration but just couldn’t coax them close enough to seal the deal. Off we went to another location where we struck gobbling gold a second time, but again failed to fool our feathered foes into shotgun range.

By the time they finally quit and faded off into who knows where the sun was well up, the air was noticeably warmer and most of the other bird species had also ceased their morning chorus. And we were spent. I glanced at my watch and was momentarily stunned to read the time, 7 a.m. That couldn’t be right. It felt like we’d spent an entire morning battling birds but it had only been a couple hours. The action was over but most of the day still lay ahead.

That’s kind of what the whole turkey season is like. Five weeks is a long time. You start off excited, full of energy and eager to take on the toms. The first few days, even a week are frenzied if the birds haven’t been bothered by too much hunting pressure. After the first weekend things slowly ease up. There are fewer birds, the excessively vocal, and/or naive ones having been weeded out. But there are still some, and with less competition the remnants redouble their amorous efforts to sow oats while the sun shines. It won’t last.

One week turns to two. The dawn congregations become smaller now as, one-by-one, hens have finished their clutches and left the groups for good, to incubate nearly full time. What hens remain won’t for long, and having already been inseminated, seem more indifferent to their suitors with each lengthening day.

The early mornings are taking their toll on hunters as well, who must rise a few minutes earlier each day if they wish to beat the birds. Tired, focused on finding remnant scraps of once healthy flocks, you don’t notice until one exceptionally warm morning when the birds quit gobbling early. You look around and suddenly realize the leaves have unfurled. The canopy that just yesterday was dull grays and browns is now verdant. And the carpet of grass you easily strode through as you traipsed across a dewy field in the dark now soaks your pants up to the knees.

Though season’s end looms there’s no longer any urgency among hunter or turkey. You know your chances of finding a bird now are low. Even if you do, more likely than not he won’t come your way; or if he does, he’ll take his sweet time about it. And then, he’ll be motivated more by mild curiosity and less by the lust and jealousy that ruled his every move just a week or two earlier. You, meanwhile, keep going afield more out of stubbornness and dogged determination. Can’t give up until it’s over, or two toms lay entombed in the freezer.


So you wake, rise and head afield one morning, just like you have so many times before. This morning seems quieter. There are no gobbles and even the songbird symphony is muted. The sun rises earlier. The air is warmer and the black flies more intense.

You glance down at your smart phone, to check not the time but the date. That can’t be right. Still two more weeks to go.

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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