Wild turkeys walk through trees in Oakland in December. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Excuses, excuses. There’s an expression … something about everyone having one.

That’s certainly true for those who failed to successfully fill their turkey tag(s). In fact, there are plenty. Let’s take a look at some and assess their validity.

“The season opens too late.” No, it doesn’t. Most states time their turkey season to start after the majority of hens have begun nesting. This reduces undue interference in the mating process and increases productivity. Starting earlier would result in fewer turkeys around in future years, making it even harder to bag one.

There’s still plenty of time to lure in a randy tom, and veteran turkey hunters will tell you the best has yet to come. As the breeding season progresses, hens leave the flocks to tend their clutches. Hunters have fewer hens to compete with, and toms redouble their efforts to find a willing mate.

“There are too many hens.” We just addressed that, in part. With each passing day, there are fewer in the flocks. Besides, you can’t really have too many hens. Turkeys are polygamous, which means most hens will breed regardless of how few or how many toms are present. More hens this spring means more turkeys next spring.

If you find competing with the real thing is too challenging, you just need to become a better hunter. Consider changing your tactics. Scout more and learn where those hens are leading the toms. Practice and perfect your calling so you can compete. Be patient, not just over the course of the season, but even during the day as hens filter out of the flocks. Midday is a great time to catch a lone gobbler looking for love.


“The birds are call shy.” Maybe, or maybe not. When you called to a tom, did he go silent and run away? Or, did he respond but not come closer? Often, it’s the latter. Maybe he already has hens and is not willing to leave the birds at hand for one in the bush. Maybe there’s an obstacle between you.

Or maybe the birds are doing what they typically do when approaching a potential mate. They stop gobbling, go into strut and slowly make their way in. It may take 10, 15 or even 20 minutes for them to close the final distance, and if you get impatient and move, you may never know they were there.

“The turkeys just weren’t cooperating.” This goes along the same lines as the previous one. Were they uncooperative, or did you not do your homework? Perhaps they were headed where they head every day, but you didn’t scout, and so you set up in the wrong place. Maybe you were calling too much, or not enough. Knowing the difference will only come with experience.

“My hunt was interfered with.” This one has some legitimacy. There are still a lot of novices out there who are unfamiliar with the proper procedures and etiquette of turkey hunting, or simply choose to ignore them. If you arrive at a location and there’s another vehicle there, go somewhere else.

If you hear another hunter calling, go somewhere else. Avoid well-known and heavily hunted areas. It should be fun, and safe for everyone.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: bhunt@maine.rr.com

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