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Fall Turkey Woes

Photo_sz_post_10_16_08_hickoff Hey Strut Zoners . . . I've hunted the New Hampshire archery turkey season since it opened Sept. 15, crossing the state border from my home base in southern Maine, and driving road miles to my Granite State turkey spots. Still carryin' a tag. Looking for a dumb longbeard. Will adjust goals as the long season passes, and look for anything legal, later. Closes Dec. 15. Plenty of time to go.

A turkey bud killed a NH adult hen this week though, and had the nerve to credit me for his fall turkey buzz. In my book, that's almost as good as arrowing one myself.

Well, you know about my SZ cohort Gerry Bethge and his turkey dog Jake. Having troubles on my end too: my English setter Radar, 6, came up lame the first week of October just before the first New York weekend of turkey season. Swollen hock. Blood work at the vet's and a 10 minute wait told the story. It's often the first and only sign of tick-borne infection. The diagnosis: Lyme and anaplasmosis. He was nearly two October weeks into the doxycycline treatments when he lacerated his chest in the woods while out with me in NH on the rebound. Cut wide open. Barbed wire likely to blame. Sutures, inside and out, the works. More meds. Yes, he usually wears a protective vest. No I didn't have it on him. My bad.

As some of you in the turkey dogging community know, I buried my lemon and white setter Midge near a hawthorn tree on our New England property (savaged by tick-induced kidney disease, Lyme then anaplasmosis at the wire). There's a reason my book Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook is dedicated to her. My older dog Jen, 12, is now pretty much blind and nearly deaf. So . . . I'm hunting the Maine Zone 3 fall turkey (shotgun) opener this coming Saturday, Oct. 18. No dog, though they're legal. I know how to bark, and rush the flock, men's hoops league legs willing. A full report will follow . . . Will hit Vermont's fall turkey firearms opener on Sat., Oct. 25. Ditto. New York? Hoping to. Keep us all posted on the SZ, and I will too, turkey dog stories, or others, we'd love to hear from ya. —Steve Hickoff



Went out with a bow a few times for turkey or deer and the turkeys weren't in bow range, now that it's gun season they're nowhere to be found. Covered a lot of ground last night and found about two tracks and one dropping. Wish I could take my dog, she'd probably smell them out.

Steve Hickoff

Hey Levi,

You figure those turkeys shifted food sources?

On some occasions, after the first heavy frosts, I've noticed flocks move away from fields they had been hitting (where they were hammerin' hoppers) to the woods for soft and hard mast.

That's what I love about fall turkeys though. They keep you guessing.

Steve Hickoff


We had a good rain yesterday early in the day and then some winds, so I was hoping/thinking they might be out in the open. I saw a few acorns under trees on the field edges, but I'm guessing the birds were back in the woods somewhere. Or I wasn't as sneaky as I thought I was, that's a very real possibility.

Steve Hickoff

Raining here now in southern Maine.

I plan on being near a farmer's field tomorrow morning over in NH, archery tackle in hand, thinking just that: those big birds will want to dry off out in the open after this weather moves through.

Or not. We'll have to get out there to see I guess . . .


I think you've got a good idea, Steve. A week before the shotgun season started I found a few birds sunning themselves after a particularly wet night by standing high on the top of some round hay bales. They were on the first part of the ridge-top to get sun in the morning. I guess they weren't too worried about predators, or maybe they were the dumb ones you're looking for...

Steve Hickoff

Hey Justin,

Yeah, they don't seem to like getting wet--or if they do, they like to dry off like Labs after a water retrieve.

That must've been a pretty cool thing to see . . .

How've you been doing lately on your hunts?



Yeah, it was pretty neat to see, especially with the dawn sun. I haven't hunted since the first weekend in October when I tagged a hen but I will be out there this weekend. The flock I have been keeping track of has been in the same spot for the past month, hanging out in the woods mostly but feeding on hoppers in the nearby fields. We're getting our first patchy frost tomorrow morning. I hope that doesn't cause them to shift habits right away but I guess I'll find out.

I'm sorry to hear about your hunting bud Radar being ill.

Steve Hickoff

Thanks Justin . . .

Yeah, with any luck your turkeys will keep working those field hoppers, plus other bugs in edge cover.

We've had a couple frosts here in Maine, and flocks I've scouted are still hitting the fields in a number of places.

Off to NH now to bowhunt turkeys. Will check in with all of you later.

P.S. May take a power nap in the woods though. Watched that improbable comeback by the Red Sox vs. the Rays last night!


Tony Williams

Tomorrow is opening day of archery deer and turkey here in NY. I'll be in a stand in the morning, chasing turkeys during mid-day with Streb and back in a stand in the evening. Not sure I have ever had a better schedule!


Steve Hickoff

Sounds like an awesome Saturday Tony!

I'm just in from bowhunting NH turkeys: story to follow on the Strut Zone next week . . .

Keep us posted,

L. Case

Hey Steve, no offense buddy, but Bowhunting for turkeys (I'm presuming w/o a dog) I dunno, think maybe I'd rather watch a few hours of Oprah, (no, scratch that I wouldn't) anyway maybe not my cup of tea...I know, I know, to each his own.

Sorry to hear about your current dog situation, I can fix you up if you need a good prospect.


Steve Hickoff

Evening, Mr. Case!

Yup, dogless, though technically they're legal just across the border while bowhunting fall turkeys. Bust the flock, & hide the canine in the blind w/ you I guess . . . same as with a firearm, but definitely a bit more trickier after the shot.

Trust that I hunt Granite State wild turkeys with a bow during the Sept. 15-Dec. 15 New Hampshire archery-only season because that's the deal, the option. An excuse like that to be out with the flocks in Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. is okay by me. To me there's a real pleasure in spending so much time out there. Know too that I do it on foot, without a blind . . .

Still a dog man of course too. I'm with shotgun in hand this week in Maine. Seeing a lot of action. Still carrying a tag . . .

Keep us posted on your WV hunts old buddy!



Watch Oprah instead of bowhunting for turkeys? No way. Thanks to Steve (his book) I took up chasing Fall birds last year in Maine and NH with a bow. Bowhunting deer has been my love for the Fall, but I've now dedicated two weeks in October for turkeys. Some of the best fun I've had and definitely challenging. Like Steve, it's just me, my bow and whatever cover the woods hold for me. So far, I've been successful in NH and if I wasn't, I'd be dedicating more time in November and December.

I would like to try a hunt with a dog. That sounds like a lot of fun also!

Good luck to all you Fall bird chasers!