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Hit or Miss Fall Flocks

NWTF Photo-11-10-08 SZ Post (Hickoff) Fall turkeys can be hit or miss. Food sources may or may not hold them — just like deer. In October '07, on the first Maine fall firearms season in modern history for turkeys, I tagged a fall jake on Saturday’s opening morning. (Did this past spring opener too, but I digress . . .)

I got in there early, hunted near a sloppily cut cornfield, heard no turkeys at daybreak, but kept calling. Far off, a bird answered. I eased toward that position, eventually peeked around the corner of some brush. Turkeys. Lots of them, spread across the field full of clover. Into the near woods I slipped, crossed the creek, called.

A brick-red-headed turkey came hustling to me so I shot him. One and done. Spent the rest of the season putting buddies into birds. Sent one friend into that spot the following Monday. He spent the morning in there, heard and saw nothing.

“You didn’t see a big flock in that field,” he half-joked. “Honest, a bunch of them, minus one,” I insisted. “There’s nothing back there now,” he whined.

This fall, I nearly took a bird right after fly-down on the opener, and got obsessed with a flock of 20-plus turkeys — some gobblers strutted and fought on assembling, and/or when I called aggressively. I could have taken a juvenile gobbler (15 steps), with its brood hen and other birds of the year in range too, and chose not to take a shot. This is sort of like you BBZ guys passing on a spikehorn for a bigger rack that might be in range on the next hunt. You gamble. You might just eat that tag . . .

Sure enough, on the last day of this past six-day season that same buddy and I went down in flames. More honor in doing that together, right? It only gets weird when some guy asks how I did in Maine. “I had a great time,” I’ll enthuse. “Did you kill?” they ask. “I didn’t say that,” I’ll smile.

Or as my wife likes to say, “Honey, you only say ‘It’s all good’ when you don’t come home with anything."—Steve Hickoff




I try to have the same outlook, got skunked yesterday morning on a duck hunt but we had fun, then went out in the afternoon and the only deer that came in bow range were spikes (they have to have at least 4 points on one side) so I couldn't shoot. I did see a buck breed and then bed down with a doe so I say it's a pretty good day, and there's still a lot of season so I've got chances. And if that's as close as I get all season I'll tell myself and others it was a good season, but in my own mind I'll think about all the "what ifs" and that will bother me a little until next year.

Steve Hickoff

I'm with you Levi! Thanks for checking in buddy.

Keep us posted.



Steve, I wanted to share this with you and the other yurkey hunters here. Exactly one week ago I was deer hunting on a big southern Maine hardwoods ridge. Although I did see a small buck and doe, the highlight of the day was a turkey experience. The previous few days in this spot always greeted me with the same flock of hens, poults and jakes, but this day was different. I never heard them fly down or caught a glimpse of them in the morning. About 11:00 am I heard some very loud "clucking" and sounds I did not recognize that carried almost "eerily" throughout the area. I assumed it to be from that same flock. This went on for about forty-five minutes. Around 2:00, I moved up the ridge a few hundred yards after spotting the buck and doe that came from above.

At 3:00, the "clucking" resumed except now it was much closer and seemed to be headed my way. Ten minutes later, I also heard the rustling of leaves accompany the clucking sounds and I was in awe of what happened next.

Six to eight jakes and seven longbeards appeared on the next ridge. The longbeards were in full strut and periodically fighting/spurring with each other. The jakes basically encircled them and almost seemed to be egging them on. It was a spectacular sight! It's almost as if this warm weather got them to thinking Spring had arrived. I haven't spotted this flock again, but have heard gobbling just after sun-up in the mornings.

We need to get Maine to extend the Fall season!


Steve Hickoff

Fantastic. Awesome post James! It's tough to beat that scene for pure vicarious pleasure eh.

A friend of mine in southern Maine had strutters on the edge of his property the other day, likely around the same time period.

Last month, I'd been hunting a mixed flock of Pine Tree State turkeys with three gobblers in it that fought and popped into full-fan splendor when I fired up the calls and/or after the gang got together after fly down.

Those fall strutters captivated me so much I ignored other opportunities on birds of the year, thinking I wanted one of them. As you know, they're still out there somewhere . . .

So it goes. No complaints. I always remember the ones that get away . . .

Good luck with the whitetails!


Steve Hickoff

Correction: I should say THE mixed flock . . . with three gobblers in it.

Had other birds, in other places, but you know how it goes. I've done that before, I'm afraid. My rule (sometimes): Don't leave turkeys to try and find others . . .

Then again, hindsight being what it is, maybe I should have on at least one of those days of our short 6-day season!

It truly is all good.