Turkeys just a part of two successful hunts

Sometimes, hunts go perfectly. Sometimes, they don’t. And sometimes, actually succeeding in filling a tag (or two) isn’t the most memorable part of the hunt.

Just ask Flip McFarland of Stonington.

McFarland, who was better known as “Phil” or “Phillip” when he owned Bangor Chrysler Dodge, moved to the coast with his wife after selling the business. “[Now] we are raising rabbits, hunting, fishing and enjoying whatever the land, sea and air provide for food.”

Among Mother Nature’s bounty: wild turkeys.

And after a stunningly successful first day afield, McFarland found himself asking a question he never considered a year ago, when he and his brother-in-law heard only a passing gobble in their effort to hunt wild turkeys.

“What do you do when you shoot a turkey at 5:45 [a.m.] opening day?” McFarland wrote in an email. The answer: Go hunting a second day.

McFarland’s brother-in-law, Wes, hunts turkeys in New Hampshire. He has attempted [unsuccessfully] to help his mother bag a bird for about five years.

“I had now been appointed his shooter,” McFarland reported. And it didn’t take long for him to learn that Wes had been doing a bit of homework.

“[He] spent a week hunting turkey in Kansas with his summer neighbor, Jay,” McFarland reported. “He learned a lot. This year, we were much better prepared.”

On opening day, that preparation paid off, as Wes kicked off the season by talking turkey with a flock of birds.

“We determine there are four toms,” McFarland wrote. “They come down off the roost. We can hear two toms going in the other direction. Wes stops calling. The others knew where we were. We wait. Hello, two hens and a tom show up at the foot of the hill. They start up the hill to join up with our two decoys, the tom in the lead. I slowly get my gun in shooting position.  The tom is in full plumage trying to impress this new hen. When he stretches his neck, it’s his last.  Time of kill 5:45. First turkey in only the second year. I’m proud.”

McFarland and his brother-in-law headed back to their truck, where they met up with the landowner who had allowed them to hunt the property.

“We explain to him that we had planned on a two day hunt and now the wives would expect us to come home early,” McFarland wrote. “‘You can get a second spring turkey permit’, he says. We’re sold.”

McFarland registered the first bird and bought a permit for a second bird through the state’s automated MOSES system. “We were good to go for Tuesday. We thought it would be anticlimactic. We were wrong,” he wrote.

“Monday night we scouted [a] third field … We heard  gobbles at the top of the field. It was a little longer and narrower than a football field,” McFarland wrote. “We found a spot  at about the 50-yard-line with a tree up against a rock wall. Perfect. This is where we would set up in  the morning.”

Early the next morning, the duo headed back into the field.

“When we got about 35 yards from the  tree we had picked out the previous night, we found out we weren’t the only ones who thought they  liked that tree,” he wrote. “Two owls hooted from our tree. We continued, the owls got louder but left as we closed  in. Busted by the owls, did the turkeys notice?

“We set the decoys as previously planned and took our positions, looking for the birds to come in from  the top of the field, our right.  We were ready by 4:45 a.m. Around 5, we hear our first gobble. After a couple more, Wes answers with a box call. It’s returned.”

Then things got really interesting.

“I notice a shadow in the right upper corner of the field. It moves down our side.  At  a small crest in the hill, its silhouette reveals it to be a buck. He passes within 25 feet of the decoys.  He  gets about 75 yards down and stops. We were winded. He knows we are there, but where? He heads back up toward the crest. I see movement back where he came in. He charges back and I can see four deer heading back into the woods. For the next five minutes we hear the buck snorting in the woods.

“He obviously didn’t like our presence.  Now we’ve been busted by the deer,” McFarland wrote.

“Meanwhile, Wes maintains contact with his box call. Before we knew it, we were sitting at JFK Airport. Gliding down from the top of the field was the first turkey.  It landed about 25 yards past us to our left. I try to take a look. Wes admonishes me, ‘freeze.’ Incoming. Two more in glide pattern land in the same general area. About a minute later, the fourth.  Awesome.”

McFarland was a bit concerned, however: He didn’t have a shot to his left. Wes counseled patience, and the wait paid off.

“Within five minutes, now staying perfectly still, I can see a hen and three toms headed for our decoys,” he wrote. “Choices, all within range. I choose the one with the longest beard.  Time of kill 5:30.

“Two birds in a total of one hour, eight minutes, but the real pleasure was the action of the owls, the deer and watching those birds glide 75 yards down the field to land next to us. The taking of the birds was just a bonus,” he wrote.

No argument here.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.