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With turkey season open for two more weeks and our best fishing of the year upon us, it’s difficult to decide what to do to take full advantage of these great sporting opportunities. For my money, the only reasonable approach is to do both – and it’s actually possible to bring home a limit of trout and a nice, fat gobbler without moving an inch!
Although fishermen (and turkey hunters) have evolved into energetic, ground-covering dynamos, the old-fashioned methods of fishing (sitting still and waiting for a bite) and turkey hunter (sitting even more still and calling a bird into range) not only still work, they can often be the difference between success and failure.
Like everything else, I learned this the hard way years ago when I was turkey hunting the “modern” way and not having much luck. The few gobbles I heard at dawn faded into memory almost instantly. I spent several hours running here and there on logging roads, calling and shock gobbling, making every effort to find a bird, but got nary an answer. This stuff is supposed to be easy, but I wasn’t finding it that way.
Being an all-around outdoorsman, it also galled me no end knowing I was bypassing one great trout pool after another while I continued my futile attempt at finding a longbeard before noon.
Also having spent a dozen years homesteading (which included subsistence hunting and fishing), I had a hard time justifying spending all morning chasing a bird I could not get while endless miles of prime trout water told me I could easily catch a limit of trout with a whole lot less effort.
Standing at the top of a high knoll overlooking yet another fine stretch of water, I yelped, clucked and purred for all I was worth – and then said, “This is dumb!”
Like any good subsistence farmer, I always carry a little “trout kit” in my jacket: a length of line, a few hooks and an in-line spinner. Using my pocket knife, I whittled a 10-foot length of maple sapling down to the bare wood. I made a notch in the rod tip, tied on my line and hook, and then went searching for some bait. Every rotted log or rock I turned over produced a worm, crayfish or hellgrammite. I fashioned a bait can out of a wide strip of birch bark, and filled the can with detritus from under the logs and rocks. All of this took about 15 minutes – it doesn’t take a Bear Grylls to get set up for fishing!
I decided to stay put at one of the biggest pools on a wide stream I’d seen that morning. Cozying up to a big, flat rock near the water, I put a nice, fat worm on my hook, tossed it upstream in the slow-moving pool, and just sat back to wait. “Fishing” is an action verb even if you don’t move – I suppose it’s justified by the fact that tossing a worm into a stream is considered “action.” Semantics aside, I sat, I fished, I called and I waited. Before long a fat brook trout took the bait, and I strung him through the gills on a small sapling, laying him in the water at my feet.
By 11 a.m. I had one more trout to catch for a limit, but I decided to give turkey hunting one more valiant try. After all, I had my calls, my gun, my shells, my vest – what did I have to lose?
Securing my catch of trout among some rocks in the stream, I went back to the knoll above and started calling in earnest.
By 11:30 I had no reply, so I put all my faith in my all-purpose box call and gave one of the best shock gobbles of my career. It came out loud, raspy and indignant – I was quite proud of what the old Quaker Boy call could do.
Hearing nothing, seeing nothing, I started to put my gear away when, in the distance, I heard the unmistakable call of a real gobbler! Yelping seductively, I made him gobble again, closer this time, but still quite a distance away. I’d have to hurry if I wanted to put this bird in the freezer.
I ran down to the brook, crossed over and ran up the other side to the highest spot I could find. Setting up quickly, I yelped a few times and was immediately answered by the incoming tom.
I decided to play the seductive, haughty role and clucked or purred only when he gobbled. By the time he reached my hillside, he was double-gobbling and moving at a fast pace, in full strut all the way.
I had picked the high spot on purpose: I knew that’s where he wanted to be. I just kept purring, held my shotgun at the ready and waited. Sure enough, at about 11:45 a.m., I saw him coming up my ridge in full strut and gobbling at every step. I used by push-pin call to lure him in the last few yards and, a few minutes later, made the shot that ended my day.
The bird had a 10-inch beard and long, curved spurs – a “boss tom” if ever there was one. I carried him down to the brook, fired up my ever-present tea pot and enjoyed a fine stream-side brunch of trout, potatoes and fiddleheads, enhanced by the fine gobbler that had decided to join my fishing expedition.
Truth be told, I was not expecting to have any luck that day and thought long and hard about going at all. We all know that luck can turn good or bad on a dime, but you can’t shoot a bird or catch a trout from your office or desk. It may take some persistence and pluck, but if you give it all you have you just may be rewarded. At one point that day seemed like a waste of time to me, but as I walked out of the woods, full of trout and carrying a nice gobbler over my shoulder, I felt as if I’d had the best Maine morning ever. A change of heart, a change of plans may be all it takes to turn your day around.
Take a few hours and get out there. Who knows what great adventures are waiting for you!
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