Friday, December 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

My "Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (240 pp.; 150 color photos) was released in August by Stackpole Books. I'm happy to say that between my seminar appearances from Maine to Kansas, phone calls, and both radio and magazine interviews, there's been some steady interest. If we didn't cross paths along the way, please contact me at for more information.

In the book, I examine fall and winter turkey behavior and vocalizations. I also provide details on locating, scouting, and calling autumn wild turkeys, with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition. Also discussed here is the strategy of hunting turkeys with dogs by using them to flush flocks before hunters call scattered birds back to their concealed setup. As a bonus, the material on firearms, ammunition, and archery tackle will benefit all turkey hunters—fall, winter, or spring. 

To all of you who've bought the book: thanks.


Thanksgiving Dinner

Here's my fat Maine October jake . . . and you don't eat the tail feathers. Shot this blurry, poorly composed image after a hasty self-timer setting. Good memory though . . .

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Home-Office Season Begins

Snow fell today in northern New England, white stuff of the wet sort, though some stuck to the grass outside this window, and to the leaves I've yet to rake.

For me, this early snow marks the start of the home-office season, which falls a handful of months before spring gobbler hunting commences. I'll start all that turkey chasing in Florida first, and South Dakota a little later, and Maine at the wire. New York State tags (2) hang on my office corkboard too, so there's that. Several other tags from different road-trip states will fill my wallet too.

Not to say that I don't get out much during this November to March phase: bird dogs demand it, if only for the exercise. Here in Maine you can train dogs on wild birds year-round, so we're covered there.

As for the late-fall/winter home-office season, mine will involve two book projects (one due March 1; one due May 1), a host of magazine assignments deadlined through August '08 right now (Turkey & Turkey Hunting, Cabela's Outfitters Journal, Turkey Call . . .) , some winter seminar appearances and book signings (Nashua Public Library, Eastern Fishing & Outdoor Expo . . .), plus providing online content for other several markets (, etc. . . .), and my usual Sunday column and photo space with Foster's Sunday Citizen (

That's good, because keeping busy during the months with less light is crucial here in Maine . . . after all, it's 3:55 in the afternoon right now, and dark outside.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Armchair Update

Shipped a waterfowl article today, and wrote a newspaper column, then later drove by one of my October turkey spots to find five trucks in there hunting Saturday whitetails.

Otherwise, here in the home office, I've two book projects underway that are coming together steadily, which is part of the enjoyment for those of us who undertake them. Photo support and drawings are due for each, which presents an interesting twist as well. One even involves a cd.

As the assignment board goes, I've work due through August 2008. Look for stuff in Cabela's Outfitter Journal, Turkey & Turkey Hunting, N.H. Wildlife Journal, plus my work with, and some other print pubs and websites. This month also marks my tenth year selling my "New England Afield" column and photos to Foster's Sunday Citizen.

My winter seminar schedule is pretty much set, with talks on everything from striped bass to wild turkeys.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pete Clare's Bonnie Dog

I'm just in from fall turkey camp: four days in Candor, New York visiting my longtime friends Pete & Sherry Clare at Turkey Trot Acres during the annual Marlin Watkins Fall Classic.

Marlin, if you don't know of him, is one of the finest custom callmakers in the country, and an avid turkey dogger.

I snapped this photo of Pete's dog Bonnie while she settled in with me at a setup on Saturday.


(Steve Hickoff photo)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

"Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (240 pp.; 150 color photos) was released in August by Stackpole Books. I'm happy to say that between my seminar appearances from Maine to Kansas, phone calls, and both radio and magazine interviews, there's been some steady interest.

In the book, I examine fall and winter turkey behavior and vocalizations. I also provide details on locating, scouting, and calling autumn wild turkeys, with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition. Also discussed here is the strategy of hunting turkeys with dogs by using them to flush flocks before hunters call scattered birds back to their concealed setup. As a bonus, the material on firearms, ammunition, and archery tackle will benefit all turkey hunters—fall, winter, or spring.

To all of you who've bought the book: thanks. Others can contact me at for further information.


The Dark Phantom

Actually the nine-year-old that shares my last name . . .


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Audubon's Turkey Writing

If you get a chance, pick up "John James Audubon: Writings & Drawings" (The Library of America, 1999). Selected by Christoph Irmscher, Audubon’s wild turkey writing presented here provides a historical glimpse into the nineteenth century world of the wild turkey, including hunting strategies prevalent at the time. It's great stuff, and undervalued in my opinion.

I'm still not certain as to why his painted gobbler head and feathering are so far off colorwise, but hey . . .


Friday, October 26, 2007

The View From Here

Spent the morning answering business emails here in the office, and making wingbone calls from my Oct. 13 Maine fall turkey--the life!

Seriously though, the latter is a great way to extend your turkey hunts before the next one (upstate New York in my case), and the former is a big part of my day: checking on assignments sent, double-checking queries that are out, confirming work due (thru August '08 right now on the editorial schedule).

Looks like a full spring hunt travel schedule with Florida in March as well, and South Dakota in May, among others.

A buddy just sent me some trail-cam shots of the Maine deer he's calling "the pickin's": a 10. pt, an 8 pt., and others. Our resident deer season begins tomorrow, a neat deal when in-staters get first dibs before everyone does on Monday. Rain is what they're calling for.

Saw four whitetails where I took my Maine fall turkey on the opener.


Red Sox Rock

Scorned by some, envied by others, flat-out ignored by still more. This thing, the Red Sox fan. You folks living outside of New England may wonder about this prevailing nationwide and regional condition from a nurture vs. nature angle. I mean, is it a birthright? Is it genetic? Is it a bandwagon deal? At least for some, it begins in the 4th grade. My daughter brought this handout home from school the other day . . .


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Publications Update

Interest in my recently published "Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (Stackpole Books) continues, as I work on two other contracted book projects.

I've also just completed various magazine assignments for Outdoor Life, Cabela's Outfitter Journal, Turkey & Turkey Hunting, and, so look for those articles early next year, or sooner in the case of the latter site. A handful of others await my direct attention on the monthly calendar.

Thanks to all of you regular readers as well who check out my "New England Afield" column in Foster's Sunday Citizen, which I've written for a decade now.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Bird At The Wire

Today is the last day of Maine's six-day fall firearms turkey season. Persistence pays. Read on . . .

My buddy Marc--a longtime wild turkey hunter with Grand Slams and calling contests to his credit--tagged this fine Maine hen this morning (pink legs, brown-tipped breast feathers, 9.2#s on my NWTF digital scale). There were around 20 in the flock, minus this one.


(Steve Hickoff photo)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Latest Book

"Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (240 pp.; 150 color photos) was released in August by Stackpole Books. I'm happy to say that between my seminar appearances from Maine to Kansas, phone calls, and both radio and magazine interviews, there's been some steady interest.

In the book, I examine fall and winter turkey behavior and vocalizations. I also provide details on locating, scouting, and calling autumn wild turkeys, with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition. Also discussed here is the strategy of hunting turkeys with dogs by using them to flush flocks before hunters call scattered birds back to their concealed setup. As a bonus, the material on firearms, ammunition, and archery tackle will benefit all turkey hunters—fall, winter, or spring.

To all of you who've bought the book: thanks. Others can contact me at for further information.


Ongoing Maine Fall Turkey Season

Maine wildlife biologist Norman Forbes filed this report to my inbox:

"The first fall wild turkey hunting season with a firearm began this past Saturday in wildlife management districts 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25. The season runs from October 13 thru October 19. A resident or non-resident big game hunting license is required as well as a wild turkey hunting permit ($20.00 for resident, $47.00 for non-resident). One turkey of either sex may be taken and must be registered at an official registration station.

"There has been a fall archery season on wild turkey since 2002 in certain parts of the state with hunter success running approximately between 5 and 15 per cent annually. It is anticipated that the success rate with a shotgun will be greater, and the department will be closely monitoring registration stations, as well as gaining insight from the hunter questionnaire issued to a sample of permit holders.

"The first day of the shotgun season 15 birds were registered at Sawyer’s Market in Little Falls and 5 registered at Wing’s Market in New Gloucester."

[I checked in the first fall turkey at Eldredge's Fly Shop in Cape Neddick that Saturday morning.]

Forbes continues: "One benefit of having a fall season should be a reduction of nuisance birds around farms. Birds that are allowed to forage where livestock are fed quickly become accustomed to the easy pickings and lose their natural wariness over time. Farmers and their family members will not only remove nuisance birds but will also enjoy wild turkey for dinner."

Nuisance? Hmm.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tag Filled

My Maine fall jake--taken this morning at 7:45 during the state's first modern autumn turkey gun season--weighed 10 1/2 lbs. at the check-in station. Of the inch-long beard, the Yankee gentleman remarked: "Well you've got to staht some whey-yuh."

Good hunt, albeit one day and done, but I'll take it.


(Hickoff photo)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Maine's Fall Turkey Season

Maine's first modern fall firearms season for wild turkeys opens tomorrow in Zone 3--fortunately, I live in it.

Right now a steady cold rain is falling, but it ought to break by morning. The weatherheads are calling for sun and wind tomorrow (42-60 degrees F.). Clearing skies ought to have turkeys shaking off in open areas after fly-down like black Labs following wet retrieves.

I can live without the predicted wind, which has just picked up outside, and which also takes your ears away a little as you try to call and work birds to your setup. Not completely, just a bit. A Saturday opener is what it is, I suppose. Useless speculation as to how many folks ponied up $20 (resident fall permit), or $47 (nonresident) dogs me. "You worry too much about that s---," a friend likes to point out.

Five weekdays will follow in the short six-day offering, M-F, 10/15-19.

Stay tuned . . .


Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's All Good, Right?

Hunting pheasants on public land is a bit like casting to planted trout: it feels pretty good in all the obvious ways, even though you'd prefer your birds and fish wild given the option. Factor in a bird dog, and the pleasure is in watching that canine find and--in the case of my English setter Radar--point the quarry. Even liberated pen-raised ringnecks run and understand survival. Still, it feels like a preserve hunt, and in some ways it is.

So after I pounded out some copy for a destinations piece this morning, quarreling over parking access in the article for the longest time, I kenneled him up and we hit a spot over in New Hampshire--we weren't alone.

In truth I'll take one migratory woodcock over a brace limit of stocked pheasants, but today we found no 'doodles, and Radar's sweet point on one of the bigger birds couldn't be resisted. Weight in the field vest usually feels pretty good. He also pointed (at my encouragement) a dead cockbird a guy had dropped with a golden BB, one that folded about sixty yards from his muzzle, after first being shot at a third that distance. Lost. Found by my hunting partner. I handed the rooster to the stranger. "You using 6s?" I asked the guy. "7 1/2s," he said. Tad small for ringnecks, but hey . . . it was pretty clear he wasn't after woodcock.

As for our end of things, the little pile of frozen pheasant breasts and legs in the freezer will make a stew one of these days. Ten-bird season limit on the planted ones, and we still have a ways to go . . .


(Steve Hickoff photo)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Writing Life

On any given morning--unless I'm away at some distant hunting camp or running my bird dog Radar or mailing stuff at the post office or filling out a slip at the Fed-Ex building to send something off--I sit down at this desk. This morning I drifted in at 5:30, and immediately commenced to working (that is, after I checked the ALDS and MNF scores, and weather for the day).

Today that work involved a destinations piece, queries for an online site I contribute to, a phone call from a writer bud, other e-notes to other writers and editors (including my wife), some tinkering with a project's book chapter, and time to fix a quick lunch before picking my daughter up at school.

On my return, with mail in hand, I addressed various issues that arrived in that metal box, then put this 'puter to sleep around 5 before helping my little girl with her homework. At 7 p.m., I checked back in, and here I am still an hour later.

Sports (my NFL/NCAA hoops/NBA fandom is not unlike a controlled substance) sometimes helps me re-enter the world, as all my other vices but coffee have been stashed and left behind in the long ago 20th Century.

"Do I have what it takes to be a writer?" students in seminars and others occasionally ask--innocently, for sure. For most, the answer is no, but I offer what encouragement I can. This is certainly the best kind of life for me--crafting articles to pay the bills, selling photos, tinkering with book chapters, teaching an evening or two a week . . . but for everyone? Sure, you'll do fine if you just want to publish something somewhere. Plenty of places for that.

But are you asking me if you can make a living at it? Don't quit your day job, the expression goes. Me, I do fine, but the ticket to the full-time freelance life is volume, quality, and speed of turnaround. My newspaper columns are due every week, and the magazine deadlines--along with the online material--have a broader window of conclusion. Books take longer, often a year, but surely four or five months at minimum.

Still, I make my own hours--so long as the work is done, in process, emerging into something I can sell to an editor.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wild Turkey and Woodcock

If you made me sign off on a contract that only allowed for the hunting of one thing, I'd make my choice the wild turkey. After all, it's a gamebird you can actually talk to . . . c'mon, that's a slam-dunk decision.

If you asked me my second choice sometime in October, on a day I'm not hunting fall turkeys, it would likely be the woodcock, with a bird dog at my side of course. All this makes no sense to the person who bases value on size, as the former weighs far more, and the latter is lucky to go eight ounces wet. And yeah, I enjoy waterfowl hunting, and ruffed grouse, and many of the other options, especially if gun dogs or birds are involved. And yeah too, I know you can call to quackers and honkers, but don't tell me that's the same as working a spring gobbler or kee-keeing a fall turkey to your setup position.

In the end though there's something special about the here-and-gone quality of the so-called timberdoodle, their strange yet beautiful appearance, the twitter they make on flushing, the pleasant upland places we hunt them in (the "Junkyard Cover" where my Radar once pointed a dozen different birds in less than an hour notwithstanding), and the bird dogs we go afield with like my boy setter in such leaf-whispery October and early November northeastern locations.

I carry a little piece of paper in my wallet every fall listing the woodcock seasons in the states I hunt in road-trip mode. This year, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York all offer Oct. 6-Nov. 4 as inclusive start to finish dates. Only Maine is the exception, running their season from Oct. 1-Oct. 31 (no Sunday hunting). Daily take (3) and possession limits (6 per state) are the same.

Call me crazy, but I often stop one short of the 'doodle limit at a brace of birds, points and twittering flushes ongoing if we're lucky that day. Often we see none, just the chalk splatters left after their departure . . .

And if we're trying to find a turkey flock, I flat out ignore them.


(Woodcock photo/copyright Steve Hickoff)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

PA Game News

As a Keystone State native, the cover of this August 1975 issue of Pennsylvania Game News really takes me back. A heavy dose of nostalgia, as with the beer ads mentioned some posts ago. PGN is one of those publications you would find stacked and collected at hunting camp, or simply kept at home on an endtable for quick reading. That's still the case, no doubt, especially in northcentral PA where I grew up. You'll note the emphasis on fall turkey hunting, and a gobbler at that. Great stuff.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter’s Handbook

My "Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (240 pp.; 150 color photos) was just released last month by Stackpole Books. I'm happy to say that between my seminar appearances from Maine to Kansas, phone calls, and both radio and magazine interviews, there's been some steady interest.

In the book, I examine fall and winter turkey behavior and vocalizations. I also provide details on locating, scouting, and calling autumn wild turkeys, with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition. Also discussed here is the strategy of hunting turkeys with dogs by using them to flush flocks before hunters call scattered birds back to their concealed setup. As a bonus, the material on firearms, ammunition, and archery tackle will benefit all turkey hunters—fall, winter, or spring.

To all of you who've bought the book: thanks. Others can contact me at for further information.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nutshell: New Hampshire Hunting Seasons

Get that calendar out and start blocking off days . . . NH blackpowder season falls during the peak rut; waterfowl seasons are posted elsewhere:

Archery: Sept. 15-Dec. 15 (closes Dec. 8 in WMU A)
Youth Deer Weekend: Oct. 27-28
Muzzleloader: Nov. 3-Nov. 13 (opens Nov. 5 in WMU A)
Firearms: Nov. 14-Dec. 9 (closes Dec. 2 in WMU A)

BLACK BEAR: Sept. 1 (end varies by WMU)

GRAY SQUIRREL: Sept. 1-Dec. 31 (Closed in WMUs A, B and C1)

RUFFED GROUSE: Oct. 1-Dec. 31

WOODCOCK: Oct. 6-Nov. 4

MOOSE: Oct. 20-28 (by lottery only)

Archery: Sept. 15-Dec. 15 (Closed in WMU A)
Shotgun: Oct. 15-19 (in certain WMUs only)

SNOWSHOE HARE: Oct. 1-March 15 or 31 (end dates and bag limit varies by WMU)


Monday, September 24, 2007

Outdoor Life Road Tour: Kansas City

Just in from Kansas City and the Outdoor Life "Road Tour" last night . . . some highlights of the trip:

Kids running box and glass friction turkey calls at our encouragement while their parents looked on. In several instances, one or the other adult said: "Grandpa has one of those." (Dad didn't in both cases, nor did mom.) I suggested that they make great stocking stuffers, realizing the first time I offered that notion it was likely Santa's secretive business; better than a plush toy that repeatedly utters psycho-babble . . .

Talked to one teenage kid who kept circling around our booth inside the Cabela's store. Turns out he was a turkey hunter, and he wanted to know more about hunting fall flocks. After learning also owns a mixed-breed dog (Shar Pei/Chow) that flushes the big birds, we talked quite a bit about that tradition, covered extensively in my recent book, "The Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (Stackpole). It's an approach that's legal in Kansas and many other states (the dog finds and flushes flocks before the hunter attempts to call those scattered birds back to the blind where s/he and the canine are concealed). Makes me optimistic when I have a conversation like this. Here's hoping he and his buddies have some great hunts this fall.

Barbecue at a downtown Kansas City eatery/gas station with F&S/OL/SB Sales Development Manager Chris Jette, along with our new buddy Stuart--a KC police officer and recent sweepstakes hunt winner--and gear guy Peter B. Mathiesen. Apart from doing a great job at sales development, Brooklyn boy Jette knows everyone in the competitive eating world, and can hold his own as well. Rock on, Kitchen. Rock on.

This Steelers lifer and NFL fan got so caught up in the Browns-Raiders game on one of the many televisions at the Cleveland airport that I nearly missed my plane back to New England. Seems my watch decided to stop at 6:10, then restart and drag again at 6:15, and again at 6:15, and . . . it was 6:15 the longest time as I glanced at my wrist between commercial breaks (duh!). Second sense told me the 7:10 flight was closer than that.

"What time is it?" I said to the Continental attendant as she stood by the closed ramp door at Gate D7. "6:57," she replied . . . "I'm on that flight," I smiled, "my watched stopped! I like Cleveland but want to sleep in my own bed tonight." Whoever you are, thanks for letting me on after last call . . .

All's well that ends well.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

View From Here

The thermostat creaked into action, and the baseboard heater ticked on, as it heated up the house this morning with the deck thermometer reading dead on at 40 degrees. Nearly fired up the woodstove before that, and might tonight . . .

Meanwhile, it looks like the Heartland is still locked in summer mode. I'll be talking about fall turkeys at the Kansas City, Kansas Cabela's store soon as part of Outdoor Life's "Road Tour," leaving New England's early fall and heading into a lingering faux July . . .


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Enjoy After the Hunt

The new Miller High Life box stirs up some nostalgia for those HUNTERS WELCOME signs that used to stand posted outside roadside taverns during my Pennsylvania years . . . I'm told sales also benefit the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, and Whitetails Unlimited, as suggested by the busy colorful packaging. All this aside, it's been a decade or so since I enjoyed a real beer of any kind after any sort of hunt--the occasional N.A. brew notwithstanding . . . I do know one thing though, my old friend the fuzzy-headed, pre-dawn hangover can R.I.P. for all I care. I'm too busy climbing a ridge toward roosted birds or out with my English setters most of the time to notice what I missed the night before. Cool looking box though, for sure . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Year In Review

One of my professional writer's organization memberships just came forward with a credentials audit, a regular feature to maintain the integrity of its members . . . as a result I was asked to review my publications over the past year. Here's the skinny on that effort . . .

Stackpole Books published my Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook last month (240 pages/150 photos).

Additionally, in the previous 12 months, I also sold 52 “New England Afield” newspaper columns (Foster’s Sunday Citizen).

I placed well over 200+ photographs in publications such as my recent book, my newspaper space, and assorted outdoor magazines.

I published 19 magazine features in the past year (most of them at 2,000 wds. an article), and in no particular order . . . Outdoor Life (two feature articles), Turkey Call (five features), Turkey & Turkey Hunting (four features), Turkey Hunting Strategies (two features), Get in the Game (one feature), N.H. Wildlife Journal (one feature), Ruffed Grouse Society Magazine (one lyrical essay), Realtree Waterfowl Special (two features), and Realtree Turkey Special (one feature). I forgot to list the RGS piece in my official review, but hey . . .

In the interest of journalistic integrity, three of these fine magazines have since ceased publication, though I now write for two new markets not on the list . . .

Oh yeah, I also sold 55 Internet articles on hunting and fishing as well.

Total? One book, 126 articles, and well over 200+ photos.

--Steve Hickoff

Kittery Trading Post Book Signing/Talk Today!

And Sunday . . .

The dates and times at their Route 1, Kittery, Maine, KTP location:

Friday, Sept. 7: 1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

The topic: Fall turkey behavior and vocalizations, locating, scouting, and calling . . . along with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition.

I'll also be signing copies of my Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Old School

I'm fall turkey hunting four states this fall between the mid-September and mid-December period of time, and carrying five tags all told . . . one option is bow-only, but that turkey season lasts a generous, low-key 101-days (New Hampshire). With any luck I'll be able to go along with tag-carrying buds too, before and after I use my handful, assuming I do. It's all good.

Five tags. Several thousand road miles to come.

Our fall turkey tradition evolved out of a period of time when resources seemed limitless (as indicated by the image). Still, I have to wonder: What the heck was it like living at that time? Moreover, what was it like to be part of that particular hunt? (Which no doubt resembled many back then.) Such a take wasn't illegal at all, as modern game management had yet to develop . . . fact is, this model has only been achieved as of the late twentieth century, and we're still tweaking it as other challenges arise in the twenty-first.

These are the good old days of turkey hunting, folks.

--Steve Hickoff

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Maine Hunting & Fishing

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Despite a national downward trend in hunting and fishing license sales over the past ten years, Maine is bucking the trend, with hunting licenses stable, and fishing licenses increasing over that same ten-year span.

“Maine is known as a destination for hunters and anglers, and even though fewer licenses are being sold nationwide, more people are choosing Maine as a place to hunt or fish,” said Roland D. Martin, Commissioner, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

1n 1996, there were there were 267,158 licensed anglers in Maine. In 2006, that number grew to 279,262, an increase of nearly 5%. In 1996, Maine had 210,183 licensed hunters, and in 2006, that number was 209,165, a decrease of one half of one percent. Over that time, the sale of hunting and fishing licenses across the nation dropped 15%.

(News release material sent to this desk.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sunday, September 2, 2007

S.I.'s NFL Predictions

Not sure why I read this stuff but I do . . .

S.I. has my Steelers going 8-8 (same record as last year). Creative thinking there, folks. (Do I need to remind anyone that Pittsburgh had the best '07 pre-season record in the NFL at 4-1? Yeah, I know, it doesn't count, but I am counting, and we're winning so far.)

What finish is S.I predicting? They've put the Colts-Chargers in the AFC Championship game, and the Saints-Eagles in the NFC deal, with New Orleans meeting San Diego in Super Bowl XLII and winning it.


--Steve Hickoff

Kittery Trading Post Hunting Seminars/Book Signings

I'm talking about fall and winter turkey hunting, and signing copies of my new turkey book, "Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook" (Stackpole), this coming Friday, September 7 & Sunday, September 9. The times: Friday: 1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m., and Sunday: 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. The talk will include wild turkey behavior and vocalizations, locating, scouting, and calling along with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition. See you there . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Hoppe's No. 9 Aromatherapy

My Foster's Sunday Citizen newspaper column from July 29 presented the following tongue-and-cheek lead anecdote regarding aromatherapy:

"Nearly a decade ago my wife and I sat in a birthing class as the new age instructor spoke of aromatherapy, passing various scented ointments and assorted fragrances among the group of us parents-to-be. These, she told us, might be used to handle the rigors of delivery (over 13 hrs. in our particular case, all done without aromatherapy, though caffeine played a role in my case as the pinch-hitting nurse . . . but I digress).

Yes, I behaved just fine in our little seminar. My then-pregnant wife on the other hand remarked with a conspiratorial whisper: 'Your version of aromatherapy is Hoppe’s No. 9.'

Say what?

You folks who handle hunting firearms, and shoot sporting clays for pleasure just nodded and possibly laughed. Don’t know Hoppe’s? It’s the storied gun-cleaning solvent used to remove anything from rust, powder, lead or metal fouling from your favorite firearm. It’s been around forever (1903, in fact), and the sweet smell of it after an October bird hunt provides a mix of nostalgia which takes me back to my teenage hunting years [even the recent spring turkey season].

Any warm and fuzzy feelings stirred up for you hunters? No doubt. All sportsmen and outdoors types associate certain smells with their time hunting, fishing, hiking, whatever."

Funny thing is, a handful of random online "aromatherapy" sites have linked this outdoors column, which is surely an ironic twist of fate. Wonder if they actually read it?

--Steve Hickoff

Last Year's N.H. Fall Turkey Season

According to the 2006 N.H. Fish & Game Wildlife Report: "The first-ever limited fall shotgun turkey season, October 16-20, 2006, saw 824 hunters purchase the $11.00 permit and harvest 122 turkeys (81 hens and 41 gobblers) from the 8 WMUs open to fall shotgun hunting in the western half of the state.

"Given that the total area open to hunting measured 3,347 square miles, this represents a harvest of only one turkey per 27.4 square miles. The modest harvest of 122 turkeys was only 3.4% that of the May 2006 spring season and will have little impact on the state’s turkey population. A total of 208 turkeys (120 hens, 88 gobblers) were registered during the 2006 fall (September 15-December 15) archery turkey season.

"The statewide population estimate as of August 2006 was 33,000 wild turkeys . . . Turkey numbers continue to show annual growth in northern and eastern areas of the state."

--Steve Hickoff

(National Wild Turkey Federation courtesy photo)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ah, September

The Labor Day tourists that clogged the northbound arteries of I-95 all day yesterday likely see this northern New England weekend as the end of something, while some of us know it's just the beginning.

For the record, I did not hop the border to the N.H. side to squirrel hunt this morning, though it was cool enough, for sure . . . part of me wanted to, but instead I wrote about fall turkeys for one of my markets, and checked out my bookmarks online.

Sports, and hunting: In short, the Steelers look sharp at 4-1 (though that pre-season slate is unfortunately wiped clean), the Celtics have a decent group on paper that is either the best men's league team in the country, or a real-time contender, and wild turkeys seem to be everywhere. The Red Sox are sliding (just 5 games ahead of the Yankees as I write this), but you can't have everything . . .

Writing: I've one book project underway, and another I'll likely sign on for this month. My magazine assignments are going out steadily, and my "New England Afield" newspaper space (Foster's Sunday Citizen) offers a regional foundation in this my tenth year of providing column/photo content--their online links to my column often appear internationally as well. Just Google my name and check it out . . .

Seminars, signings, and classes: I'll be talking fall turkeys and signing books next week at the Kittery Trading Post's Septemberfest, and other venues as well this autumn. I'm teaching two Granite State College writing courses that will get me out of the home office a couple nights a week as well.

Gotta run now though . . . I smell bacon frying in the kitchen.

--Steve Hickoff

Thursday, August 30, 2007

N.H. Gray Squirrel Season Opens Sept. 1

New Hampshire's gray squirrel season opens this Saturday, Sept. 1, and will run through Dec. 31 (five daily limit; no season limit; no hunting in WMUs A, B or C1, nor in parks or cemetaries). The arrival of this season (offered early in NH to encourage so-called "youth hunting" opportunities before others commence) always brings to mind my native north-central Pennsylvania squirrel hunting.

It's a pleasant game of sitting ("stand hunting") near available food sources (oak or hickory stands), with your back to a broad-trunked tree (an oak maybe), and waiting there for your quarry to appear at the top of a tree where it hid on your approach (um, say in an oak or hickory) before making its way down to the ground, and hopefully in range. Also they simply bound by during their feeding forays.

As a result, you can also "still hunt" squirrels successfully by padding along game trails and listening and watching for nut-cutting activity, which by the way is fully underway on my three acres of southern Maine (hickories in this case).

Daybreak and before dusk activity is often steady. There are plenty of recipes available in game cookbooks, even early editions of The Joy of Cooking. And no, it doesn't taste like chicken. It is edible, especially in Brunswick stews or the like . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(Courtesy photo)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Seminar: Fall and Winter Turkey Hunting

Though it hit 95 degrees F. in southern Maine this afternoon, I'm signing copies of my new turkey book, Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook (Stackpole), and talking about fall and winter turkey hunting on Friday, September 7 & Sunday, September 9.

The times:
Friday: 1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

The talk will include wild turkey behavior and vocalizations, locating, scouting, and calling along with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition.

The ONLY downside of the whole deal is that I won't be able to meet up with our Steelers crowd at the Scoreboard Lounge on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth, N.H. until halftime or so of the opening day game with the Browns . . . hope to see you at either venue!

--Steve Hickoff

Friday, August 24, 2007

Turkey Dogging Officially Legalized in Maine

Maine has finally included language on their website regarding fall turkey regulations that affirms that dogs are indeed legal. New Hampshire previously posted the legalization of dogs for fall turkey hunting--for the sake of flushing flocks--this summer. Here in New England's deer, bear, and moose country, the turkey hunting tradition is still emerging and evolving, especially as fall hunts go. Maine's 6-day fall firearms turkey season (Oct. 13; Oct. 15-19) will be the first of its kind in modern times.

On a related note, turkey hatches "here" (being Maine and New Hampshire) have ranged from late May (the earliest hen and poults I saw) to the third week of July (the latest I've noted). Contacts in New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and even Virginia confirm multiple brood sightings, and that their sense is we've had a decent hatch.

Now while it's true generalizing in terms of good and bad hatches is difficult, it's pretty clear we'll have turkeys out there to hunt this fall. Add to this group all those jakes you saw in the spring, birds that now wear 5- to 7-inch beards. These super jakes are always fun to hunt, often responsive to calling, and yes you'll even hear them gobble and see them strut when afield. This pecking order behavior will let you witness fights as male turkeys attempt to establish dominance. Let's not forget about broodless hen flocks, which in my experience, are sometimes among the most difficult turkeys you'll hunt.

--Steve Hickoff

(Photo Steve Hickoff)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Writing Life

One of the realities of writing as a specialist on a particular subject is that you craft a lot of material in the off-season--true for the generalist with a specific advance assignment too, but the volume of output is likely much less. Magazine editorial calendars are set in place in advance of issue appearances, a fact that readers don't likely meditate on all that much. They buy the mag and read it. Period. No complaints here as any of this goes. I'm happy to think and write about wild turkeys year-round.

As an example of this, I ordered my New York State small game and turkey permit online this morning as the Oct. 1 season approaches, and also began a spring feature article for a turkey magazine. I'm planning for the fall of '07 as a hunter, and the spring of '08 as a writer. On Monday, I sent a different turkey feature (spring emphasis) to a different national magazine. You get the idea. I'm also currently working on a book manuscript (Turkey Calls and Calling) due to the publisher by May 1, 2008 . . .

One of the realities of being a so-called specialist is that one often has generalist markets as well. As a longtime content producer for several different Sunday newspapers, I write about both mallard and monarch butterfly migrations. That's cool too, as the audience is often broad, composed of hardcore hunters and those who don't.

My newspaper page subjects this year have included ice angling, fly tying, porcupines, bird dogs, bowhunting deer, waterfowling, and in one column I'm writing now, books and websites worth checking out.

Every now and again a student or reader will ask me if I think they have what it takes to become a writer. Depends on whether you want to publish at a casual pace, or write and sell magazine articles, newspaper columns, books and photographs on a steady basis. I do the latter. You might want to opt for the former. It's the best kind of life possible for me, but I doubt it is for everyone.

Are you obsessive-compulsive about your desire to craft words into sentences? Do you love the language, and enjoy the revision process? Do you have a passion about something (i.e. wild turkeys, etc.), so much so that your television viewing is limited to just sports in the evening and on weekends as a way to unwind? (Note my Steelers schedule posting.) Are you thick-skinned and also immune to inflated forms of flattery? In any one day as a full-time freelancer I am both knocked down and picked up, email depending. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

--Steve Hickoff

Friday, August 10, 2007

Buy This Magazine!

I've got a turkey dogging feature in the Fall '07 issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine, pictured here--found on newsstands everywhere . . .

Proposed New Hampshire Waterfowl Seasons


CONCORD, N.H. - The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department will hold a public meeting on proposed season dates and bag limits for the 2007 waterfowl hunting season on Tuesday, August 28, at 6:30 p.m., at Fish and Game headquarters on Hazen Drive in Concord. Comments at the meeting will be considered in finalizing New Hampshire's 2007 waterfowl season dates. 

"Across the continental, duck populations had a good year for most species, so liberal seasons will be allowed again this year," said Edward Robinson, a waterfowl biologist with N.H. Fish and Game. "Migrant Canada goose populations continue to do well, but a late spring in the Arctic will result in below-average production, so seasons will stay the same as last year."

Robinson noted that in New Hampshire, Fish and Game's spring surveys showed good numbers of breeding mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese. The breeding number of black ducks was at an all-time low. Waterfowl production is anticipated to be average or slightly below average this year because of heavy rain and cool temperatures that occurred during the hatch, especially in southern areas.

New Hampshire's proposed waterfowl season is very much like last year's. N.H. Fish and Game is proposing a 60-day duck season with a six-bird daily limit for the 2007 season. Fish and Game also recommends continuing split seasons, including both ducks and Canada geese, in both the inland and coastal zones to allow early and late hunting opportunities: 

* The Inland Zone season (ducks, mergansers, coots, Canada geese) would open on October 3 and run through November 11; then reopen from November 21 through December 10.

* The Coastal Zone season would open on October 4 and run through October 14; then reopen November 21 through January 8.

* Proposed bag limits will include: mallards - 4; wood ducks - 2; Canada geese - 2; hooded mergansers - 2; black ducks - 1; as well as other species restrictions.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

Stackpole Books has just issued my Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook (6 x 9 softcover; 240 pages; 150 color photos). Here you'll find in-depth information on the rich history of our tradition, wild turkey vocalizations, turkey calls and calling, scouting, using dogs to find and flush autumn flocks, plus my take on archery tackle, firearms, ammo, safety sense, youth hunting, and the future of fall and winter turkey hunting. End matter suggests additional readings, and outdoor industry information. For more details, please contact me here by email, or directly at 207.439.9119.

--Steve Hickoff

(Book cover photo John Hafner)

Maine Turkey Hatch Update

Locally, the first Pine Tree State turkey hatch I noted came off the nest the last week of the Maine spring gobbler season (May 28 or so, while I was still pursuing the longbeard that eventually beat me), and most recently a reader sent a trail-cam pic of birds that appeared to be just several weeks old, hatched in mid July by the looks of it. There's a group up the road that seems to haunt a shady roadside creek near a new housing development, that is when the flock isn't on land I call "The Back 40." All of this is the usual indication that brood hens in one particular geographical area nest over a broad period of time . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule

Date, Opponent, & Time--
8/5: New Orleans, 8 p.m.
8/11: Green Bay, 7:30 p.m.
8/18: @ Washington, 8 p.m.
8/26: Philadelphia, 8 p.m.
8/30: @Carolina, 8 p.m.

Date, Opponent & Time--
9/9: @Cleveland, 1 p.m.
9/16: Buffalo, 1 p.m.
9/23: San Francisco, 1 p.m.
9/30: @ Arizona, 4:15 p.m.
10/7: Seattle, 1 p.m.
10/14: Bye Week
10/21: @ Denver, 8:15 p.m.
10/28: @ Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
11/5: Baltimore, 8:30 p.m. (MNF)
11/11: Cleveland, 1 p.m.
11/18: @ New York Jets, 1 p.m.
11/26: Miami, 8:30 p.m. (MNF)
12/2: Cincinnati, 8:15 p.m.
12/9: @ New England, 1 p.m.
12/16: Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
12/20: @ St. Louis, 8:15 p.m.
12/30: @ Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Maine's Fall Wild Turkey Hunting Season

Several of you have asked, and here's what information the state sent me just yesterday on the Maine fall wild turkey hunting zones, regulations, and so on:

Zone 1 (Archery Only*): (WMD's 15, 16, 17, 20, 24, 25, 26) - October 6, 2007 through October 20, 2007
Zone 2 (Archery Only*): (WMD's 21, 22, 23) - September 27, 2007 through October 26, 2007
Zone 3 (Shotgun Only**): (WMD's 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25) - October 13, 2007 through October 19, 2007

Bag and Possession Limit: One Wild Turkey either sex, any age.

Hunting Hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hours after sunset.

Note: A Fall Wild Turkey Hunting Permit is required in addition to a hunting license that allows hunting of big game or an archery license.

*Archery Only - An archery license is required to hunt during the Fall Wild Turkey season in Zones 1 and 2.
**Shotgun Only - A hunting license that allows hunting of big game with firearms is required to hunt during the fall Wild Turkey season in Zone 3. Only shotgun gauges 10 through 20 using shot sizes 4 through 6 may be used to hunt Wild Turkey in Zone 3.

Resident Fall Wild Turkey Permit - $20.00*
Nonresident Fall Wild Turkey Permit - $47.00*
*Plus agent fee.

Legal Hunting Time: 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

For you inquiring turkey doggers--likely nonresidents, with the exception of this blogger who road trips to New York and Vermont annually with his dogs--there's still no official word on legalizing that strategy in Maine, though it was in the mix of discussion heading into this change.

I'll keep you posted.

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

First Shot

New Hampshire's fall turkey season begins Sept. 15. Last night I tinkered with and tweaked my new Hoyt Vectrix XL bow. This morning I annointed it with a nock point, fetched the Black Hole archery target from the garage, and had at it. If this first shot at 20 yards is a hint of things to come, bring it on.

--Steve Hickoff

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August, Looking Ahead

In about a half hour Kevin Garnett--just acquired by the Celts in an unprecedented 7-player deal, and newly appointed by the media and fan base as the savior of a once-floundering franchise--will throw out the first pitch during the Sox-O's game down at Fenway.

But if that isn't crazy enough, all the wild turkey contacts I talk to here in Maine, and across the board in NH, VT, and NY State, are speaking in terms of a super hatch. Fifteen turkeys and three hens. Ten poults and a hen. Etc. Etc. For the fall turkey man, that's all the news you want going into September and beyond . . . The spring '09 season ought to be exceptional as well as longbeards go . . . even '08 if you don't think twice about taking a spring jake.

From what I've seen locally, that's absolutely true, as I found yet another southern Maine flock as recently as this morning. Ironically, my buds down south are talking just the opposite: rainy nesting periods yielding poor results.

For me it'll be New Hampshire, New York, Maine and Vermont, just five tags (not counting hunts with buddies as they try to get birds--it's all good!), but the inclusive time period--if you count NH's bow-only opportunities that I hunt every year--is Sept. 15-Dec. 15. No complaints here as that 101-day season goes . . . factor in the hatch--and the possibility that three proven gunners (Pierce, Allen, and Garnett) will actually concentrate on playing the kind of solid fundamental team basketball the NCAA still puts out (and the, ahem, Spurs)--this ought to be an interesting fall . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(N.W.T.F. photo)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Publication Update

My Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook is due out shortly, while my current book project--Turkey Calls and Calling--is slated for Spring '09 publication (both from Stackpole Books).

I'm also currently working on a number of spring turkey hunting features, specifically two for Outdoor Life, and as many for Turkey & Turkey Hunting, plus work for many online industry markets (web content primarily). Just finished a New England destinations roundup for Cabela's Outfitter Journal last week (Jan-Feb. issue). Check out my weekly Sunday column and photo support with Foster's Sunday Citizen as well (my tenth year writing for that space). I wrote about spiders last week, and aromatherapy in the form of Hoppe's No. 9 today . . .

Look for my piece on turkey dogging in the Fall issue of T&TH, and e-mail me with any questions you might have about this traditional pursuit that is getting a lot of interest of late as seasons expand around the country. I've a feature on fall turkey flocks about to appear in Turkey Call magazine as well (Sept.-Oct. issue), and one on fall turkey hunting due out from N.H. Wildlife Journal soon . . .

Apart from this, I'm teaching two courses for Granite State College this summer, specifically the Writing Process and American Popular Culture.

--Steve Hickoff

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

Stackpole Books is issuing my Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook in August (6 x 9 softcover; 256 pages; 150 color photos). Here you'll find in-depth information on the rich history of our tradition, wild turkey vocalizations, turkey calls and calling, scouting, using dogs to find and flush autumn flocks, plus my take on archery tackle, firearms, ammo, safety sense, youth hunting, and the future of fall and winter turkey hunting. End matter suggests additional readings, and outdoor industry information. For more details, please contact me here by email, or directly at 207.439.9119.

--Steve Hickoff

(Book cover photo John Hafner)

New York State Turkeys

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provided the recent excerpts on their ongoing turkey management. As a longtime nonresident fall and spring turkey hunter visiting the state, such news release information is always of interest. Some highlights:

"New York is one of the premier states in the country for wild turkey hunting and this was another exciting year for wild turkey management and research in New York. In 2006, DEC staff initiated a new winter flock survey and began the first major assessment of turkey survival since the 1970s. The spring season saw the highest harvest in 3 years, followed by a challenging nesting season where cool, wet weather negatively impacted nest success. This decline in productivity was reflected in the fall hunting season where harvest figures were the lowest since 1992. What follows are some highlights of wild turkey research and management from 2006 and a forecast for the Spring 2007 season.

"Wild Turkey Banding Study - In January 2006, DEC began a four-year wild turkey banding project designed to estimate harvest and survival rates of male wild turkeys (gobblers) in New York. This study is being done in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, researchers from Pennsylvania State University, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. In winter 2006, DEC banded 296 gobblers and 81 (27%) were reported taken by hunters during the 2006 spring season. Several birds were taken more than 20 miles from their winter capture location.

"In winter 2007, DEC staff and volunteers banded another 381 gobblers, far exceeding the annual statewide goal of 300 birds. Returns from the spring 2007 hunting season will be analyzed by researchers at Pennsylvania State University to further examine harvest rates, harvest reporting rates, and movements of birds across the state landscape. DEC thanks all of the volunteers and cooperating landowners for their invaluable assistance in the field. This project would not be possible without them.

"Spring Harvest 2006 - The estimated statewide turkey harvest in spring 2006 was approximately 27,750 birds, the highest since 2003. The ratio of jakes (juvenile males) to toms (adult males) in the spring harvest was approximately 1:1. This is the highest proportion of young turkeys relative to adult birds since 1995, and likely a reflection of excellent production in summer 2005 and a mild winter in 2005-06.

"Youth Hunt 2006 - DEC established a special youth hunt for turkeys in 2004. More than 5,000 junior hunters have taken to the woods each year with their adult companions to take advantage of this special opportunity. In spring 2006, despite rainy weather on both days of the youth hunt, over 6,000 junior hunters harvested about 1,300 birds. This was the highest harvest since the youth hunt was established. Results of a post-hunt survey conducted by DEC indicated that the hunt was once again very well received by the junior hunters and their adult mentors.

"Summer Productivity 2006 - the Department conducts a special survey annually during the month of August to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the state. This index allows the Department to gauge reproductive success in a given year and predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

"In 2006, the number of flocks reported was lower than in 2005, and the average number of poults per hen was down 27% from 2005 (2.7 vs. 3.7 in 2005). This was well below the 10- year average (1996-2005) of 3.3 for this index. Spring and early summer 2006 were cool and relatively wet in most of the state, and results of the August Survey indicated production was down from last year, probably due to those adverse weather conditions.

"Fall Harvest 2006 - As anticipated based on the below-average productivity, turkey harvest during the 2006 fall season declined about 6% from 2005 to 2006 to 9,202 birds. This is the third straight year of declines in fall harvest despite above-average production in 2005 and a mild winter in 2005-06. Low reproductive success from 2002-04 and again in 2006 likely contributed to declines in fall harvest. Another factor might be a decreasing number of participants. The number of fall turkey hunters has decreased about 29% over the last five years, while the harvest rate remained relatively stable at about 3 birds/100 day's effort."

While hunting with my setter Midge, a buddy of mine and I took two of those 9,202 birds.

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

July: On the Board

My setter Radar is waiting on the hunting seasons to come. For now:

Tips/photos for the Yamaha Outdoors website . . .

State-by-state roundup/photos for Cabela's Outfitter Journal . . .

Two turkey features for Outdoor Life . . .

Several for Turkey & Turkey Hunting as well . . .

An article for . . .

Work on my next book with Stackpole (Spring '09 release) . . .

Weekly columns/photo support for my Foster's Sunday Citizen space . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo/"Radar, Downtime")

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Projects and Publications

Let's see, here in the dog days of summer as my English setters pant in corners of this home office (97 degrees F.!), I'm working on my book Turkey Calls and Calling, which is slated for Spring '09 release by my publisher Stackpole Books. My Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook is forthcoming in August (Stackpole). The author's advanced copy I just received looks super. I'm pleased with it, and I think readers will both enjoy the text, which is written from the heart, and based on direct field experience, plus the color photos throughout.

As articles go, look for turkey features in Turkey Call, Turkey & Turkey Hunting, and N.H. Wildlife Journal come August, plus articles I'm working on for late '07, and into '08 (Outdoor Life, Cabela's Outfitter Journal,, T&TH, and others, including material for the Yamaha Outdoors website--on this, more once we go live).

As usual, you New England readers can check in with me in Foster's Sunday Citizen, where I've contributed material on the outdoors for a decade.

--Steve Hickoff (text/photo)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Winnipesaukee Bronzeback

Came across this old print from about 15 years back while rooting through images here in my office.

--Steve Hickoff

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Family Flock Tracks

Found this set of wild turkey tracks this week in southern Maine: a brood hen with poults.

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

Stackpole Books is issuing my Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook in August (6 x 9 softcover; 256 pages; 150 color photos). Here you'll find in-depth information on the rich history of our tradition, wild turkey vocalizations, turkey calls and calling, scouting, using dogs to find and flush autumn flocks, plus my take on archery tackle, firearms, ammo, safety sense, youth hunting, and the future of fall and winter turkey hunting. End matter suggests additional readings, and outdoor industry information. For more details, please contact me here by email, or directly at 207.439.9119.

--Steve Hickoff

Advanced Planning

Just shipped a fall turkey article I wrote for New Hampshire Wildlife Journal (Sept./Oct. '07 issue), which had me thinking a lot about autumn hunting seasons lately . . . not that that's all that hard.

While some of the other questions of the day include: (1) Will I be able to man up on watching all of NBA Finals Game 1 of The LeBron Show tonight (it'll end around midnight EST), and (2) Should I fish for freshwater trout or saltwater striped bass tomorrow? Likely neither if I'm wiped out from watching hoops . . . still getting my biological clock back in order after turkey season.

Still, calendar plans are underway for fall turkey seasons, starting with Sept. 15, the start of N.H.'s archery-only turkey offering. That'll mean pulling my Hoyt bow off the wall above this computer, and working on that muscle memory all summer, zipping arrows into hay bale-backed targets--after all, style is required when a guy like me shoots under, over, around, and between the legs of wild turkeys in range during the 101-day Granite State season . . .

Oct. 1 will see the New York state fall turkey season commencing on a Monday, and while that month often sees me road tripping there several times, some scheduling issues are in play here on the home front.

I routinely hunt both N.H. and Maine, since the border is 1/4 mi. away from where I type this. This coming autumn, N.H. will once again offer its 5-day weekday shotgun turkey season (the second ever; Oct. 15-19), which coincides with the proposed first ever modern-day Maine fall shotgun turkey season (that previous Sat., Oct. 13, will open the hunt option sources indicate; Sundays are closed here in Maine, and that Monday it'll reopen thru Friday, the 19th). So what's a guy to do? Hunt southern Maine . . . or drive to the westcentral and westernmost Granite State locations where that season is open? Both?

Maybe. I've also got the Vermont firearms turkey opener on Sat., Oct. 20, so yeah, it would be possible to hunt my way over there on Friday the 19th (the last day of NH's gun season for turkeys), then hunt VT. Stay tuned.

At any rate, it's fair to say October will be memorable as usual, and as always, pass way too fast.

--Steve Hickoff

(NWTF photo)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Writing Life

A local college student, who wanted to know more about writing as a career choice, recently queried me by email about my typical day, and I replied:

I rise early (it’s 5 a.m. at the moment), and assess what assignments need attention that day here in my home office. As a Sunday newspaper columnist, longtime national sporting magazine contributor, website content provider, writer who shoots and sells photographs, and outdoors book author, I tend to multitask through the morning. This allows me to complete work on deadline, but also to manage a variety of tasks—that’s essential to a working writer’s approach. Around noon, I take a power nap with one of my English setters, who seem to enjoy this ritual as much as I do. After this, I tend to work on another assignment, or call/email editors, make notes, whatever. At 2:30, I pick my daughter up at school. Some evenings, I teach. The teaching is rewarding in that I get to share what I’ve learned over the years as a writer in my courses. I hunt. I fish. I run the dogs. Honestly, I do little that doesn’t contribute to my career. I tend to work most days of the week. It’s the best lifestyle for me, but not for everyone, I suspect.

I never heard back from her . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

First Sighting

Saw the first southern Maine wild turkey poults this morning. Heard a far-off gobble too. Transition underway . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Haunted By Waters

"I am haunted by waters." That's Norman Maclean's famous last line of his novella A River Runs Through It, of course.

Me too. The Lamprey River once nearly drowned me when this waterfowl hunter tried to retrieve a downed mallard on his own. I thought the half-submerged log extending out into the steady October current would hold me, and it did, sort of. That my waterlogged watch died at exactly 8:47 a.m. indicated something worth noting: namely that it was my watch that bought it, and not this writer. I got the duck, and shimmy-swam back—a fool who had made a successful retrieve. (I can hear you waterfowlers hissing over your coffee and Danish: “Get a Labrador retriever, Hickoff!”)

I’ve caught and released more trout from its water than likely any other in the state of New Hampshire (and eaten plenty too), excluding maybe the upper Connecticut, Isinglass, Stonehouse Pond, and well . . . let’s just say, I’ve caught plenty of fish here. This particular season has been more of a challenge—turkey hunting has gotten in the way, and a guy can only do so much in a day on a steady diet of five hours of sleep a night. Summer’s coming though.

I like how the Lamprey has that serious look of an official river (no creek here), and that anthropomorphized power that surely lets you know it can knock you on your butt if you don’t watch out. Pardon the analogy, but it holds you hostage in many ways.

I used to take my English setter sweetheart Midge, then a pup, along with me when flyfishing its banks for trout, as we were bonding then in all the usual ways. Mixing bird dog puppies and angling isn’t a troubling thing for me—though elitists have occasionally targeted several high profile magazines with letters for running photo essays on the subject (dogs, guys fly fishing with dogs, dogs with trout).

Mostly I remember the catnaps my little white pup and I took in the sun along the Lamprey River banks, my cap over my eyes to shadow out the sun, the muscular tumble and roll of the water within earshot, my sweet girl sleeping her puppy sleep on my chest—now gone just ten years later.

The Lamprey was part of all that.

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Just Walk Away, Walk Away . . .

Maine's spring turkey season ends at noon tomorrow, though this stormy then clearing morning would be my last chance afield . . .

After dropping my daughter off at school, I headed out when the weather started to clear (it had rained hard overnight, with thunder and the usual springtime drama), found a gobbler feeding in a far grassy field, and s-l-o-w-l-y pussyfooted into the woods nearby--my calling raised nothing. The bird was gone by the time I peeked in that field again (I suspected it was now in the nearby woods), so I set up and cold called some more, but got no response. Around 11:20 (should have made the move earlier, turns out), I pussyfooted away some 100 yards or so, and cold called again, thinking maybe that gob had been listening to my racket . . . it roared back from that woods. It and another: the longbeard (has an intense gobble, that one), and the fat jake (gobble is a work in progress) I'd been tangling with since the second week of B, and again this final week.

Well, we'd have to make this snappy, eh, with high noon on the rise . . . I called, they ripped back . . . I moved forward some (the longbeard had come through the woods that way mid-morning on Monday, gobbling hard). They hammered. I stayed quiet, then softly yelped. They were coming, for sure.

I made ready, as one gobbled no more than 40 steps away, but through plenty of green . . . the lead bird, the longbeard, roared to my hard left, there in the field through a lush stand of green and branchy tangle--no shot. He strutted, started to hook around behind me, looking, looking . . . the other bird, the jake, went silent. In the next 20 minutes or so the strutter and his buddy hung up, alternating between 45-50 yards in the field then the woods behind me (I eventually slithered around to face their way)--I heard gobbling, spitting and drumming, but they stayed out of sight the way late-season turkeys sometimes do.

The. Minutes. Passed. Too. Fast. I wear my watch face on the inside of my left wrist for such occasions, and part of me died when I saw the hands hit 12.

It's. All. Good. Arggggggggh.

--Steve Hickoff

Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

My publisher Stackpole Books is issuing my Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook in August (6 x 9 softcover; 256 pages; 150 color photos). Here you'll find in-depth information on the rich history of our tradition, wild turkey vocalizations, turkey calls and calling, scouting, using dogs to find and flush autumn flocks, plus my take on archery tackle, firearms, ammo, safety sense, youth hunting, and the future of fall and winter turkey hunting. End matter suggests additional readings, and outdoor industry contact information. For more details, please contact me here by email, or directly at 207.439.9119.

--Steve Hickoff

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Texas Rio Kills Maine Eastern

How's this for a complete twist on taking virtual spring gobblers?

Attached to a Primos B-Mobile decoy, my April Rio's full fan helped a turkey bud pull in a Maine longbeard to its final strut this morning, a little over an hour north of here as I sat at this desk writing about fall turkeys for a magazine . . .

And if that isn't a little different, I don't know what is.

--Steve Hickoff

Speaking of October . . .

Maine currently offers a fall archery-only turkey season . . . this October shotgun turkey hunt would be the first in modern history.



AGENCY: Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

RULE TITLE OR SUBJECT: Chapter 4 - Hunting: (4.06 Wild Turkey Hunting Season)

CONCISE SUMMARY: The Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is proposing to amend the fall wild turkey hunting season by establishing 6 additional hunting days during the fall season in which wild turkey may be hunted with the use of shotguns in a newly established zone.

A copy of the proposal may be obtained from the Agency Contact Person listed below.


PUBLIC HEARING: None scheduled – one may be requested.


AGENCY CONTACT PERSON: Andrea Erskine, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 284 State Street, 41 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0041; e-mail to

(NWTF photo)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Transition . . . Think Fall

This morning a new old mustard-colored truck (oxymoron?)--all stickered up with the usual pro-hunting affiliations we all belong to--was in "my spot" at "my farm." Almost had a hunch someone would be there with it all ending Sat., and rain forecast for tomorrow. The hunter likely saw that I've been living there lately, and seized the opportunity when I slept in! Next time out there I'll be buying some hay bales for my daily 20 minutes of summer bow shooting . . . I like to have stylish form when I miss New England turkeys in range each fall, doncha know.

Anyhow, I'm clearly in transition here . . . planning fall turkey hunts, and I just pounded out 1,500 wds. on the subject for a state mag. My Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook will be out in August (Stackpole Books). Signed another turkey book contract for Spring '09 release. My wife is away for the next couple days at a Massachusetts workshop, so early hunts are out (5:07 sunrise today). Also I teach an all-day writing class on Sat., the last day of Maine. NH ends tomorrow at noon, my daughter's ninth b'day. Just mowed the yard that has been a jungle of late. Coming to a close on my terms, I guess.

Spring gravy hunts have indeed been excellent this late-season . . .

Legal birds (in both NH & Maine) I've let walk--the wet gobbler head I came up on in range, and found hunched under a tree in the slanting rain (didn't want to sucker punch him that way, and he ran second later). The gobbler I saw drifting slowly away thru the piney woods after I'd called him and his gobbling buddy in (in split-second iffy range), well after they'd eased away from my setup. The shootable fat jake with the 5-in. beard when I wanted his longbeard pard coming up from the rear (50-iffy range). All this marks me as some sort of purist I s'pose, but in truth I just wanted it all to last, or to get another bird in hand my way or no way.

Buddies have tagged birds, and we've had the usual excited conversations. I've put guys on turkeys I've found locally in pass-it-on mode as well, and with some success there--one involved a new hunter and his vet bud (what's with this generosity?). Heard a shot Monday where they were hunting. The two different Maine toms I wanted BADLY but that found a way to escape will stick with me forever. I haven't seen the one since mid month when a hen took him away, but the other was in birdy cover range and gobbling hard just this Monday.

It's all that late-season has to offer. The vest is still packed and ready to go but I'll empty it soon, I reckon--or just leave it that way until Sept. 15, the NH turkey opener (bow only). In a couple two-three weeks, the first poult sightings ought to be seen where I've recently hunted in Maine . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Up early, I got back on those Maine farm birds this morning . . . problem is, I never heard a gobble. Not one. It was an otherwise pleasant morning, not unlike the NH opener back on May 3 when I also heard nothing. Yep, I revisited the scene of yesterday's one-that-got-away setup, and found a little opening the tom used to move from the grassy field edge through the leafed-out edge cover into those dense birdy woods . . . solves that mystery. Again though, my cold calling got nothing going at all. It was as if the light switch was flipped to OFF.

Did hear that crazy lonesome cockbird ringneck crowing for company though . . .

It's been a good season: I started out many weeks ago hunting the snow and sleet of west Texas (you heard right), and have finished out here in northern New England on the edge of what feels like an approaching summer. I've shouldered several super longbeards, have been part of other memorable hunts (my buddy Jonathan Harling's 24# Wyoming Merriams is a good memory as that goes), passed on countless shortbeards, plus even one Maine jake recently that likely goes 15-16 pounds, and wears all of five inches (early '06 hatcher?).

As usual I remember the ones that have outfoxed me as much as the ones that I've tagged: the gobblers that have been in range and somehow slipped away, the toms that flat out beat me when they have only one mistake to make, and don't.

It's all good.

--Steve Hickoff

(Merriams strutter/NWTF photo)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hindsight: Catch and Release, the Sequel

Newly edited shoulda-woulda-coulda version of this Memorial Day morning post sees this turkey hunting blogger ironically move deeper into the woods, and away from the gobbling Maine turkeys to open up a less obstructed area in front of him for more available shooting lanes in order to close the deal by finally using his 8th grade geometry lessons in real life.

Longbeard down. Jubilant hunter. Fade to the plowed farmer's field where the surviving fat jake sprints away toward alarmed Canada geese, field mallards, and crows.

--Steve Hickoff

Catch and Release, the Sequel

It's Memorial Day. You have two fired up late-season Maine wild turkeys gobbling hard, and they're coming to your calls--one bird is on a strip of green grass along a field edge, and one is in thick edge cover--the kind you flush grouse from in October. You can't see either turkey. The green leaf-out is thick, but they are definitely coming. Which bird you you train your shotgun's muzzle on to be ready when that red, white and blue head periscopes up?

I picked the former, then flowed toward the latter . . . in the end, it didn't matter.

Let's back up a bit. Last night it rained hard. By morning it was showery, but threatening to clear--it was the same sort of morning as a dozen Memorial Days ago when I went out a little later, and called a three-bearded New Hampshire gobbler out of a plowed field and into the woods at 20 yards, then closed the deal. Today marked the first day of Maine's last week, when everyone still carrying a tag can go afield . . . I got out around 8 a.m. or so this morning (just as I did in May '95), but found no turkeys in this farmer's field, so I eased ahead to where I'd last worked turkeys back during the second week of B Season.

A little over an hour later I had two gobblers fire up to my cold calling (mouth, box and slate!), then begin to work in to my setup: one coming on the grassy field edge; one coming in through edge cover. My setup would have been a tight shot on the field turkey (10 yards?), and through brushy stuff as the edge cover bird went (30 yards or so, but through branches and sticks) . . . my guess is that these were the same duo I'd dueled with back on May 17: the jake and his longbeard buddy.

Sure enough, movement caught my eye, and the longbeard appeared, taking the path of more resistance . . . he was in range, for sure, but skirting the edge cover opening . . . at not seeing a hen (I'd stopped calling well before that as they approached), he picked up his step to make tracks, and was soon gobbling about 70-80 yards away . . . the jake must have moved through unseen behind him, as the two gobblers fired back at me from that position, then moved off gobbling never to return. Mostly silence then accompanied by the buzzing of mosquitos . . .

Catch. Release. Wonder how this Maine tag would taste lightly grilled with some barbeque sauce?

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

Since some of you have been kind enough to ask, my Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook will be published by Stackpole Books in August. Feel free to contact me for more information at that time. I've also just signed on for a second turkey title with Stackpole, and a Spring '09 release is planned . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Wither Spring?

I woke two minutes before the 4 o'clock alarm the way we hunters do late in the spring turkey season, and made the New Hampshire farm at about perfect time, only to see a big hen in one of the foggy fields a half hour before legal sunrise, a bird that later answered my yelps from that hilly rise, but only in a sort of courtesy way like, "I'm here, right here." (That's put in for all of you who cringe at anthropomorphic references regarding a gamebird with a brain the size of a hickory nut.)

Anyhow, though I pussyfooted around where I had three gobblers hammering just two days ago (two on this side of the river; one on the other), there was silence. It stayed that way as the day warmed (they're calling for 90+ F. on this edge of Memorial Day weekend). I talked to yet another hen later on in the pine-shadowed woods, and as I drove the road to look at the hayed off fields, saw yet another out bugging. No gobblers, no gobbling, at all . . .

It was the kind of foggy, steamy, warming morning that used to see me flipping rocks in the shallows to catch softshelled crayfish to use as bait for Pennsylvania river smallmouth and trout . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pit Stop

Slept in until 6:30 this morning, which might be early for some, but not you turkey hunters, eh.

Changed my truck's oil, shipped photos to a client, caught up with an editor bud, worked on a turkey book project due for spring '09 release, and had an otherwise recuperative day not messing with the late-season gobblers . . .

Feeling that urge, though. Feeling that urge.

--Steve Hickoff

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Still Carryin' . . .

Q.: So how'd it go this morning in New Hampshire?

A.: Good. I saw a pasture corner turkey far off while driving in, took 90 minutes working my way through the woods to get behind the bird, and tried to call it my way.

Q.: Any luck?

A.: Yeah, I called the turkey in, but it was a hen, and she didn't have a gobbler in tow as they sometimes do.

Q.: Did you work any other birds?

A.: Yep, a gobbler in a different location.

Q.: Get him in range?

A.: Yep, in range, but on the other side of the swollen river, and I only heard but didn't see him behind the leafed-out trees.

Q.: Why didn't you wade to the gobbler?

A.: River's pretty high. Just didn't is all.

Q.: What kind of man are you anyway?

A.: A dry one.

Q.: Work any other turkeys?

A.: Yeah, two more gobblers.

Q.: Get one of THEM in range?

A.: Yep, but they skirted the little swamp between us, gobbling but behind heavy greened-up cover, and never stepped into view. I had the safety off the whole time, and several chittering red squirrels told me where they were likely moving by.

Q.: Bad setup?

A.: Maybe, but they were coming hard, and I was pinned down, so there I sat.

Q.: Anything for the rest of the morning?

A.: Yeah I repositioned on the two, even saw one of them easing ahead, but never got them to work all the way in. Walked out at 11:55.

Q.: How long has it been since you tagged a longbeard?

A.: Fifteen days.

Q.: Well that's not bad, eh.

A.: Fine with me.

Q.: I hear you passed on a Maine gobbler last week?

A.: Yep.

Q.: You crazy?

A.: Maybe, but I like to make it last, and I'll hunt Maine next week.

Q.: What are you having there for lunch?

A.: Curry and wild turkey over rice.

Q.: Got any more turkey in the freezer?

A.: Nope, not now, we've eaten the last couple gobblers.

Q.: Better pull the trigger next time then, eh.

--Steve Hickoff

(NWTF photo)

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Few. The Proud. The Rainy-Day Field Sitters.

Friday brought showers. Wind. Even harder rain. Oh sure, I cold called in the usual spots trying to raise a gobbler . . . in some of the same areas I had 'em fired up in yesterday. Man, I got nowhere doing that.

About mid-morning I decided to sit along a cut cornfield. There, under a pine and behind a blind of sorts made by the edge grasses, I watched the spring mallards and Canada geese feed . . . crows had their little group far off, and numerous gray squirrels made their way to and from the woods. At one point, I watched a honker breed another--a first for me. Further off, a rooster pheasant called--unusual since ringnecks aren't common to this particular farm, nor is it a release site. Then again, the Maine contingent responsible for autumn releases contends there is some breeding and nesting activity among these planted gamebirds. But I digress . . .

I sat. I watched. I began to develop a hypothermic chill unrivaled in even the coldest of waterfowl blinds. Still, no turkeys.

Still, it's always good to get out. Maine's spring turkey hunting closes at noon, and I often start to work my way back to the truck a bit early on such days in the event I get something going at the wire. On the path toward the swollen creek, I stopped when red caught my eye--there on the other side; about forty yards away. It was a male turkey, for sure, hunched under a low-lying tree, toughing out the weather.

I crouched to get a better look--beard?--and at that he boogied across the expanse to the far, wet woods. Jake? At a running glance I'd say so . . .

I sat nearby in the rain to finish out the morning. That fool rooster just kept right on a calling . . .

--Steve Hickoff