Monday, April 30, 2007

View from April 30

Maine's "A" spring turkey season opened this rainy northern New England morning for hunters with odd-year birth dates. Yep, you heard right. I've told that little management twist to hunting buds around the country, and they all reply with a sort of "Say what?" response. No telling if there are more "A" or "B" season hunters from this office chair. I do know I'm an even-year guy . . . (For more on this subject check out my article "Maine's Spring Gobblers," and photos in the current May-June issue of Turkey Call magazine.)

It's hammer time here at the keyboard, with two articles on the screen at a time before the Granite State's regular spring turkey season opens this Thursday, May 3. (Youth seasons for the two-state area commenced this past Sat., and even ran through yesterday in NH--no Sunday hunting in Maine.)

P.S. As a Steelers fan and Pennsylvania native trapped in New England, I first thought the Randy Moss trade was a joke. Even now a day later I think it's pretty funny in the you've-got-to-be-kidding department.

(Steve Hickoff photo/text)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Scouting All Turkeys

The Maine and New Hampshire youth seasons begin this Saturday, April 28, and while it's been a heckuva long time since I've been called that "y" word, I'm out there scouting anyway. I won't hunt this weekend (my kid likes to fish), but will get out May 3 in New Hampshire when the regular spring turkey season commences. Maine will have to wait until the second week of "B Season" as I'll be out West trying to fool a Merriam's into range.

No matter. Finding them is sometimes as much fun as hunting those turkeys. While out in the southern Maine woods this morning, I heard shuffling in the leaves no more than thirty yards to my right . . . soon a young hen appeared, the first bird I saw then in a group that seemed to be composed of all late-hatch '06 turkeys . . . the jake I got a good look at had no more than a three-inch cigar stub on his chest.

Elsewhere, I've found some longbeards. No telling if they'll be around come May, but that's part of the challenge, too.

--Steve Hickoff

(NWTF photo)

What's In Your Turkey Vest?

Rob Keck,

Six mouth calls
One or two box calls (long and short box)
A trumpet yelper
Tube call
Locator calls (crow call and coyote howler)
Slate, aluminum and glass calls (one of each)
Six strikers
Ratchet pruners
Brown greaseless box call chalk
Sandpaper and emory cloth
Two deer antler turkey totes
Roughing stone for glass call
Toilet paper
Shotgun shells
Camouflage face nets and gloves

Q.: What’s the one thing you feel that you must have in your turkey vest when you go to the woods?

A.: “It’s hard to say, because everything you carry out into the woods is important to have. However, if I have to pick one thing, it would be my box call. I couldn’t leave it at home,” said Keck.

Carl Brown,
NWTF Chief Operating Officer:

10 mouth calls
Two or three box calls
Six strikers
Glass, aluminum and slate calls (one of each)
Locator calls (crow call, owl hooter and coyote call)
Ratchet cutters
Water bottle
Camouflage face nets and gloves
Shotgun shells
Turkey tote bag
Compass or GPS

Q.: What’s the one thing you feel that you must have in your turkey vest when you go to the woods?

A.: “Having a good box call is something I would absolutely want in my vest,” said Brown.

Dr. James Earl Kennamer,
NWTF Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs:

Eight mouth calls
Slate call
Glass call
Four strikers
Three box calls (to provide different pitches)
Sand paper
Locator calls (crow and owl)
Coyote call (when hunting out west)
Leatherman Tool
Two flashlights
Federal shotgun shells (3 inch, #6, 1 7/8 oz loads)
Turkey tote
Hand prunners
Folding saw
Folding knife
Extra face mask and gloves
Chapman chair
Toilet paper
Chap stick

Q.: What’s the one thing you feel that you must have in your turkey vest when you go to the woods?

A.: “I wouldn’t leave out my pruners/saw for cutting shooting lanes. They have made a difference in many hunts for me to make the kill,” said Dr. Kennamer.

Chris Parrish,
Two-time Wild Turkey Bourbon/NWTF Grand National Calling Champion and five-time Champion of Champions:

Four mouth calls
Box call
Slate call
One striker
Locator calls (owl hooter and crow call)
Water and snacks
Two pairs of camouflage gloves and face masks
Tick and mosquito repellent
Two-way radios when hunting with a friend
Cell phone
Rain suit

Q.: What’s the one thing you feel that you must have in your turkey vest when you go to the woods?

A.: “I would say the most important thing other then calls, would be my cell phone, which could save your life,” said Parrish.

Matt Van Cise,
Two-time Wild Turkey Bourbon/NWTF Grand National Calling Champion:

Cherry box call
Crystal call
Aluminum call
Two or three strikers
Clippers to cut brush
Locator calls (owl hooter and crow call)
Several mouth calls
Decoys (couple of hens and a jake)
Extra face mask and gloves
Tick repellent
Safety pins
Water and snacks

Q.: What’s the one thing you feel that you must have in your turkey vest when you go to the woods?

A.: “This is probably a given, but I have to have a diaphragm call,” said Van Cise. “The kill isn’t the most important part to me, it’s communicating with the birds that I love.”

To receive more spring tips for the best hunting tactics or improving your land for more wildlife, click on the NWTF link on this blog, or call the NWTF at 1-800-THE-NWTF.

(Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On the Board

This past Monday, I called in and shot this west Texas Rio twice: once with the 3-1/2 in. Remington Wingmaster HD load of 6s, and again with the self-timer on my digi cam. By the way, that's Big Green's new 870 Max Gobbler leaning on my right shoulder.

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Monday, April 2, 2007

April Update

As national magazine work goes, "Winging It" (an article on shooting flying gobblers) currently runs in the April issue of Outdoor Life (some 300,000 copies in in the Top 10 turkey states). A word or two on that somewhat controversial issue: if you've never had to shoot a second time at a now flying--and possibly crippled--wild turkey you first attempted to anchor while standing, you haven't hunted them enough. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, you need to drop that quarry, period.

My "Turkey Lingo"--a piece on turkey vocalizations--is available in the current issue of Get in the Game (an NWTF publication). "Body Language" (a feature on reading turkey movements) is in the March/April Turkey Call (also the NWTF). You'll find my "Mile High Merriam's" in the Realtree Outdoors Turkey Special as well (on newsstands everywhere). Two features, a half-dozen of my photos, and a big sidebar appear in the current Turkey Hunting Strategies, also in those places you go to grab a coffee and doughnut on your way to roosted pre-dawn birds.

In the near future, my feature on Maine's spring gobblers will run in the May/June issue of the NWTF's Turkey Call. A piece on turkey dogging will appear in the Fall issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting. I'm crafting other assignments as well.

Online you'll find an assortment of my archived turkey hunting material on,,,, and others. Check out Turkey & Turkey Hunting's forum as well ( for some of my commentary there with a number of other writers and avid T&TH readers and turkey hunters.

Readers in central and southern New Hampshire--and southern Maine--will find me in my regular Foster's Sunday Citizen newspaper space as usual.

My Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook (Stackpole Books) is currently in production, and due for an August release. Feel free to contact me at the email listed on this blog for more information as that date approaches . . .

As a writer who teaches, I'm conducting three Granite State College classes this spring as well (, namely Survey of American Literature (11 evenings), the Writing Process (six face-to-face; six online meetings in Blackboard), and an intensive 9-5:30 Nature Writing course on five select Saturdays through June.

On June 3, I'll rest. After all, Maine's gobbler hunting only finally closes the day before--the latest running spring turkey season in the country. Texas, New Hampshire, Wyoming, New York, Vermont, and yes, the Pine Tree State, will get my attention before that.

--Steve Hickoff

(Photo courtesy of Marc Brown)

Georgia Longbeard

My buddy Dodd Clifton e-noted this photo of his fine Eastern gobbler to my inbox this afternoon, with the comment, "Just keeping your readiness level up . . ." Credit Google Earth, his GPS, and that stylish shooting stick (note the standing man's length). Cool stuff, that.

Texas can't come soon enough.

--Steve Hickoff

First Spring Gobble

They were in the white pine woods yesterday morning, on the other side of barbed wire, about an NFL kicker's boot off the farm property I was walking but within definite earshot. A turkey hunter notices this sort of thing instantly. A circling wad of crows kept them gobbling off and on the whole time I was in there.

I won't hunt them until Maine's "B" Season, and likely the second week of it at that, but that's not an issue at this point. If someone else has tagged one of them by then, so be it.

It's the April gobble that also matters.

--Steve Hickoff

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April Fools

April fools? To some, maybe.

True enough, you travel far and wide just to hear a bird gobble.

You wear sleep loss on your face, enjoy the banter of camp breakfasts, neurotically check your vest for hunting gear: ammo, turkey calls, face mask, penlight, and toilet paper.

You nearly close the deal on a tom turkey that does everything you want it to but get into range. You give up just when you should have sat still one minute longer, only to hear the putt-putt-putt of a bright-headed, beard-swinging gobbler legging it away to safety. You devise strategies, rethink what went wrong, sleep four hours a night, and pay dues.

Then the last morning of the hunt, all seems right. You've reached that point of contentment, a sort of twisted bliss, when you resolve it doesn't matter what happens that daybreak in Texas or Missouri or Wherever U.S.A. Your ego isn't an issue . . . getting out one more time is what it's all about. You savor it.

Heck, you like this set up, and when the wild turkey barks back once, then twice to your soft calling, you shut up, sit back, and wait. You're alone, as most of your buddies back at camp have tagged a bird. No forcing the issue this morning. "Pfft-dum" you hear somewhere nearby, easing that quarry closer with a cluck . . . and then, suddenly, there he is: tail in a full fan, chest pushed out, beard stiff, head bright, searching eye black and deep and intense. He's looking for you.

You click the safe off with a pinch, and even that sees the paranoid gobbler drop out of strut . . . looking, waiting long seconds, he pops back into full-fan glory. You savor all that a moment or two longer. Nothing is better than this . . .

Deal done. Longbeard down.

That night you let everybody else tell their stories twice. You, you have your own, and it's running over and over in your mind. You can't stop it, and wouldn't want to if you could.

--Steve Hickoff

(Merriam's gobbler/NWTF photo)