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Life Got In The Way At Sampson's Bay

Posted by Coalman , 02 June 2012 · 585 views

Life got in the way of Sampson's Bay Turkey Camp 2012. Due to work obligations camp didn't open until the third week of Maine's spring gobbler season. The spring woods were in their summer mode, the leaves were out full. Life also got in the way of others who make the annual pilgrimage. So it was Coalman against the mountain gobblers for a week.

Saturday the 12th found me at the highest point of Camp Mountain's beech ridge. The same five birds that had made their presence known during the preseason were home but they had relocated to the bottom of the mountain in an old cut off.  It took me a half hour to descend to their level. In which time they quit gobbling. This gave me two choices, back out and find other birds or stay on the mountain and learn theses native turkeys on their own ground. I chose to stay on the mountain and day one of my hunt ended with lots of exercise and not another gobble all morning.

Sunday being off limits to hunting in Maine found me listening for birds from the camp yard. I found that the birds that were on the mountain three weeks ago had moved across the road. I heard the birds I hunted yesterday on a whisper from the other side of the mountain. But across the road from camp at least eight birds from every direction greeted the morning with gobbling. In a repeat of 2010 it was decided that Monday morning I'd take the back door into this familiar gobbler lair.

Monday found me in a cut above the Farm. My ears were not disappointed. Gobbles echoed from the trees. I could tell from the gobbling the closest turkeys to me were jakes so I went in a westerly direction looking for their dad. I went to every spot I heard gobbling that morning. My calls were answered in silence. It was a true repeat of Saturday. 9AM found me back to the site of the jake duo. It didn't take long to fire them up. A pleasant surprise was hearing a long mature gobble from across the bog. I’d finally found some birds gobbling on their own and answering my calls. But Mother Nature was on the turkeys’ side. She shut them up by sending down some rain. The bird across the bog was guarding the lower pasture of the Farm. A plan was formulated for Tuesday.

Mother Nature was still on the turkeys’ side Tuesday morning. It poured rain until about 9 AM and I slept in. When the rain quit I chose to visit the Log Pile Field. As I peered into the field I spied four gobblers making their way into the woods. My end around was futile. Nary was a gobble to be heard. Been there, done this before. The only cure is to stay in the woods. When the noon whistle blew it was Gobblers 3 , Coalman nothing.

Even though it never rained Wednesday the cloud cover and humidity made for a very wet day in the woods. The Farm was chosen as the battle ground. Those turkeys must have had forward scouts because I never heard a gobble all morning. It is frustrating knowing the birds are here but silent. Little did I know Thursday would tell me why.

It was back after the quintuplets of Camp Mountain Thursday morning. The first gobble of the morning came at 0445. There was no hesitation from me from the high point this time waiting for them all to wake up. I hastily retreated down the mountain to their Saturday location. By the time I got to them they were on the ground. Two of the gobblers retreated to their respected strutting grounds, each advertizing from their own point. And the three jakes to my left were gobbling to every spring sound. I set up above one of the mature gobblers. He was in the hollow right below me. My first calls were answered enthusiastically by the jake trio. The old gobbler told me where he was but held his ground.  As the jakes closed in on my calling one gobble from the bird below me shut them up.  As a repeat of previous days not another gobble was heard in the logging all morning.

These kinds of turkeys are what attract me to spring gobbler hunting. Just like getting a big buck on a trail camera and deciding this was your quarry for the upcoming season these Camp Mountain turkeys were added to my spring gobbler bucket list.

In order to be at the Camp Mountain turkeys listening spot at daybreak means an 0300 wake up and a ride up the mountain illuminated by the headlights of the four wheeler. Not to mention after the hunt having to climb back up the mountain to retrieve the wheeler. I know a private entrance to the chopping at the bottom of the mountain. My luck seemed to be turning as I drove by the camp at the gate and the landowner was there. I didn’t ask him for permission to enter it was more like pleading for permission. Although he was not a hunter he was amused and honored my request. That visit was two hours long. The landowner turned out to be the honey hole of history surrounding the legends of Camp Mountain. I couldn’t get enough of his stories. He pointed to the house across the street from the Chicken Farm and told me he grew up there. Our conversation ended as the swarms of black flies and mosquitoes forced him back inside his camp. With my parking spot secured it was time to formulate a plan.

Friday morning no light was used as I cautiously crept along the logging trail. My plan was to hike a short ways uphill and be on the turkeys’ level anticipating the first gobble of the morning. After selecting my listen spot I was serenaded by owls in every direction. As the light of day increased three gobblers announced their presence on the adjacent mountain. But where were my birds? After what seemed an eternity I heard the jake trio sound off almost exactly where they were the previous day. And that was the first and last gobble from my side of the hill.  No toms greeted the morning from my level. I stayed around for a while but the visions of the gobblers I heard on the adjacent ridge put me in the find and seek mode. They too never gobbled again after flying down from the roost. At least I got to explore some new country.

There is a field on the other side of the road from Bill’s. With the warm and windy weather I chose to spend the rest of the day with Henrietta standing guard along a back corner of the field. A big stone wall runs along the field edge. While hiding behind it some movement caught my eye. It was a weasel. Curious little fellows they are. The weasel would disappear and then come out and look me over from a new position on the stone wall. Closer and closer it came until poof it was gone. But I did steal its picture.

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After my first series of calls two turkeys appeared along the upper side of the field. The first in line had a red head. Could my time be coming? Both birds were in no hurry to trade words with my decoy. They fed casually down to her. Try as I would I could not see a beard on the tom. Even at 15 feet not a feather of his beard stuck out from his chest. In Maine it has to be a bearded bird. His spurs confirmed he was a jake and he had possibly just lived the luckiest day of his life.  The hammer of the Encore was put back to safe. He would live another day.

Eventually both fed off in the direction they came. But hide as I did along that stone wall the hen had picked me out immediately. In their short stay with me the hen looked me over intensely. She even displayed. Not at the decoy but me. She knew I was out of place but my camouflage passed the test.
Later in my sit I saw a red head coming up from the lower corner of the field headed to Henrietta. Darn if it didn’t turn out to be the same jake. He got another free pass. After another lull a hen also appeared from the lower corner of the field. She wasted no time in her quest. She came up and soundly scolded Henrietta. But her fixation was with me. She paced back and forth clucking and purring. I would look her in the eye and blink and she would act surprised but not scared. I was able to take my phone out and text her picture to my wife. Movement made her cautious but not wary. What a scenario. Here was a hen clucking and purring 15 feet in front of me. I thought she would call the big boy in for sure but noontime came and his majesty made no appearance. I took my face mask off and talked to her. She was still not scared. I took her picture again, texted it to my wife with the subject line, “Help she won’t go away”. Only when I stood up did she get the whole picture. A couple alarm putts and she was on her way.

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This ended another day in my turkey hunting week with only one to go. Tomorrow I would go across the street from camp and come in the back entrance from the Farm.

This being my third year of hunting the Farm I knew where there was a favorite roost in some ancient white pine trees along the bog. Standing above the roost at o’ dark hundred the Farm jakes greeted the day from their usual perch. Maybe just maybe I was wrong and these birds that gobbled very juvenile like just may be a long beard. I crept down to the roost judging my approach from the sound of their roost gobbling. I got all set up in the pines with Henrietta on point. My first call was answered loudly and enthusiastically from a mature bird. Where? As my luck would have it directly opposite me across the bog.  He gobbled to every call but refused to fly over to see me. He was guarding the lower pasture of the Farm field. I knew it was suicide to try and cross the bog along the tote road. But a man has to do what a man has to do and I wasn’t swimming. By the time I reached my destination on the opposite shore my booming gobbler friend was nowhere to be heard. I thought I heard a ghost gobble up by the old farmhouse but I had also heard a few more gobblers as I had talked to the longbeard from across the bog. Surely I could get them to gobble? But it wasn’t to be. Every call was greeted with silence. I know they could hear me. Heck I knew all week the turkey gobblers could hear me but a serious case of lock jaw prevailed. Remember the ghost gobble up by the farmhouse? As I walked back to my truck and was passing the homestead there in the sand in the road were gobbler tracks and wing marks from a strutting turkey. I followed them to my truck. While I was out looking for the Farm gobbler he had walked by my truck. The hen tracks in the sand told me he was busy this morning but did he really need to rub it in?

In recap of the week I heard or saw turkey gobblers’ everyday but Wednesday. Counting the jakes groups there were between fifteen to twenty gobblers within earshot of Sampson’s Bay and none of them wanted to play.

While I didn’t shoot a turkey there was a warm feeling of being successful. Each day was a new adventure. I would consider the land around Sampson’s Bay as semi wilderness. Every footstep needs to be placed solidly. Break an ankle or twist a hip out there and it could be some time before you were rescued. There are very few trails. GPS is your friend. Big kudos to Thermacell as my hunt would not have been the same without its power. My pedometer said I walked 38 miles during the week. I probably called more than four hundred times with only a few answers but I never saw another human presence or footprint in my travels. I hunted by myself all week long but I was never alone.

My thanks go to the Lord for allowing me the time at Sampson’s Bay and for watching over me as I tread on your Mother Earth. Amen!

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