Springtime’s Promise: Vermont Turkey Hunting

Mid-March and the snow is finally melting here in Southern Vermont. Snow drops and day lilies are popping up in every scrap of bare ground in my yard. Birds awaken me in the morning and the creeks and streams are swollen with runoff, the Battenkill near its banks. I have the Battenkill on my mind, dreaming of chucking streamers in April’s high water, then looking for the noses of big wild brown trout during the Hendrickson hatch. But I have something else on my mind too: Turkeys.

Come May first, I (and many others at Orvis) will start the day at 3 AM, heading into the hardwoods and hills of Vermont in search of our springtime gobblers. Right now, I will begin hikes into the woods, scouting for turkey sign, their scratchings and tracks in the snow. In the evenings, I’ll go into the woods near the tall roosting trees and blow an owl or crow call to see if I can “put one to bed.” Such shock calls, as turkey hunters know, often get a gobble from the Toms roosting in the trees. This allows you to know roughly where the Toms are putting up for the night. Of course, that’s no guaranteee that come the next morning the hunt will play out the way we envisioned it. The Toms may well fly down from the roost in another direction. They may be preoccupied with their own real harem of hens to bother coming to your own call. Even if you get a response to your call, much can go wrong. The slightests move at the wrong time and the Toms spot you and trot off lickety split. Missed opportunities of every variety are the most likely scenarios. Far less likely is that the Tom struts right into range, never senses danger, and you make a good clean shot and bag your bird.

But right now, there is no reason to believe everything won’t go exactly as planned. That is one of the most enjoyable parts of springtime: everything is yet to come, the hunts yet to unfold. As much as the birdsong at daybreak, promise is in the air.

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