Article Written by Jessica Mattinson
There was still a spring coolness in the evening air as our guide Jim Westcott let out an owl caterwaul to try and get a response from a roosting tom. He had no sooner finished his call when we heard an old tom answer back with a resounding gobble. Jim turned towards me and with a high five, he said we’d be back in the morning to tackle that old bird.
Last year I was invited by the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation to participate in an annual event called the Hoot and Shoot; my first ever wild turkey hunt. The Hoot and Shoot is a co-sponsored event by CWTF and NWTF to create an opportunity for youth hunters to learn and participate in the hunting of wild turkeys.
After what felt like an eternity of waiting, the day arrived where I would get the chance to bag my first wild turkey. On April 24th, 2014, my Dad and I made the six-hour trek down to Casco, Maine. Several other teams from Maine and Atlantic Canada would be there as well.
We all stayed at Point Sebago Lodge in a beautiful log chalet overlooking Sebago Lake. We had an awesome view of one of Maine’s largest inland freshwater lakes. The first night there, everybody headed down to Buck’s Naked Barbecue for supper, where we got the chance to talk to the other hunters and meet the guides. The day before the youth hunt, we had a workshop where we learned all about hunting wild turkeys and luring them in with different types of calls and decoys. We were given our guides for the hunt and then all we had to do was wait for the morning to finally get started.
The whole house was awake by four-thirty and anticipation was through the roof. My Dad and I went to meet our guide, Jim Westcott, and then we were off. Jim is not only a guide in central Maine, he is also instrumental in the rehabilitation of the turkey population. If you ever get to meet him, you will be able to tell he’s got a true passion for these birds.
We pulled into one of Jim’s honey holes around six-thirty. After a few locator calls from his crow call, we could hear turkeys gobbling in behind us. They were still on the roost and Jim was hoping to coax them to us with a few soft clucks using his box call. Jim explained to me the process of the fly down and where he expected the bird to approach us. Jim also showed me the spot he would like me to take the shot; if given the chance.
As the sun came up we heard less and less from the turkeys and following their “fly down cackle”; Jim figured these birds had simply walked off. Later that morning we decided to change spots because the turkeys weren’t responding well to the call. At that point, Jim suspected the toms had hens with them, which made them tough to call in. We did some scouting and found a big group of turkeys with a couple of nice toms. It was incredible how their heads would change from a bright red to almost blue or white. My Dad and I could not get over the size of some of the toms we spotted there; they were gorgeous! Jim came up with a strategy to enter into a neighboring field and attempt to call them in. It was; what we thought to be, fool proof!
We set up in the edge of the adjacent property and started calling. He started off with some soft clucks, then what he called purrs.
They were gobbling back, but just as it sounded like they were locked in on us someone close by fired and that was the last we heard from those turkeys. It was very exciting to have them start to respond to the calling nonetheless!
The spot we were sitting was against one of the endless rock walls that are infamous throughout the New England states. I couldn’t help but try and fathom the hard work that must have been done by the settlers who had cleared their land and placed them there. We headed back to the car to do some more scouting and found another group on the back side of a huge orchard. This was one of Jim’s favourite locations and we were sworn to secrecy on this one! Jim led us into the edge of the field and we set up again. The turkeys were responding to us really well, but they didn’t seem to want to commit and hung up in their safety zone. It was almost dinner time and it was starting to rain, so we decided to pack it in for the day.
That night everyone sat around at the house and we all told our hunting stories. It was great to hear the other young hunters tell their stories and watch the looks on their faces; as well as their dad’s faces, as they talked about the events that took place during their hunts. My Dad and I were going to stay a couple extra days to continue to hunt on our own following the Hoot and Shoot; as neither of us had experienced hunting these birds before and we weren’t ready to leave yet.
Monday was the opening day of the general season across the state and we were up before dawn and off once again. All morning we weren’t having much luck. We were driving around looking for another spot when my Dad spotted this giant tom following a hen. We remembered a spot up the road a ways where we could set up and try to call him in. We quickly gathered our gear and set up in a small clearing not far from where we had spotted the birds. My Dad called to him and after about thirty minutes we still didn’t hear anything. We were about to pack up when we saw the hen cross the path about thirty feet in front of us.
Everything kicked into high gear as the tom came walking out about ten feet behind her. My heart was beating in my throat, I’d never felt so excited in my life. The tom gave me a perfect shot. He weighed in at 19.9 pounds and had a nine inch beard with one inch spurs. I’d like to thank the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation for this amazing experience for both me and my dad, and I can’t wait to come back and hunt wild turkeys in the future.