Maine Fall Wild Turkey 2015
As summer was drawing to a close and our fishing trips were slowing, the fire started burning in me to go on yet another turkey hunting trip in Maine. I've written before of our turkey hunting trips, which to this point had resulted in great experiences but because of mistakes we've made, had yet to result in a Ward family turkey harvest. After trying and failing on two previous guided hunts, one might think that would be enough to discourage us from pursuing it again, but it certainly wasn't enough to stop me. It could have been stubbornness, or possibly stupidity, or maybe the challenge that turkey hunting presents... but for whatever reason I just wasn't going to quit!
In the mid-summer we heard that there was a chance the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation would be having another Fall “Hoot and Shoot” event in Southern Maine, and my son was very interested in going. He attended two of these events in 2014 and although he didn't get a turkey he grew in his experience and knowledge of the outdoors, met lots of great people, and made some great memories. Unfortunately things didn't come together and the event wasn't able to take place, so I decided that we would go on a trip regardless. I contacted the Tenth Legion Guides (reviewed here) and they were more than happy to take us out again. Our obsessed friend Jason would be coming with us, and we finalized the plans on a two day hunt.
As the week arrived and the hunt approached, we watched with fear and trepidation as a hurricane approached the east coast of the United States and Canada. We questioned what this would mean for us, and worried that our trip might even get washed out. The storm hit on travel day for us meaning slow travel down to our destination as we encountered heavy rain through most of it. The region got hit with so much rain that flooding was common and devastating in some areas. Thankfully we were able to make it to our destination fine, and the weather forecast looked clear for the days of our hunt. As we went to bed the night before we could barely sleep from the excitement of being there.
As we've mentioned before, the Tenth Legion Guides in southern Maine offer an extremely unique fall turkey hunting experience. They are the only guides (that we are aware of) who offer hunting with a trained turkey dog. “Gunny” is a german shorthaired dog owned by guide Jim, with a love and dedication to hunting turkeys. You can hardly contain him if he sees or smells a turkey and we've learned to expect if we're driving with him he's liable to jump all over you trying as he leaps and paces from excitement after seeing that turkey out the window. The spring turkey hunt is all about calling in a gobbler as only a bearded bird (mostly males) are allowed in the spring season. However in the fall, the guides use a dog to locate and “break up” a flock of wild turkeys and then call them back together. Colonel Tom Parker, renowned writer about wild turkey hunting, speaks of using the blast of a shotgun to break a flock and then call them back together.
Watching Gunny locate birds and break them is definitely part of the fun. I don't believe seeing those large birds break and fly to safety will ever lose it's wonder for me. Growing up in a rural setting where we raised farmed domestic turkeys, I am ever amazed at these instinctively aware and competent wild turkeys and how different they are with what I was used to. To watch their successful expansion in states such as Maine while they are yet near the bottom of the food chain and are literally at risk daily from predators (animals and mankind) and yet are flourishing will give you an idea of their resourcefulness.
The fall turkey hunt in Maine allows the harvest of two birds of either sex per hunter. Another part of what makes the Tenth Legion guides so special is the time they put in outside of the hunt to make sure you are able to get a shot at birds. Once you've gotten to know them, you're likely to get a regular email or text of flocks of birds they've located in anticipation of your time with them. They know the area, they keep good relationships with the landowners, and they put in the scouting time to know where the birds live, feed, and roost. This gives you an upper-hand that cannot be overstated. When one hunts with these guys, don't expect to spend a lot of time spotting and looking for birds in vehicles. You're going to get out into the field, walking and getting great experiences throughout your time.
We chose to book the first two days of Maine turkey season with them, and as we met up with the guides that first morning the air was crisp with the intoxicating smell of autumn. It would soon be very apparent that the previous day's storm had given us a boost, as every animal seemed to be out. We saw several groups of deer, including some before we even got out of the resort, and the turkeys seemed like they were everywhere. Early on, we had plenty of places to choose from as the guides brought us past flocks of turkeys seemingly everywhere. On this day, we just had a feeling that the Ward turkey curse was about to be broken... and it wasn't long before it was!
At the second spot we stopped, we had watched as some birds crossed the road in front of us, and there was another group of turkeys nearby. The guides sent in Gunny to break them up, and his barking and the fluttering of wings told us he had been successful. They set us up facing different directions and set to call the birds back in. I was sitting alone while my son was behind me (with a guide) and facing elsewhere and Jason facing the opposite direction. There was a babbling brook off to my right providing a bit of competition for their calling, and you could hear some logging machinery working off far in the distance. After about ten minutes of their calling we still hadn't heard any answer, when I saw some movement off my left shoulder. I could hardly believe my eyes as I made out two bobbing heads coming through the underbrush. This was it... two wild turkeys were on their way! When they got closer and went behind a tree, I used the cover to raise my gun and get into position. The first one stepped out and the blast of my gun broke the silence in the forest. As the first turkey dropped, the second one flew slightly to the other side of the brook and landed there, where I fired again at that one mere seconds after. The second one took a couple hops to the top of the ridge and then laid down. I had my first two turkeys... a “double” as they call it... and FINALLY my luck had changed. It wasn't even 8am and I was limited out... but there wasn't any hesitation. After several trips of frustration I wasn't going to pass these birds up! We spent a few minutes taking pictures and celebrating the harvest together, and I think the guides were as happy as I was for me to finally take a bird.
After heading back to the vehicles it was literally minutes down the road and we spotted an enormous flock of turkeys feeding in a field that had been recently turned. The guide had taken Gunny in right away to break up the flock and my friend Jason had left his gun locked in his trunk. Since I was limited out I handed him my own shotgun and some shells and I excitedly followed behind them with my videocamera. Limiting out early had given me the opportunity to record video for the rest of the day, and I was hopeful that I would be able to capture my son's first turkey on camera. Gunny got a good break and turkeys headed in every direction so we set up in a small clump of trees between two fields. Jason went with one guide (Jim), and my son Hunter with the other (Robb) while I followed behind Hunter with the video camera. Before our group even got in place to start calling I heard the blast of Jason's shotgun as a turkey had wandered back in and he connected. Robb assured us not to worry, and that the turkeys would continue to return despite the gunshot as they would want to group back together and didn't quite understand what the noise would be. After a few minutes of calling the woods in every direction was filled with the calls of wild turkeys. We were literally surrounded as the woods were alive with their sounds. It was something that Jason and I experienced in our first hunt in 2013 and it was as exciting this fall as that time. We patiently waited as we could see the turkey bobbing and approaching, calling all the way. One bird decided to head into our wooded area and towards the calling. Hunter was patient as it walked through thick branches, not risking a low percentage shot at these hearty birds. I could hear the guide whispering to him as the bird made it's way through the woods toward us, but I could hardly sit still. It was coming right in towards them! Hunter was in position but his view was obstructed by a fallen tree so he could see the body of the turkey walking through but not the head of the bird. Finally the bird paused and then hopped up on top of the fallen tree and Hunter fired. His aim was true and I actually shouted in excitement as he had his first turkey! A minute or two later we heard another shot ring out from Jason and he had his limit. We spent another ten minutes in that location and Hunter had another turkey come in towards him but he couldn't get a clear shot so he let it pass, knowing that there would be more opportunities. It wasn't even 11am yet on our first day and we had totalled five wild turkeys, with only one to go! My Winchester SXP had gotten an extra workout as it totalled four of them, with Jason using it for both of his turkeys. We all came together to recount what happened to each of them and then the guides took us to a beautiful spot where we could take a group picture of us with our harvest to that point.
After stopping for a terrific lunch provided by the guides, we moved on to try to get Hunter his second turkey. They took us to a spot where they knew turkeys had been feeding and after a walk in, we spotted a flock of them. The turkeys actually ran away from us when we entered the field, seeming to know our intentions. We split up and I again followed Hunter and Robb while Jim and Jason circled around to try to get closer to the turkeys with Gunny. We heard Gunny break up a few birds but we weren't confident of how many he had located or which direction they flew, but our hopes were high as we set up again. After a few minutes we could hear several birds answering and knew they were approaching. Hunter was set up with Robb, while our other guide Jim was separate and behind them, and Jason and I off to the side each trying to get video of the hunt. We watched as a turkey came through the woods beside us, and then ended up below Hunter heading for the calling. He waited until the turkey stopped walking and took his shot, and we saw the turkey drop and flap as we celebrated again.
This one turned out to be a bit more difficult to find, as we were so busy celebrating Hunter's shot that we didn't watch. The turkey managed to limp off and as we searched in vain I could see my son's mood dropping as he worried he had wounded a bird that would not be found. Thankfully our trusty friend Gunny was able to recover the bird and we were able to leave happy, with all of us having harvested our limits the first day!
Spending these trips in the wilderness with my son are a huge and lasting highlight for us both. Watching him mature into a thoughtful, appreciative, hard-working young man who loves spending time in the woods and on the water is more than I ever could have hoped. Having been raised in a family that loves the outdoors, I realize how blessed I am that he is following in my footsteps and carrying on with these family values. Our family is very close and I couldn't be more proud of my son. Harvesting the turkeys on this trip were a great bonus, but the time together appreciating the outdoors is what keeps us coming back. My son is learning that... way to go, Hunter!
Having a second day booked we all had our first experience hunting grouse over dogs, using our guide Robb's trained spaniels. They gave us a great day but although the dogs did their job and flushed birds for us, because of how early in the fall it was there were simply too many leaves on the tree and we didn't take a shot at any of them. The day was marred by one of his dogs having an encounter with a porcupine followed by a vet visit but thankfully the dog will be fine.
Whether you've never hunted turkeys, or you're an experienced veteran, we would wholeheartedly recommend the Tenth Legion Guides for a turkey hunt that you will never forget. The guides are knowledgeable and willing to share that with you, helping you to understand why they do certain things or even letting you try out calling. As mentioned they know (and love) their area, and will put you on birds. They are ethical and concerned with preserving the outdoors and you are likely to see them carting out garbage they find on your visit, and building relationships with the landowners. They don't just talk the talk... they walk the walk as well! And above all this they are passionate outdoorsmen and genuinely good people who you will appreciate spending time with, telling stories and jokes and keeping things entertaining throughout. It's been an honour to share the woods with these sportsmen and I have appreciated their influence on my maturing son through our times together. Every time we leave I can't wait for the next visit with them! We will be back!
Tenth Legion Guides: Maine's Premier Turkey Hunts
Jim Wescott – 207-310-8815
Robb Cotiaux – 207-926-5392
Note – we stayed at Point Sebago for our turkey trip. Read about our lodging review here.
Hunting/Fishing licensing information for residents and nonresidents of Maine can be found on the Maine Department of Inland Fishing and Wildlife website here. For Canadians looking to bring their firearms into the United States to hunt, be sure to fill out the appropriate paperwork (ATF F 6NIA) found on the ATF website here, well in advance of your trip.
Contact us and let us know!