Sportsman of the lakes region: Young hunter discovers the joys of the turkey season

Novice hunter Waleed Rabbat poses with his first turkey, a gorgeous gobbler with a 9 inch beard. Tom Roth / For the Lake District Weekly

May means turkey season, and what a time it is to be in the woods! Gobblers are cooped up with their hens and likely to call and lure.

Tom Roth is a freelance outdoor writer who lives in Raymond on the shores of Lake Sebago. He has been fishing and hunting in this area for over 30 years and is a registered Maine guide.

Recently I enjoyed a turkey hunt with a newbie to the sport and we had quite the adventure.

Fourteen-year-old Waleed Rabbat doesn’t know how badly he has it. His mother owns a farm where she raises her beautiful Arabian horses and her property is full of deer and turkeys. I was given the green light to hunt property and Waleed expressed interest in trying the sport. After a lesson in firearms safety, modeling his shotgun on a turkey target, and a trip to the woods to set up a blind, he and I were off to get him a bird.

We started Youth Day with high hopes. We had three different gobblers around us in the nearby woods, but none answered our calls. We got excited when several hens worked the field with young birds, but none were legal jakes or toms.

The following weekend I could hunt, so we both grabbed our shotguns and headed out to the blind. We were optimistic because Waleed’s mother, Jody, had reported seeing a flock of birds with a large gobbler during the week.

I chatted blindly with Waleed about our strategy over coffee (me) and hot chocolate (him). I thought I’d make a few calls as the sun came up and see if a nearby gobbler answered. If we couldn’t hold him back, we’d be on the lookout for him.

The sun came up and we were saddened not to hear a bird swallow. Did they move? Had they been shot during the week? I chose to sit down and try a few more calls. We ended up hearing gobblers, but they were far in the distance.

After about an hour of questioning our strategy, we heard a hen cluck behind us. She giggled a few more times, so I tried an old turkey trick: I imitated her. Every time she called, I repeated her call exactly. If she giggled twice, I giggled twice, and so on. It was too much for the old maid, she came out into the field and I told the young hunter to get ready. She had two young birds with her, but no gobbler. Suddenly a rumble of thunder came from behind us. It was a Tom!

I had three decoys installed in front of our blind. A solitary hen and a jake riding a hen. Nothing pisses off a mature gobbler like a young stud who gets frisky with his harem. The gobbler strutted out of the woods, stretched his tail, and headed for the fake jake. Waleed knew how to hold the shotgun butt over the gobbler’s head and pull the trigger, and when I told him to shoot, he did just that. He anchored the bird and he never collapsed or flinched. A great shot!

Surprisingly, the other birds remained, perhaps unsure of what just happened. Waleed whispered that there were jakes just coming out of the woods. We waited so I could get a bird or maybe he could get a second one. After a few minutes it was clear the birds weren’t getting close so we went out to tag and drag his gobbler.

I was proud to introduce a new hunter to the sport and was not surprised when he told me he wanted to hunt deer this fall. Together we processed the bird and made turkey sausage and turkey jerky that morning. We even ate sausage with fresh eggs that Jody got from her chickens. Talk about a farm-to-table meal! Good luck to all turkey hunters this month, young and old!

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Sharon P. Juarez