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It’s often the plight of Maine outdoorsmen that there is more than one season open at one time and, of course, there’s only so much even the most active woodsman can do in one day. Fall is almost impossible to keep up with if you truly want to hunt all the species that are “legal game in season,” and if you want to trap as well . . . good luck!
Fortunately, May is one of those months when there are plenty of choices but, luckily, none of them are impossible or out of reach. We discussed the spring turkey season last week (did you pattern your shotgun yet?), and those who live for the sight of a boss gobbler coming into range in full strut still have plenty of time to put their bird in the freezer before the season closes at the end of the month.
Even better is that turkey hunting must end at noon each day (ostensibly to give the birds time to settle down, nest, feed and otherwise do what turkeys like to do, although in states with outsized turkey populations it’s legal to hunt all day). It’s a long day when you start running the woods at 4 a.m. to get into position to call a bird to the gun, but there is a lot of daylight left after noon, too: time enough for lunch, a nap and something else . . . like fishing!
What most unsuccessful morning turkey hunters think about as they sit and call without results is that they could be on a fast-moving stream somewhere catching trout and salmon left and right. It’s easy to imagine how productive the other sport might be when you’re having no luck with the first choice, and some hunters may quit early if the woods are silent and the lure of a fat brookie or landlock becomes more than they can stand.
For the enterprising sport, the game now becomes one of logistics. It’s not often that you can find perfect turkey hunting with a world-class stream or river nearby, but Maine has more options than most other states. Actually, if you’re interested in trout for the pan, you’re never more than a few steps away from a stream, bog or beaver day that should hold enough fish to keep you from starving. And, it’s not too silly to plan a turkey hunt focusing on a high ridge that slopes down to a trout-filled pool.
To me, the most rewarding way to spend a May day is to head for the turkey roost at dawn, hunt till the “second coming,” that is, the 10 o’clock hour when the gobblers renew their search for receptive hens after a busy morning of chasing other, more accessible females. If the gobbler flies off the roost at dawn and disappears with some hens despite your best calling efforts, just stay put, keep calling (about once every 30 minutes is plenty) and be patient. The tom will be back sometime before noon, often coming in silently (no gobbling) or he may gobble a time or two just to relocate the “hen” he thought he’d left behind.
Quitting time is noon no matter what, so when the clock strikes 12 I’ll pack up my gear, head for the truck and switch to “trout mode.” Any hunter of experience knows where he can find some trout, and most of the time he won’t have to drive more than 10 minutes to find them. A 50-yard stretch of secluded backwater can produce all the brookies you can eat in a meal, and all you’ll need is a rod and reel, a few feet of line and a No. 6 or No. 8 hook. Brook trout are not sophisticated or shy - they are aggressive, but they’re not stupid. Sneak up on a pool quietly, flip a baited hook into the darker recesses of a pool and hang on. You should be able to catch a limit of brookies in under an hour, maybe even 30 minutes, if you know your spots.
For example, my favorite trout brook is a 10-minute walk up a power line that borders a busy highway. Drivers hurtling past the clearing all day probably don’t even know that 10-inch brook trout are lurking in the brushy shadows just off the road, but that’s their loss. The stream is just over the first rise away from the tarmac, so of course no one would see the water unless they took the time to go look for it, and you know how many people claim to have time for such explorations!
All the better for me because I cleverly park well away from the brook (no sense in being obvious about it) and make it look as if I’m searching for pine cones rather than trout. But, as soon as I crest the hill I can hear the stream gurgling below me. I roll a few logs over and scuff around in the detritus for a fat garden worm or two, and when I’ve found a dozen or so I bait up and get to work.
This stream is literally wide as a kitchen countertop – I can leap across it at will as I fish and, believe me, my leaping days are long over! I start fishing on the upstream side of the power line (I once discovered that whatever is being sprayed on the foliage to keep the power lines clear seems to also kill everything in the stream for 100 yards or more downstream). The first pool is formed by several big boulders placed there when the power line was constructed, and over the years the pool has evolved into a nice, deep, dark hole that invariably holds the biggest trout of the day. Most often I’ll start with a 10-inch lunker, but once or twice I’ve taken 12-inch brookies out of there – sure cause for celebration if you know anything about small streams and brook trout!
Anyway, if I’m resourceful (and lucky) this month, I can expect to come home one fine May day with a gobbler in one hand and a limit of trout in the other. It makes for a long and busy day but what would you rather be doing . . . yard work? I hardly think so!
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