First Bird: A Laughing Matter?
By Darren Hasson

Throughout my hunting career I have met many wonderful people, and have experienced some of the greatest moments a hunter only hopes and dreams of. This Spring I left my native New Brunswick and traveled to Maine for my first turkey hunt. Although, I spent countless hours viewing video footage, learning calling techniques, practicing with the bow, talking with experienced turkey hunters, etc. Little did I know that this hunt would turn into one of those hunts that would stir my hunting soul, and help define me as bowhunter.

I arrived the day before the opener, and met up with my friend Paul, who I met two years ago at the Sussex Sportsman Show in New Brunswick. He gave me the current scouting report, and things sounded like we were in for action the following morning. Later that afternoon, we fine tuned our set up and I shot a few arrows to make sure everything was working well. I was finishing up my practice session when I heard my first gobble. All of a sudden, it hit me. This was no video or DVD playing, this was the real thing, and he was only a couple of hundred yards away. After a wonderful diner that Paul’s wife Diane prepared for us, I went back to the hotel to get some last minute practice on the calls and some sleep before the next mornings hunt, sleep...., yeah right!!

The next morning we were in our blind well before sunrise, and I was giving Paul instructions on how to run my video camera, I have filmed all my previous bow hunts, and this one was must ! Dawn came quickly, and the first strike of the call brought the turkeys to life, and numerous series of thunderous gobbles were getting continuously closer. Within a few minutes, two jakes came in on a rope to the decoys. I rolled my eyes over to Paul, and he gave me the green light to shoot. The two jakes jumped about a foot when I released the arrow about six inches underneath one of the young turkeys. As I watched in disbelief, the two birds walked off out of sight, leaving me with nothing but self-doubt and terrible twinge in my stomach.

Photo caption: Darren Hasson, from Aboujagane, New Brunswick, (center) bagged his first turkey with a bow on the second day of the Maine spring turkey season. He killed the 18 lb Tom from a distance of about 20 yards with a Hoyt bow using a rage broadhead. His hunting companions were Sporting Journal editor, V. Paul Reynolds (left) and Sporting Journal archery writer Josh Cottrell (right), who called the bird to decoys. (Photo by Diane Reynolds)

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We called and waited for about an hour. All was quiet. After a cup of coffee and some good natured ribbing from Paul about “Screwing up bigtime”, he took a bearing on his compass and we hit the woods in search of gobblers. The next 4 hours were action packed to say the least. We had several different encounters throughout the morning with gobblers and Jakes while combing beautiful cedar swales, hardwood ridges, and old pasture fields. We called and stalked right to 12 noon, but we just could not get the opportunity that I needed to make a good clean ethical shot.

After we got back home, I grabbed some practice arrows and shot again at 40 yards to make sure everything was still good with the bow after four hours of hunting the backcountry. I won’t lie, in my heart I was hoping that I was going to sail an arrow well off the mark, and that something was wrong with my sight to justify my morning miss. I took the four arrows out of dead center, looked at Paul, and all I could do was smile and shake my head, mumbling something about paying my dues to the turkey gods. Hopefully, I would be fortunate enough to get another opportunity to redeem myself and connect with one these fantastic birds the following morning.

That evening after returning from an excellent seafood meal with our wives at a local eatery known as Angler’s , I thought I would review the video footage from the mornings hunt and gain some insight as to what happened on my missed shot, and show my wife all the turkey encounters we had the throughout the morning. I turned the camera on, as I searched for the new video clips, it was very apparent that the camera was not turned on during any of the mornings action! The grin on my face could not have gotten any wider, and tomorrow morning could not come any faster. The anticipation of another encounter with a spring gobbler, and my newly found information made for a long – short night sleep.

Coffee in hand, I walked into Paul’s at 3:30 a.m. as we planned the night before. I sat at the table listening to his gentlemanly manner as he explained who and where this mornings’ hunt was going to take place, and with a little crooked grin, he asked if I was up to the challenge. I assured him that I was prepared, and I would not make the same mistake again, only if he agreed that he would do the same. A bewildered, “What do you mean?” came from the puzzled veteran turkey hunter. I indicated to him that you have to press the record button for the camera to work. We both chuckled out loud until Paul’s friend Josh Cottrell showed up to pick us up.

Paul arranged this mornings hunt with Primos Pro-Staff member Josh Cottrell, and fellow bow hunter. As we got to know each other on the drive and the 1 ½ mile hike to our destination, it was obvious we were cut from the same cloth. We compared notes and shared views about our respective pro-staff teams, hunting, bows, conservation, and anything that was relavent to hunting. Paul was right in his assessment, that we would work well together. It was soon time to see if we could put it all together to put some turkey on the table.

We stood at our chosen destination with daybreak coloring the horizon, all three hunters waiting with eagerness to hear a shock gobble from a nearby bird. After several minutes and attempts to render a response, Josh decided to push further to locate the birds he scouted just days before the hunt. This time after the hooting owl call, we heard what we came for, a distant gobble. We took to the woods in the direction we heard the answer to close the gap and get set up to see if we could get the gobbler to commit for a shot.

Everyone got settled into the blind after carefully placing the decoys and choosing a spot that would provide maximum shooting lanes. Josh let out a series of yelps, and instantly the gobbler fired back. After a few minutes, we called again, this time he was much closer, Josh and I looked at each other and both whispered, “He’s coming!” Within a couple minutes, my eyes locked on to movement of black and copper feathers, “I see him, he’s coming right to the road.”

I was beginning to hear that loud pounding in my head again, it sounded like drums at a rock concert, a series of deep breaths seemed to let me regain my hearing again , long enough to hear Josh say, “ Draw your bow when he gets behind those trees.” I came back into full draw, the gobbler couldn’t contain his curiousousity from the rustling leaves, just 19 yards from him. He ran out on to the road with a few quick steps, and locked onto his “date for the prom” and immediately went into full strut.

I made a few micro aiming adjustments with my Alpha Max, and when he turned broadside, I squeezed every muscle in my shoulder, pulled my trigger finger straight back and cut my arrow loose. Within hundredths of a second I saw my arrow disappear into those shiny black feathers and heard that “Smuck” that bowhunters love to hear from a well- placed broadhead makes when it hits it mark. A couple seconds passed as we watched and marked the bird as it flew and crashed.

A few seconds passed when we heard this hollow and disappointing voice, “ I forgot to turn on the camera. I’m so sorry, I forgot to turn on the damn camera again” Paul said. Josh in disbelief muttered, “NO” with a big grin, by this time poor Paul had muttered a few more choice phrases, and Josh and I just about fell on the ground with laughter. We finally gained our composure enough to hear another gobble, this time it was Josh’s turn.

Just like his predecessor, the gobbler came out on the road and began walking right towards the blind. I have the bird zoomed in. You’re right. I’m filming this time! Josh started to draw his bow and plink, plunk. He had gotten excited and put his arrow on the string upside down, and it fell off while he was coming to full draw. The gobbler knew the jig was up and darted off into cover.

After we recovered my Tom, we did the photo shoot and packed up our rig. Laughter and instant replays of the day's hunt and past hunts occupied our minds as we entertained ourselves and hiked back to the truck in the mid-morning heat. Needless to say, I was very excited to dial my cell phone and call my wife and say “BGD” (Big Gobble Down). After a brief summary of the mornings event with her, we pulled into one of the local general stores to register my first Maine gobbler.

This hunt undoubtedly will be one that I will always remember, making new friends, the camera story, and the whole turkey experience. Prior to going on this hunt, friends of mine, experienced turkey hunters tried to convince me to take my first turkey with a gun. I am so glad that I have my late grand-mothers Belgian stubborn streak, and I didn’t take their advice. Throughout my sports and hunting careers I have come to learn that the ultimate rewards are earned by those willing to do the work and preservere. Even though I did my homework before going on this hunt, there were times when it seemed it was all I could do to manage my adrenaline from taking over my entire thought process. Nothing could have truly prepared me for the experience that was going to unfold, and for that I will eternally grateful.

Now it is my turn to play host and guide for my new friends Paul and Diane when they come to New Brunswick this fall and go goose hunting with me. I am sure we will relive this turkey hunt a few more times for years to come, and with a little luck , we will have lots more stories to share and memories to make, and a bit more video to watch !

Darren Hasson lives in Aboujagane, New Brunswick. When he is not hunting, he is a sales representative for Graywood Sporting Group, Inc.

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