Bristol’s World

BRISTOL’S WORLD –September 2023


It Was 55 years ago during the late winter of 1968 while working as a Vermont State Game Warden in southwestern Vermont. Neighboring game warden, Arnold Magoon and I met wildlife biologist, Bill Drake on a gravel road west of Lake Bomoseen, in Hubbardton. The back of Drake’s pickup was piled high with orange crates with feathers poking out through all the slats. It was then New England was introduced to wild turkey populations.

As, one-by-one we clamped leg tags on each bird an tossed them into the air. To this day I remember the words of biologist, Drake, “If this reintroduction takes hold your children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to hunt the largest big game bird in north America.” Those words had very little meaning to my 22-year old ears but as the years passed, I married, had children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren, truer words have never been spoken.

From two meager releases totaling 31 trapped in the wild turkeys relocated to suitable habitat the entire Northeast has been re-populated with wild turkeys. And, yes, my children, and grandchildren have enjoyed turkey hunting and we expect to pass on the sport to the next generation.

Over the years I have tutored hundreds of potential wild turkey hunters through my books, articles and in-person seminars. Still I get asked questions on how and why I continue to hunt wild turkeys and why I continue to hold the bird in such high esteem. Sit back and read on to enjoy my take on wild turkey hunting as I practice the sport.

Let me tell you right up front that I am a liar, a fake, I pretend to be something I am not; an “imposter” and that’s why my game call company and I share the same title, “Deadly Imposter.”

My company motto is “All hunters and anglers are play actors and the woods and waters our stage.”

As do others who hunt and fish, I assume dozens of roles each time I hit the woods or water. You may see me as a 214 pound man dressed like a bush but fish and game see or hear me as a variety of familiar sounds -until, that is – until too late.

Back when bass fishing tournament were a new sport it was unthinkable that a 5-pound bass could be caught then turned back into the water or at the same time why do fly anglers regularly admire fish then open the ne and watch it disappear back into the stream.

Deer hunters and yes, even wild turkey hunters have the same option. After all, we are the top of the food chain predator. We can admire the beauty of a strutting gobbler or th magnificence of a huge trophy whitetail but we can also understand that our challenge has been met and killing or harvesting as the new liberals would say has been accomplished. You can fill the freezer or let others enjoy the beauty you just witnessed. The choice is yours and mine. I don’t hunt or fish to show off and tell my friends, “Look what I got and you didn’t.” I hunt and fish for my own enjoyment, not to impress others.

A serious golfer doesn’t just want to beat the others in his foursome, he wants to bat the course; to avoid sand traps and water hazards and turn in the lowest score possible. With that in mind I see those who hunt and fish and others who are hunters and anglers.

If filling the frying pan is their goal, anyone can thread a worm on a hook and dop it into the water. It doesn’t take a lot of research to walk a logging road or sit at the edge of a meadow and kill a deer or turkey.

The serious hunter learns what the habitat holds, locates travel routes from sleeping to feeding and what and how to reproduce the many vocalizations that will aid in communication. Turkey hunters do likewise and read book, watch videos, attend seminars and get out into the wild and look for evidence of turkey populations.

Those who follow my writings already know I am a serious turkey hunter. In my first book I dubbed myself a “turkeyholic.” Every corner of my house is adorned with turkeys in one manner or another. Building turkey calls in my basement is now confined to when the family is not home. Over the years I have driven them crazy with turkey calling.

As a Master Maine Guide, I cater to both those who hunt and fish and serious hunters and anglers. Throughout the experience my clients grown to understand my personal philosophy and I believe I have mentors some of the best and brightest.

When I hunt alone I scout 365 days a year. I talk with farmers, rural mail delivery personnel, other hunters, and just about anyone and everyone that can help me pinpoint my prey.

On hunting days I am in the turkey woods hours before daybreak and I climb to a high vantage point  and listen. As daylight creeps into the forest the birds start singing and chipmunk chirping and first the wild turkey hens begin their morning conversation with soft clucks and yelps barely audible at 30 yards.

Next, the young male turkeys begin to sound off; the jakes and 2-year-olds. They haven’t perfected their gobbling so they call time and again double and triple gobbling, each trying to outdo the other.

Then, if you did your homework and a mature longbeard is nearby you will hear its unmistakable gobble so loud the hair on the back  of your neck stands up. At this point this 214-pound man dressed like a bush become “the deadly imposter.”

My plan is run off the hens first if that can be accomplished without flushing the longbeard. Most of the time I am so close the mere showing myself is enough for the hens to fly down and away. It they stay my job just became next to impossible.

With the hens out of the picture I assume the role of one of those hens, eager to breed with the mature gobbler. I stat with low clucks and yelps then simulate the hen flying down by flapping my hat against my thigh and sounding off with a fly-down cackle using my pot call or box.

After a short pause I increase the volume of my hen yelps and emit a more pleading tone. After all, it is the hens natural duty to go to the calling longbeard. Once again, the turkey is not dub. It can can the difference between a 7-pound hen turkey and a 214-pound man dressed like a bush.

So I turn away and call less frequently and in a different direction simulating a hen that is losing interest, hoping the longbeard will follow. This back and forth could be over quickly or could take hours. The challenge was never meant to an easy one.

If all goes according to plan and my play acting has been successful, the gobbler will waddle into sight, well within killing range. His red, white and blue head is befitting of being dubbed an all-American treasure. Every feather on his body is quivering with excitement, his brad tailfan is something to behold, his body feather show off their iridescence in the sunlight.

Decision time for the successful hunter. His/her challenge has been fulfilled. Just as the serious angler opens his hands and lets the fish disappear back into the stream, the turkey huntr has a choice to sit back and enjoy the show or level the 12-gauge cannon loaded with 3-inch magnum shot and blow his head off and fill the freezer.

I never said I was a nice guy. I am the “Deadly Imposter.”