Some sagacious sage once observed that “it is insanity to keep right on doing what you are doing and expect a different outcome.”

Years in the woods and on the waters have taught me that this adage applies as well to outdoor pursuits. Wild things, whether they be turkeys, deer or elk, are as unpredictable as April in Maine.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

You get the point, right? If the hunt isn’t going well for you, try something new. Be as unpredictable as the game you are trying to outwit or out maneuver.

Here are some real-life examples.

A number of years ago in the Colorado Rockies, my son and I were on the last day of what was looking to be a futile elk hunt during Colorado’s First Rifle Season. We had hunted hard. Conventional wisdom insisted that, because the weather was unseasonably warm, the elk were still up high, where the air was cooler and few hunters had the stamina or the will to make the lung-busting ascents to 11,000 feet and higher. We had hunted high, again with no elk sightings.

With nothing to lose we shifted gears, drastically. We found an old forestry road that meandered along the edge of a bottom land that formed a boundary for the public land tract we were hunting. Defying the odds and the best advice of experienced elk hunters, we took the road less traveled. We never saw another hunter. But we did see elk, and before that Western sun dipped beneath Pagoda Peak shutting down the First Rifle Season, we filled not one, but two cow tags. We could not believe our 11th hour good fortune!

Another time, as a novice Maine turkey hunter, I discovered, by sheer happenstance, the tactical value of the unconventional approach. If you are in the turkey woods walking and calling, the Turkey Hunter’s Gospel teaches the following without exception: Never, never, never over-do it with the clucks and yelps. Every turkey tactic book that I have ever read, or turkey hunting seminar that I have attended, teaches that you MUST be sparing with the vocalizations. A bearded bird, however lovesick, is still wary and if he hears more than a modicum of female clucks or purrs, he will hold back or wander away.

In the early days of Maine turkey hunting, the legal hunting day ended at 12 noon. This particular day, noon was fast approaching. I had neither heard nor seen a bird, after walking and calling all morning. At 11:45 a.m., while sitting in a mixed hardwood growth and polishing off the coffee in my thermos, I decided to really let go with the call box. I really yukked it up with clucks and yelps and purrs, to the point I was laughing to myself.

Gobble…gobble…gobble…

There it was, not 50 yards away, a big Tom in full strut, his bright-colored antediluvian head bobbing as he picked his way through the tangle angling in my direction. I was almost as surprised as he was when he got within range of my 20-gauge turkey loads.

That was my first Maine turkey.

There have been some deer hunts as well when my unpredictability in the deer woods paid dividends.

If you spend any time in the woods or on the waters, you may have had similar experiences — having unexpectedly good luck when you went against the grain.

The next time your quarry seems elusive or impossible to find and you become exasperated, get out of the box. Go rogue. Hunt against the grain.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.