FOR SALE: ONE Illinois first-season turkey tag in mint condition, low mileage, well-maintained and cared for, brand-new cost $166.25, will accept best offer.

As you might infer, my turkey hunting adventure in Illinois last week ended in a trip home with a Yeti cooler in the truck that remained empty.

It was a traditional hunt of scouting, sitting, calling and doing everything turkey hunters have been doing for a long time. What it did not include was a willingness, at least until it was too late, to try something new and untraditional.

Opening morning, I walked from my penthouse in the Harmston’s new pole building/apartment/wild game mounts museum, across a field to a ridgetop place of watching roosting woods, while snuggled under the drooping branches of a cedar tree.

It was almost an hour later before gobbles sounded from the woods below me. It took a while longer, but finally, I enticed a gobbler out of those woods.

Unfortunately, he stopped a good distance away, a distance I judged to be 55 or maybe even 60 yards off, a distance at which I will not take a shot. No matter how seductive the calls I made to him, he wouldn’t budge any closer and I could only say “what if,” as he responded instead to a couple hens clucking at him from farther down the woods line.

Later, I paced off the distance to where he stood and got 48 steps, close enough for some guys to shoot, but still farther than I would.

The second morning, Greg and I headed for a place a few miles away, where we set up along the edge of a field Greg labeled as a slam dunk for success. Unfortunately, at that spot the slam dunk clunked and we moved on later after hearing no gobbles and seeing no birds.

The highlight for me was having a brilliant red male cardinal perch in a bush not 10 feet from me for several minutes. If you’ve never seen a cardinal in full breeding plumage, you’ve missed something truly beautiful. I enjoyed every moment of his company.

We moved to another place, a spot called “The 80,” unimaginatively named for its 80-acre size. As we arrived, we spotted a gobbler and two hens in the field below us. As they spooked into the woods, we changed plans. Greg backed up a quarter-mile and let me out to walk a ridge toward the birds. The plan was almost a resounding success.

Sitting down with an oak tree at my back, I commenced to calling. I had picked the perfect place for an ambush. A lusty gobble followed my first call, coming from less than 40 yards away. The problem was, a big deadfall was between us, preventing me from seeing him.

No worry, I figured. He’s hot. He might have been, but complicating matters was a hen that came from behind the deadfall and walked up to maybe 12 feet from me at the most. We had a stare down for what seemed like forever, but was probably more like 60 seconds.

In the end, I blinked first and she took off at a run back past the deadfall, taking her lover boy with her. Close call, but no banana.

The next two days were uneventful, as mornings in the 30s kind of shut the gobbling down and that was that. No bird this year.

However, for next year’s Illinois hunt, I learned where the best place to set up is: right on the Harmston’s deck. Opening morning, when I got back to the house, Peggy Harmston told me “You shudda sat on the deck. At 10 after 7, two gobblers and three hens walked by 15 yards away while I was having my morning coffee.”

The second morning, while Greg and I hunted his slam dunk field, another gobbler walked past their deck. That one, Peggy said, I could have almost killed with a club as it waddled past.

The final morning of my hunt I went afield again; nothing. Back at the house, Peggy announced that I should have set up in a lounge chair on the veranda of the pole building, from which I could have shot a gobbler at 5 yards as it walked past.

Why, I then asked myself, would I walk goodly distances, subject myself to sitting on the cold ground seeing nothing in the wild woods, when I could merely open a window, still in my dressing gown, if I owned a dressing gown, and shoot a gobbler?

Bottom line, the hunt ended with no gobbler, but my cooler wasn’t completely empty when I came home. In it were the fillets of some really good-sized bluegills, a slab crappie and a 12-inch perch that I kept on an afternoon fishing expedition on one of the Harmston farm ponds.

The other thing I came home with was the warmth inside me generated from sharing several days with good friends, fine rib-eye steaks, a delicious evening dinner with my friends at the home of Anne Harmston, Greg’s mom, and from sharing a dollop or two of excellent liquid refreshment while swapping outlandish hunting and fishing stories, some of them even containing a grain or two of truth.

I’ll be back next year.