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Trekking the Ranch for Turkey-Commissioner and Cohorts Get their Gobblers

Andy Smith and Commissioner Mick Jensen with one of the three turkeys they took home from the hunt.
[ Submitted by Commissioner Mick Jensen]

After my last turkey hunting excursion to Lynch, Nebraska with Commissioner Fisher, I decided to try again with friends from Atlanta, Georgia and Minneapolis, Minnesota. After getting permission from Gene and Kelsey Timperely, we headed back to ranch country.

Andy Smith had joined me at Eppley Airfield and Jon Donner drove in from Minneapolis.  Preliminary scouting showed the flock likely to use the same roost area so we were set for the next morning!  We arrived Sunday night brimming with anticipation.

The early break of dawn reveals wind and misty rain. I sent Jon to the tree where I had previously made my crossbow attempt two weeks earlier.  Andy and I started the trail on the opposite side of the grove of trees.  Unfortunately we found ourselves up to our knees in marsh.  After trekking a bit in the marsh we decided that continuing on in these conditions was not a good idea and we both agreed heading back to the road to find another path would be a much better bet.  By now light was beginning to show on the horizon and the cows and calves were getting a little skittish.  We could hear gobblers sounding off through the silence of the crisp morning air. We reach our destination; get into position and the gobbling stops. These savvy birds are very aware of our presence!

Turkeys are not dumb!  They leave the roost in the only direction we are not guarding.  We observe their behavior for a bit longer and then decide not to warn them further by continuing our pursuit. We have a pretty good hunch they will be back tonight!

We head to another spot where we have seen signs of turkey. The rain has started falling steadily now and the roads are getting a little sloppy.  We reach our destination and watch for travelers. Still no turkey. The rain had turned to sleet and we sit for an hour and still no sign of turkeys.  So we slide back into the vehicle, drive to yet another spot. Once again, no turkey.

By now the sleet has turned to a hard snow and we are getting hungry. So once again we tramp through the snow, back to the truck and head to the ranch for lunchtime.  We decided to take the back roads on in to Lynch, passing dismayed locals along the way who clearly did not understand why we were out in this weather. Soon enough, we are engaged in friendly conversation with them, including suggestions of a close motel room if we can’t get back to O’Neill. Yikes!

We get back to Lynch safe and sound and after some discussion decide to set up blinds near the roost.  Finally in the blind and out of the weather; 3 inches of snow by this time, but still no birds!  As you can imagine…I am thinking of the travel Andy and Jon have made after hearing my description of the hunting possibilities.

I want them to get a shot at something while they are here!

Watching the clock, it is now 8 p.m. and no birds.  The group of us heads to O’Neill and pull up in front of the one restaurant still open at 9 p.m. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit worried about what the next day, our last day at the ranch, would bring. But both Andy and Jon were very good sports and remained optimistic.

We were all up before dawn, thawed off the truck and headed out.  We headed for the same roost area…no birds. Shortly after daylight we locate them in the next grove east. A quick assessment of the situation – we can tell there is no way to get to them without being seen.  But we decide to go for it. We need to at least try! Well you can imagine the outcome; once again they catch a glimpse of us and elude us once again.  Dang it!

Back to Plan B and another location. We find a good location behind a cedar tree and finally we take one.  Jon nails it and I breathe a bit easier.  At least we have one turkey for the two of them to decide which one will take home.  My bet’s on Andy, since he has never hunted turkey before and his entire family is eagerly awaiting the turkey dinner he has promised based on my descriptions of bird populations.

While field dressing the bird on the back of my pickup…we hear gobbles coming from nearby.  We get out the box call and try to entice No. 2. We strategize the best plan is to split up and head toward the bird. We are now in an area with steep canyons and they present a new challenge!

Apparently I called him close because Andy later found tracks on the back side of a cedar tree I was using as a blind.  Jon had joined up with me at this point and we were trying to decide how to locate Andy without making him walk an extra 2 miles. Then we both caught site of a tom strutting about a quarter mile from us in a group of cedars.  After a careful stalk and hunching down behind a cedar tree, Jon harvested that one and spotted another tom that apparently was an onlooker! Soon he had the second turkey down and we had filled three out of four licenses and were still on our time table.

Andy Smith and Jon Donnor say they will be back next year.

By now Kelsey had called to see how we were doing and was offering lunch.  We gratefully accepted since our stomachs were gnawing at our backbone by now.  Soon we arrived at the ranch and were showing off the three trophies. Both Gene and Kelsey were impressed and happy for our success.  The burgers and hand cut French fries were tasty and hastily consumed!

Off to clean the birds and pack them for travel. We couldn’t beat the hospitality of our hosts and the exhilaration provided by a challenging hunt.  Got promises from both Andy and Jon to try to come back in the fall and do it all again!

It’s always a good feeling to earn some new hunting converts to Nebraska and the experiences are, without a doubt, the best kind of tourism for our rural communities!

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