Time for my first report on this spring’s turkey season. My kids and I have been hunting quite a bit since the shotgun season opened up a little over a week ago. We have been casual about our hunting, slipping out when we have time, mostly in the evenings so far. Call me lazy, but I have not been in the field at “0-dark, thirty” yet this season.
We have been hunting both some private and public lands, have seen turkeys on both, not tons of birds, but certainly enough to hunt. It is relatively early in the season yet, and the toms have been running with hens. I have seen dominant, mature toms with as many as a couple dozen hens. Actually, with the turkey population we have in most of Nebraska now, I believe a spring turkey hunter should expect the toms to be with hens most of the time, most of the season.
The way things really work in the spring turkey field is the toms gobble and strut to attract hens to them. Of course the toms are love-sick enough that a person can call and use decoys to attract them, but if they have the real hens with them they can be very difficult to take home with you. However, as it is with most hunting, there are a variety of skills and tricks that can be learned.
I hunted a big tom that was strutting around in a field with at least 15 hens (the hens came and went and I had a hard time counting all of them at one time). I knew I was not going to pull that tom away from all his hens, at best, maybe I could get him to strut a few yards in my direction. So, I worked into position in front of the whole flock and eventually the majority of the hens fed right in front of me, less than 10 yards away. I held as still as possible, did not dare make eye-contact with those hens, and the tom strutted close but not quite close enough for a clean shot. So close, and yet so far!
Coincidentally, the same evening my son set up in a spot where we have often seen birds (Remember, my #1 key to successful spring turkey hunting is scouting, scouting and more scouting. Know where the birds are, be there too!). In short order he had a couple of hens and a couple of toms show up and casually feed around his decoys. Just like my hunt that evening, the toms stayed just a little bit too far away, and Daniel let the birds drift off, feeding to the north. Then he started calling to them again, and for whatever reason, he got one of the hens all worked up. She started yelping and cutting at Daniel and the more she called the more he cut her off and kept calling. I do not know what the turkeys are saying back and forth to each other at such times, I speak Turkey, but I do not understand it, but it sounds like the hens are swapping insults. Eventually, that hen got upset enough that she came marching right back to Daniel’s hen decoys and along came Tommie right behind, trying to keep up. At 20-some yards, Daniel put him down.
That was a two-year old Tom, 19.3 pounds, spurs over 3/4 of an inch, but not over an inch; I did not measure the beard, but it was in the neighborhood of 9+ inches. A very nice, “Eastern” bird!
We are not superstitious, but notice the shed deer antlers in the picture. For some reason whenever we find some shed deer antlers while hunting spring gobblers, we tend to be successful in taking a tom. It does not happen every time, but many times it has. When Daniel got home that evening, he pulled out three shed deer antlers; two of the very respectable ones you can see in the photo and one smaller. When he showed me those sheds, I knew he had jelly-headed a turkey as well!
To this point, it has been a typical spring turkey season for us–some very neat experiences, a lot of wildlife seen, some mushrooms picked, a bird harvested and a lot of frustrations! On our public lands, a person better bring a lot of patience not only for the turkeys but for the human turkeys out there doing a lot of things that spook feathered turkeys (you do not want to get me started!). We are not done yet, not by a long shot! This is some of our best spent time of the year!