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Spring Turkey 2017, Decoying

My blog followers know that I have only one thing that really distracts me from fish and fishing all the time–spring turkey hunting.

It is time, I am distracted!

In the next few weeks, you can expect me to throw in the odd post or three about our Nebraska spring turkey adventures.  Might even mention a morel or two along the way.

Opening weekend of our spring shotgun season presented my kids and I with some family obligations, so we hunted when we could.  Believe it or not, we did not have one chance to hunt sunrise!  Don’t mean nothing.  I will tell you that sunrise is the most overrated time to hunt spring gobblers.  It is the best time to hear gobbling, but often at that time of day, a person has to compete with real live hens.  If I had a dollar for every time I thought a sunrise hunt the next morning was “in the bag”, only to watch the toms hit the ground and follow hens the other direction, well, I could afford another expensive turkey decoy.

I have been using decoys for spring toms since before there were decoys on the market.  My Uncle Ivan had a silhouette hen decoy way back when, where he got it I have no idea, but that was the only turkey decoy I had ever seen, anywhere, at the time.  Maybe he got it from Herter’s or the old Sidney Cabela’s?  It worked.

Over the years my family members and I have worn out a few turkey decoys.  Dad and I went together to buy a FeatherFlex hen decoy the first year those hit the market.  We used that decoy so long that all the seams had been re-stitched, and the original paint had peeled off.  I invested in a batch of artsy, permanent ink markers and used those to re-color that decoy before every season.

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The original, “Henny Penny”. Sorry, she is displayed here without make-up.

I cannot count the number of stinkin’ decoy stakes I have busted.

In recent years turkey decoys have generally become a lot more realistic and a lot more expensive.  My son and I have not been able to resist the temptation, and we each have invested in a couple.

Got to see my sister, brother-in-law, and niece over Easter weekend.  Heard some sad stories from them about gobblers hunted and missed up Montana way already this spring.  Of course Daniel, my son, and I had to break out our expensive turkey decoys and show them off.  My B-I-L was giving us a bad time about spending so much money on decoys when the cheaper, and lighter, ones would work just as well.

Funny how things played out. . . .

The next morning my son slipped out to hunt and I told him I would catch up with him a little bit later.  We discussed where we would be and where we could meet so that we would stay out of each other’s way.  I set up late morning in a spot that always seems to attract birds, set up one of my cheap, old hen decoys, and our most expensive DSD jake decoy.  Daniel joined me about an hour later.

I had been calling occasionally, had not seen or heard a bird, and my son had not seen a whole lot either.  I thought he might be ready to take a break and head to town, but Daniel said he really did not care.  So I thought we would sit a while longer, maybe another 15 minutes or so.  I called again.

Daniel whispered there was a turkey on his side.  Sure enough there stood a mature Tom, all alone, where he had come from, how he got there, we have not a clue.

I soft-yelped and purred a little.  The Tom looked and strutted a bit, took a few steps and looked some more.

I whispered to Daniel that if we could get him over the little rise in between us, he would see the decoys and we would get him!

He took a few steps, looked, puffed out again.

A rooster pheasant cackled.

The Tom gobbled.

He sauntered up the rise, saw the decoys, puffed out, and here he came!

Right to the most expensive decoy!

Then he proceeded to chest bump that fake jake, to push him around, peck him a little bit, whack him with a wing a time or two.

All of this not 20 yards in front of us.  Daniel and I had a little conversation about who should shoot him.  “You shoot ’em.”  “Nah, you shoot ’em.”  I told Daniel he came in on his side, he was his bird.  Daniel finally raised his 16-gauge (yes, we hunt turkeys with 16-gauge shotguns, always have), clicked off the safety and then waited.  The Tom was puffed up in a strut, pushing the jake decoy around, and he wanted a better shot at his head.  I told him not to worry about shooting the decoy, but Daniel waited until the Tom cleared, stretched it’s neck out to give the jake decoy one last evil eye, and “Boom”, turkey down!

That decoy is worth every penny!

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Daniel is old enough that most of the time anymore he goes one way and I go the other when we are hunting.  He has killed lots of birds on his own.  Oh yes, his old man takes great satisfaction in that!  When one of us fills our tag, we often assist the other, but it has been several years since I have been sitting beside my son when he pulled the trigger on a gobbler.  It was good to do it again; a classic hunt and I was every bit as excited as he was!

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View the other direction. That cedar up there was our hiding spot.

Some of you are serious turkey hunters, and you want to know the vitals.  It was a mature bird, a beard of about 8 1/2 inches, but it did not weigh a lot–15-16 pounds (we have killed big birds in those canyons, but they do not eat as much corn and some of them are smaller).  We looked at one spur and it was about 3/4 inch long, typical of a 2-year old Tom, but then we looked at the other and it was a nice hook of a little more than an inch!  I am guessing the bird was at least 3-years old and perhaps the shorter spur had been broken off and worn down?

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Some of you will be interested in this too.  Love those white-tips!

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Gotta go!  More tags to fill and I hear a turkey gobbling!

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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