Yes, I have been spending a lot of time with turkeys this spring, literal, feathered turkeys. I do every spring.
Have not had a chance to blog about it yet. There have been other items that have been a higher priority and have warranted previous blog posts. Today it is time to tell a story. . . .
If you have read my thoughts on spring turkey hunting before, you know that I consider the key to success to be scouting, scouting and more scouting. When you get done with that, scout some more. I guess you can do that the new-fangled way with trail cameras, but I am old and prefer old ways like actually hauling your butt out to the woods and fields to watch and listen.
My turkey scouting starts a week or two before the shotgun opener each year. A person could start sooner, but you know how much our weather changes in Nebraska each spring. Turkey behavior can change a lot from week to week in early spring. Locations that had no turkeys can be loaded with birds as the weather warms and winter flocks break up. So, yes, I scout as much as possible in the spring, but figure that scouting will be most productive just prior to season.
My wife accompanied me the first evening I scouted this spring. We drove out to a place I have hunted for several years. I parked in the usual spot and opening the pickup door and placing my left foot on the ground I noticed a turkey dropping. It was a tom dropping. I told my wife that was a good sign, a very good sign.
Did not cover a lot of ground or spend a lot of time that first evening. It was already close to sunset. Mostly I just stood quietly and listened. Having not heard a thing, I dug the coyote howler out of my pocket and give a couple of yips and howls before we left. Gobbles answered me. They came from a familiar locale to my east. That was another sign, another very good sign.
I spent some more time scouting prior to season, when I had time. While scouting I like to just find a good place to sit. A place where I can be comfortable, with good visibility and a good place to listen. Getting with the birds comes later when the season is open and I have an un-filled tag in my pocket.
No doubt it is an advantage to hunt the same areas year after year. By doing that, the scouting and experience accumulates. It is like compound interest. By the time shotgun season opened this year, I had a real good idea where the birds were, how many toms were around, and what they were doing.
First week of shotgun season I spent some time hunting, nothing real serious, casual. Towards the end of that week, I slipped out for a couple of extended evenings. On the first, I was hampered by muddy conditions where I did not want to tear up any fields or roads. The second, well, the wind blew.
You know how the wind has blown this spring. Well, that evening it was howling. “Don’t mean nothing”. Remember, with scouting I had a good idea of a couple of woodlots where the birds liked to loaf during windy days. Besides, if you are waiting for the perfect day to hunt or fish in Nebraska, you are going to be waiting a LONG time.
I pulled in to park in the same, usual spot. The wind was blowing 50. I was gearing up when I thought I heard a turkey gobble. In the wind, I was not expecting to hear any gobbling, and I was not sure I had heard a gobble. Maybe I just wanted to hear a gobble? Nevertheless, I geared up and walked thirty yards from the pickup into the wind. If I had heard a turkey gobble, it had to come from upwind. I stopped, I listened. A turkey gobbled. NO, it was not my wishful thinking!
There was a nice open, green, grassy area in the woodlot right there. Hurriedly, I put out a hen and jake decoy. Then, still standing, I faced the direction the gobble came from, and slipped a call into my mouth. I always have box calls and slate calls in my turkey vest. I can, and have called turkeys with all of them. But, my confidence is in the mouth call. When the chips are down, that is what I call with.
I yelped, LOUD! Into the wind. . . .
I was cut-off by a gobble. Some more yelping and cutting brought another immediate gobble. He knew where I was, and hopefully he was going to be on the way.
Quick as I could, plopped down in front of a good tree. Within five minutes I could see the full fan of a strutting tom coming along the edge of the trees. He was heading my way!
A few more soft yelps to let him know exactly where I was, and some hens yelped back to me. Turns out Tom was not alone. There were three or four hens, a couple of jakes and big Tom. They all came right to me. The hens came at a trot, the jakes and Tom trying to keep up.
They all walked within a few paces of the decoys, but none of the birds went to them. The hens came right to where they had heard the calling and then continued to walk past me, right towards the pickup!
I did not dare blink. The hens had to walk by before I could get a shot at Tom. They did. The ole 16 gauge barked, and Tom tipped over, fifteen paces away.
I had hunted a total of maybe twenty minutes, and could turn around and see the pickup parked right behind me. Parked right in the spot where my wife and I had parked and seen the turkey droppings our first night of scouting. I knew I was in a good spot, and that was a good sign!
Here’s the setup:
And here is a better look at the bird:
Not a huge bird, a little over 18 pounds, beard just short of 9 1/2 inches, 3/4-inch spurs.
You might recognize the photo. Two years ago I killed a bird in the same place on a very similar hunt:
Notice the difference in coloration of tail fans. Birds were taken from the exact same location, two years apart. Gotta love Nebraska’s hybrid turkeys! Seriously, I love the variation!
And I LOVE spring turkey hunting; cannot get enough!