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I Am Hunter

I want to blog one more time about our spring turkey season.  Consider this to be my epilogue blog.  Ha.

My kids and I had a great turkey season this spring.  I know I say that every spring, but I especially felt that way this spring.  Sure, we all punched tags with 2-year old, mature Toms, and believe me success is a big part of it, but I just felt like I got even more enjoyment out of this spring’s season.  We hunted in conditions from gale-force winds to snowstorms to some of the prettiest spring weather you can imagine.  We hunted early morning, noon and “night”, evenings, and killed our birds this spring at all of those times.  Through it all we watched lots of turkeys, thrilled to lots of gobbling at times, wondered what hole they all dropped into at other times.

From spring to spring, I often wonder if I hunt better at some times?  Are there times when I am mentally “on”?  Are there times when my head is not in the right place and I am far less likely to be successful?  What is it that activates those primal hunting instincts inside me, and how can I trigger those instincts more often?  As I hunted this spring I pondered those questions, let me share some experiences and thoughts that really fueled my thinking. . . .

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Two years ago my son Daniel was the only one of the three of us to punch a tag.  I remember feeling that entire spring that nothing ever seemed to go quite right.  I remember feeling that nothing I did was right, not the right moves, not the right strategies, not being in the right place at the right time.  My Dad passed away that spring a couple of years ago, and I wonder if that had a lot to do with the way I hunted?  Sure, I may have hunted a bit less that spring, but my daughter and I did not fill our spring turkey tags for lack of trying.  I also believe there were less mature Toms available for us to hunt that spring, I believe the turkey hatch during the drought of 2012 was not good, but I also remember feeling like something was “off” every time I hunted turkeys that spring.  I never felt like I hunted with confidence, I more often had doubts about everything I did in the turkey field that spring.

Contrast that to this spring when there were times when I was not even hunting very hard, not really even expecting to encounter a big Tom, but I did.  Or, to some hunts this spring when I was so “on”, so confident, that I was anticipating big Toms to come strutting to us a long time before they actually did!  Most hunts this spring, even if we did not take a bird, we just seemed to be what my son and I call “in the game”, making moves right enough that we were close to birds and not spooking them.  Even if we did not get a shot it just seemed that most of the time this spring we were always getting closer to success and were not hurting our chances to be successful.

The hunt when my daughter missed a big Tom early in the season was one of the most beautiful evenings in which I have ever hunted turkeys.  It was clear blue, cool but comfortable, and absolutely dead calm.  You know how rare an evening that was in Nebraska this spring!  I was so wired that evening from the moment we put out our decoys and sat down, I just knew gobblers were going to show up.  Maybe because it was dead calm that evening, but my senses were keenly aware of everything happening that night.  I absolutely was hunter, predator, I was part of it!

That evening, at one point before we had seen a gobbler, I whispered to my kids that I could “feel” a turkey strutting nearby.  If you have never hunted spring gobblers, you might puzzle over that statement.  If you are a spring turkey hunter, you know exactly what I am talking about. . . . Male turkeys strut for the hens in the spring.  Mature, dominant Toms do most of the strutting.  When they strut the Toms “spit and drum”.  If you are close to them you can hear a spitting sound as they flare out into a strut, and then they stomp forward a couple of steps and vibrate their feathers, “drum”.  You can only hear a Tom drumming when they are close, really close.  It is a sound that immediately results in a surge of adrenaline through a turkey hunter’s veins.

That evening when Emily missed a bird, I could not actually hear drumming as much as I could feel it.  I could not point to it, but could sense it.  Was it low-frequency vibrations that I could actually feel?  Was I crazy?  I am telling you I was so aware of everything that evening that I could FEEL a big Tom drumming.

When I whispered that to my kids, my daughter said, “You’re such a dork”.  I grinned, you know how you take pleasure in embarrassing your kids?  But, then I yelped on my mouth call and a turkey gobbled.  Not two minutes later Emily spots two big Toms off to her right and here they came!

Now who was the “dork”?

I just knew we were going to have a chance at a Tom that evening, I could “feel” ’em and they were close!

Last week I told the story of the big Tom that Emily finally got this spring, Friday the 13th.  That evening was the complete opposite with the wind gusting to 505 mph.  Emily and I had hunted several evenings after she missed that first bird, and although we had been close a couple of times, we just could not quite get her another shot.  Yet, when we entered the field that last evening, I again just had that feeling, I just knew something special was going to happen that night, and again I was “on edge”, “wired”, and even with gusty winds keenly aware of everything that was happening.  We had hunted the evening before, had seen birds including a couple of big Toms and were very confident in our plan for that evening’s hunt.

I can also explain being “in the zone” on that last evening hunt because we literally had turkeys in our decoys and around us from the time we sat down in front of our cedar tree.  We spent a lot of time just enjoying the show!  Even though there were a couple of Jakes that Emily could have taken at any time, she was holding out for a mature bird, one with a swinging beard.  We sat on the edge of our butt-pads that whole time knowing the big, mature Tom was going to show up at any minute!

Believe me it was so windy that night that if a Tom had stood at my feet and gobbled in my face I am not sure I could have heard him.  But again that evening, after yelping on my mouth call, I just had a sense that a turkey gobbled.  I cannot tell you that I actually heard it, cannot tell you which direction it came from, but there was a turkey that gobbled.  I just knew it.

I would dismiss that as being too “amped up”, as being wishful thinking, but again right after having that sense the big Tom that Emily shot came strutting out of the trees about 80 yards in front of us.

Again, am I crazy?  Do I have some sort of TESP?  (Turkey Extra-Sensory Perception)

What about a sixth sense?  I have read of other hunters with similar experiences in a variety of hunting situations.  Is it real?

Or, is it just the awakening of the hunting instincts contained in our DNA?  Oh yes, it is contained in yours too, you also are a hunter–your eyes are in front just like all other predators.

I am also sure that it has a lot to do with being confident.

By the way, there are times I get the same feeling while I am fishing, times on the water when I am “in the zone”.  I am heading there now, until it is time to hunt again it will be for the water, for “the zone”.  I cannot get enough of it!

I do not hunt for the joy of killing, but for the joy of living and the inexpressible pleasure of mingling my life however briefly with that of a wild creature I respect, admire, and value.–John Madson

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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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