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Spurs on the Necklace

If you have followed my blog for a year or three, you know this time of year I am distracted.  Distracted by gobbling turkeys.  Yep, I am pretty much all fishing, all the time, but when the turkeys are gobbling, I am gone.

I love everything about wild turkeys.  They are beautiful birds and provide hours of entertainment every spring.  I love just watching their interactions and antics.  They are a challenge to hunt, and when taken they are great on the table and a great trophy.  You may remember from previous blogs how I like to commemorate successful hunts by saving tail fans and other feathers, beards, spurs, and of course a bunch of photos.  They are great on the table.  I have prepared wild turkey at least a half-dozen ways, and every one of them was delicious.  (OK, I overcooked one once in the deep fat fryer and it was a little, no, a lot tough, but that was my stupid fault.)

I like to make my spring turkey hunting experience last as long as possible every year.  Yep, you could say I practice “selective harvest” in my turkey hunting as well as my fishing.  I selectively choose which birds I will pull the trigger on.  Jakes, one-year old Toms, are legal for harvest in Nebraska, but I have not shot a Jake in years.  My kids and I are always holding out for “swingers”, mature Toms of at least two years of age, that have longer beards swinging from their breasts.

Jakes are like teenage boys and usually are a lot easier to harvest than mature Toms.  If you wanna punch a tag with a Jake, go ahead, but we are holding out for big birds, and this year’s Jake is next year’s “swinger”.  We are not in a hurry to fill a bunch of tags, and will enjoy the process of our hunt every year.  Then we will celebrate the taking of a big Tom!

I have not been able to hunt with my son this spring.  He took a mature Tom last week.

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I love soapweeds in turkey pictures!  To me that is quintessential Nebraska!  I have settled my backside into more than one soapweed while chasing Nebraska gobblers!  Here’s another picture from a hunt we shared together a few years ago:

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You might notice the wing bone calls and spur necklaces hanging around our necks.  Those are some of our trophies.  The calls work, and have called turkeys, but we wear ’em all the time for what they mean as much as their functionality.  My cousin made them for us.

Likewise, the spur necklaces are worn all the time.

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Sure, you could say it is a male ego thing, and yes, I am a man.  Sure, I like showing off a necklace full of spurs, the only necklace I have ever worn, one spur from each mature Tom I have taken, all in Nebraska.  But, it is more than that, each one of those spurs represents a hard-won trophy.  Hours in the field.  Boot leather burned.  Early mornings and late evenings.  Wind and rain and snow and lightning storms.  Toms that walked the other way.  Frustrations, days when I thought I would never kill a turkey.  Stories and memories.

I am reminded every spring how hard a person has to work to take a mature Tom.  Oh sure, when it all comes together and you find that right bird at the right time, it seems so easy.  But until then, it can seem impossible.

Then I feel the weight of the necklace around my neck.  I look down and see the spurs, reach up and feel the smooth curves and sharp points.  Memories come rushing back.  I do know what I am doing.  Stay confident, keep hunting, enjoy every moment of the process.  It will happen!

Nebraska’s spring shotgun turkey season has been open for over a week now.  Yes, I have been out.  No, I have not whacked any yet.  I had one group of seven Jakes circle the decoys for a hour one evening.  Had another group of four Jakes keep me close company for a couple of hours another evening.  I could have filled my limit of tags easily by now if I would have just whacked Jakes.

But Jakes don’t put spurs on the necklace.

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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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