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Turkey Time

It is that time of year again.  Spring!  The fish are biting, the ‘shrooms are popping, turkeys gobblin’.  I hate that I have to do anything this time of year other than spend time on the water or in the field!  So much to do, and so little time!  I wish I could completely clear my schedule!

The urgency of it all, spring is only gonna last for so long, can put me in a poor state of mind.  You know, rushed.  Frenetic.

I have learned over the years that being in a hurry is a sure way to experience failure and frustration in just about any outdoor pursuit.  As much as you want to make it happen, you just gotta take a breath and let it happen.  Oh, do not get me wrong, the more you know, the more likely you are going to be in the right place at the right time doing the right things.  The more you learn, and practice, the more successful you will be.  A big part is realizing that nothing is guaranteed, nothing works all the time.  You learn to put as many odds as possible in your favor.  Then, you wait for it to happen.  It is a matter of time.

Patience is a huge component of being successful in the field and on the water.

My time in the spring turkey woods is a reminder of this fact every year.  (“Turkey woods”.  In Nebraska I do not believe that phrase really fits.  Oh sure, turkeys everywhere roost in trees.  Yet, I have killed a lot of big toms in a lot of prairie and fields in Nebraska.  It ain’t really woods at all.  Maybe I should say “turkey fields”?). . . .

My time in the spring turkey fields is a reminder of this fact every year.  I love spending time scouting, even before the season is open, in addition to my time with a tag in my pocket and the ole 16 gauge in my hands.  One thing that I re-learn doing this is that the turkeys carry on according to their own schedule.  Oh yes, the days start in the early dawn and last until dark.  You can get tired and sleep-deprived following that schedule for a few consecutive days.

Within that daily cycle the turkeys move according to their own rhythms.

Time stands still when that big, gobbling tom finally comes strutting into view.  Yes, I have had many hunts when that happened right away.  In fact have had more than one hunt when that happened within yards of the pickup!  Even then, there were hours of hunting, maneuvering, scheming, re-positioning, and reasoning that led up to that moment.

There have been a lot more birds that went home in the back of that pickup who succumbed to hours of just sitting and waiting.  Often, at those times, I have to remind myself to slow down to the birds schedule and pace.  In fact, oftentimes I do that by looking at an old, cheap wrist watch.

The thought of that is revolting!  “Being on the clock” is part of the problem, a huge part of what I am trying to avoid!


I use it in the opposite way–the watch reminds me to slow down.  Think about it, how slow does time pass when you are wondering if you should make a move on that tom or stay put?  Five minutes seems like an hour.  A half-hour seems like two.  The only way I know to remedy that relativity is to use a time piece.

More than once, to get a stubborn tom to commit, I have told myself not to move and shut up on the call for thirty minutes or more.  The only way I know to gauge that is by using a time-measuring device.  I hate to do it, right up until minute 25 when that beautiful gobbler comes quietly sneaking into range.


Actually, other situations and adventures teach the same composure.  My wife and I smile at each other every time we break the bands of more urban, eastern Nebraska and travel west to our lesser-populated regions.  You know, life just moves at a difference pace in those rural parts of “The Good Life”.  We appreciate the frequent reminders that that is the way life is supposed to be.

Or, try spending an afternoon on the edge of a marsh just watching spring waterfowl.  I did that recently with my wife, daughter and son-in-law.  It was a great day!


Somewhere in one of Roger Welsch’s writings I remember him referencing how earlier inhabitants of Nebraska viewed time in an entirely different way.  Yes, anyone would be a fool not to notice the seasonal, monthly, and daily patterns in nature.  On the other hand, are our ways of defining those patterns and “times” real or artificial?  Are they artifacts of our way of thinking?  A mindset that is more rushed and enslaving than it should be?

Would not we be smarter if we just learned to operate more on turkey time?  To just let things happen, instead of making them happen?  Rise at the beginning of the day, and take it as it comes?  To adapt and adjust to the day’s opportunities and challenges?  To simply take life at a more relaxed, and probably more natural, pace?

No, I am not suggesting we live like animals.  Believe me, turkeys, and muskies, and deer, and ducks, and ____________ (fill the blank with your favorite fish or game) do not live an easy life.

However, I am implying that we would all be more happy, and healthy, if we learned to live more of our lives at the pace the turkeys teach me every spring.  To just let it happen.

On the eve of another weekend, I hope you get some, a lot of, your life’s existence spent in the field or on the water practicing turkey time.  In short, have a great weekend!


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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