Turkey hunting begins early in the year for me. November finds me applying for tags for one of Illinois’s five spring turkey hunts in April and May. Not long after the new year in January, I meet up with good friend Robert Hoague at one of the many trade shows we attend. We immediately break into conversation about upcoming spring turkey seasons.
Florida is our first focus. We always set our sights on getting a Grand Slam. It can’t happen unless you get a Florida Osceola. Florida’s season opens before all other states, around the first week in March. We contacted good friend David Mills of Arcadia, FL. Dave lined up three farms for us to hunt. It didn’t take Robert long to drop a Mac Daddy Long beard on the first farm we hunted. I struggled for several days and went home without a bird. I had high hopes of coming back later in the season. But time ran out as other hunts burned up my time away from my business.
I had great luck in Illinois and bagged my Eastern gobbler on the 2nd day of my hunt. Meanwhile Robert slayed a Rio in Texas. Nebraska, here we come!!!!
Past years, Robert and I hunted Nebraska before hunting our own home states. But the last couple years we had brutal cold and lots of snow. We wanted pleasant spring weather and that’s what we got. This year’s hunt was what Spring turkey hunting should be. It is Gods awaking of this earth after the long winter. The grass was green. Trees leafs were budding. Flowers were popping. And the wild turkeys were active.
I filmed for Robert the first day. We had lots of action but not one bird close enough for a shot. We split up the next day to cover more area. Wade Nolan drove out from PA and joined us for the second year in a row. We all joined up for lunch with hosts Terry and Edna. We made plans for the afternoon hunt.
Terry suggested Wade and I hunt the picked corn field just East of the farm. I hunted the west end, Wade headed for the east side where he had luck the year before. Robert headed back to the river.
Late in the afternoon I spotted two long beard gobblers at the far end of the field. They were on the opposite corner of the field of Wade’s set-up. They strutted and showed off for two hens that stayed in the tree line surrounding the field. Even though Wade was closer to the birds than I was, there weren’t visible to him because of the think foliage. At times they headed toward Wade. I filmed the birds and enjoyed the show for an hour.
The two hens entered the field. The two strutters were quick to follow. It took a half hour but they headed and fed directly to my blind. I checked the distance several times with my Leupold rangefinder. At thirty yards and closing I set the rangefinder down and picked up my bow. I did this just in time as the hens passed and the gobblers were hurrying to catch up. I shot and watched as my arrow hit a bit back. The long bearded Tom ran and flopped to the far edge of the field in front of me. The bird stumbled and flopped it’s way into the Sumac bushes on the field edge.
I picked up my binoculars and watched the gobbler as it huddled down. The white feathers on my arrow was very visible in the birds side. After resting a few minutes it went up a small hill and through the 5-strand barbwire fence and disappeared. I knew the Tom was hurt bad. Wade was at the opposite corner of the field. I didn’t want to get out of my blind with another hour of day light and ruin Wades hunt. I sat and waited.
All of a sudden a great commotion of gobbling and turkey fighting came from where I last saw my bird. I couldn’t see was was happening but heard the commotion heading in Wades direction.
I saw Wade get out of his blind. He motioned me in his direction. I joined Wade right at dark. He told me 6 Jakes attacked my bird and drove him into the high weed and grass pasture adjoining our picked corn field. Wade watched as the Jakes left the field at dark and headed for the roost trees above the pasture. He did not see my bird. We looked with our flashlights but had no luck recovering my bird.
The next morning Robert, Wade and I headed for the pasture and found my bird in minuets. It was dead in the thick weeds only yards from where we looked the night before.
I had my first Merriam’s of the year. Robert filmed me with my bird and I posed for hero shots. I took my gobbler back to the barn and headed back to my blind.
After a morning of no action I headed back to the farm house, ate lunch and took a much needed nap.
Back to the field, I moved my blind about 100 yards away from the field corner and positioned the Primos Dark Horse blind in the middle of the field’s far west side. I set up near the access road into the field. The gate was open and I saw several turkeys walk this road both entering and exiting the field.
It was mid-day and all was quiet. I looked up just in time to see a big Merriam’s long beard walking the road heading my way. I had just enough time to turn on my video camera sitting on the tri-pod in front of me and pick up my bow. I drew and nailed the tom at 15 steps. He ran to the field edge and I saw him disappear thought the trees and out the far end of the field. My hit was solid but the bird traveled out of sight.
Terry showed up at dark and I was already walking the strip of woods next to the field looking under every dead fall and brush pile. No luck. We crossed the fence and walked through the open pasture leading to the river. Terry hollered,” Here he is!” What a relief. I wasn’t looking forward to another restless night without a recovery.
Back at the house we met up with Robert. Good news, Robert also had a Tom.
A really nice feature of hunting Nebraska is you can buy up to three tags in the spring. With the abundance of turkeys on Terry’s farm I always buy three tags expecting to use them all the first morning. But if you know turkey hunting with a bow, you know that just doesn’t happen. Wade filled both the tags he bought and headed home. A few days of hard hunting passed before I got my next chance.
I once again moved my Double bull blind. This time to the far North East corner of the field. This was on the end of the field Wade had been hunting but on the opposite corner. I listened to the birds gobble on the roost as the sun showed the horizon. Several hens entered the far end of the field right after coming off the roost. They fed in my direction but were heading for the opposite corner. They have been hitting the field early and making their way into the vast miles of rolling hills of pasture land where they spend the day.
Six Jakes entered the field and headed toward the hens. I called with a few yelps on my mouth diaphragm and they headed in my direction. Two crows were feeding in the middle of the field and when the Jakes met up with them they got distracted and started chasing the crows. I called again and got their attention. Once again they headed my way. Before dawn I poked a corn stalk into the plowed field 20 yards from my blind. When they reached that stalk I knew I could shoot. I filmed and called again. One tom walked straight to my corn stalk. I buried a Carbon Express arrow in his chest. He jumped and flopped and only made 20 yards where he laid still.
What a relief not having him leave the field. I crawled out the blind window and headed for my bird. What a great feeling filling my last tag. I hunted hard and this was a great reward putting my hands on this bird.
I filmed all three of my Nebraska kills. I also filmed my Illinois kill. This is a challenge in itself. I did have to pass on a couple of birds when I couldn’t get them in the lens. The footage isn’t the best but is good enough for me and to share with my friends.
Robert filled his second Nebraska tag and we headed for South Dakota. We have already featured that hunt on Bowhunting.net. If you missed it go back and check it out. We hunted with the biggest turkey nut in South Dakota, Dave Keiser. Dave makes you wish turkey season would never end.
But it did, and I am back home. But my thoughts are already on next spring. But wait!!! Did somebody say “Canadian Black Bear?” See you this August in Ontario, Canada.