Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where Have all the Turkeys Gone

If I did not know better, I would say the turkeys have left eastern Nebraska.   For the last ten days, the weather in eastern Nebraska has been cold and windy.  I have seen no birds.  The toms should be out strutting and showing off, but they were not to be seen. (It is obvious male turkeys are affected by the weather.  Human males are not)  Deep in the timber there were signs, but I rarely saw one.  It was time for some consultation.                                                                                                                                     

I called my good friend Ernie.  This gentleman is a hunter's hunter, and he has probably harvested more game than any man alive.  Ernie owns the land and operates the duck and goose club I belong to.  He and his wife enjoy the game they harvest.  That is what makes it really fun to be with him.  His wife is an outstanding cook, and I can always learn a new recipe.   I always look forward to duck season.  Right now it is turkeys, and I am stumped.

We met for coffee and he took me to his farm.  This piece of ground is dedicated to hunting and there is a small lake available for fishing.  The farm is hilly and covered with pasture and timber.  It is land locked, and there is an easement you have to use to acess the ground.  This just makes it that much better. No one can see it or access it from any road.  I have always had so much good turkey and deer hunting close to home, I have never ventured to new ground.  This will be exciting.

We drove around to three spots he recommended and we saw toms everywhere.  These were really big, and I am told the ground is blessed with a lot of big birds.  What we didn't see were any of the birds out strutting, fanned out and showing off to a flock of hens. In fact, I saw no hens at all.  Ernie believed the cold weather had shut down the breeding season, and coupled with the high winds we have had, the birds are not active in the open.  Our temps were running in the low 30s at night, and only 40 to 50 in the day.  I decided to give it a try.

Timber is behind me and across from me.  I have pushed myself back into a cedar tree.  This is a beautiful spot.
 By midmorning, I was planted.  I pushed myself back into a stand of cedar trees in the shadows.  Putting out a couple of decoys in the sun, I waited for some action.  It did not take long.  I heard a gobble.  I used my friction call to give him some location.  He gobbled away and started toward me. But he failed to finish and didn't step out of the woods.  This scenerio repeated itself several times, but I did not get a shot.  I was confident I could not be seen.  Two deer come down the valley where I was hiding.  Twenty yards away they bedded down and just laid there.  I was not winded and was well camoflauged so I wasn't seen.  This was an amazing scene to watch.

In the afternoon I moved to another spot, but by now the wind came up and it was stormy.  I folded my tent and headed for the barn. (Went home, in other words)

The next morning I was up before 4 AM and drove to the farm.  I wanted to be there when the birds came off the roost as this would be the best opportunity.  The toms gobbled and the hens yelped as it got light.  Off they came.  I heard the wings flap and they sank to the ground.  Lots of noise, lots of calling, but they didn't show themselves.  It was cold and it started to get windy.  I sat in this location for about three hours, but nothing gave me a shot.

I moved up to the top of a hill and sat among some cedar trees.  I was told this has always been a good spot. The top of the hill dropped steeply into a narrow wooded valley.  Here I waited, called and had little response.  The wind began to pick up so I moved down into the valley and sat down against a tree.  The wind really picked up but the valley was not affected. 

I am back up against a tree with my gun against my shoulder and resting on top of my knees. 
 A gobbler worked me for a short period, but he failed to finish.  What showed a lot of promise was the fact I had hens walking by me.  Now to wait and be patient. Toms again gobbled but they failed to finish.  They were not running with the hens, and I found that fact very unusual this time of year.

Ernie was right.  The mating season has been delayed by the cold weather.  The birds were staying hidden in the timber because of all the wind and rain.  It was not over yet.

Good Hunting, Good Fishing, and Good Luck.  Hank.

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