Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nebraska Turkey Opening Day

The month of March had unusual warm weather for the midwest and by the time the shotgun season for turkeys opened in Nebraska, the foliage was in full bloom.  Normally at this time of year, the budding begins and the ground cover in the standing timber is just starting to show signs of life.  Not so this year, gound cover was knee high in some locations and the trees were fully leafed out.

Three days before the shotgun season opened, it rained non-stop and mother nature put down about two inches of moisture.  The farm north of Fort Calhoun needed some drying out to make it workable, so a wait of a couple of days was in order.

The first place was the land to the southeast of the farm in the steep hills.  To the east is a "no hunting" area that is leased out.  My plan was to be at one of the dam sites and sit right up against a fence post.  When it started getting light, the birds came off the roost and out of the wood onto the open ground.  I have had a lot of sucess at this spot early in the morning at first light.  This would be spot number one.

My decoys are right on the start of the dam.  I am just to the left of the picture up against a post.  Water is just beyond the decoys.  They usually come out of the trees right opposite the decoys, or from my right and head up to the dam for a drink.  You can see a game trail along the side of the hill.  That is where I usually nail them.

The chatter started as I settled in.  Out of the trees they came.  But this time they flew up above the dam. 
The hens slowly started moving up the hill and angled toward the fence line heading west.  There were only two toms, and not the quanitity of birds I had seen in the past.  I continued to wait.  My expectation was to see some birds come to the dam for a drink and move to my right.  They did not show up.  Still, this had been a hot spot in the past, so it called for some patience. 

After a short nap, it was time to move to another spot.  Before I hid under an oak tree at the top of the hill , I put the decoys out close to the top of the hill.  Nothing happened. Then the wind really came up and made the decoys look very unreal.  It was time to move. 

Look straight toward the tree line.  Right in front of it stands a blossemed out tree by itself.  This is spot #2.  The turkeys usually come out of the draw on their way back to the safety of the no hunting area.  The tree line you see is a stand of Cedar trees.  I pushed myself back into the shadows and to the left of the tree up against a fence post.  The decoys are just over the edge of the hill. 

This is a better shot of spot # 2.  You can see the fence line and the tree I positioned myelf under.  The decoys were put down the hill  closer into the draw. 

The decoys are in the draw so that anything coming up can see them, especially the Tom. 

Traffic was good at this location.  Small groups of hens kept coming up the draw, all in range, but no Toms were seen.  Hens were very plentiful in this area.  I waited for over two hours, but the traffic thinned out and nothing happened.  It was getting late in the afternoon.

The next stop was back to the fence line where the birds had moved during the morning.  They went over the hill to the west and down to corn fields in the valley below.  Then they worked their way back, with a good number coming along the fence line. 

By this time the wind was terrible. I decided not to take the decoys and just hunker down in some fallen timber.  I periodically called and just waited.  I had seen them moving down the fence line in the morning.  They would be coming back.

There is the pile of downed timber where I huddled among the limbs.  The fence line runs east and west.  The turkeys  moved along the fence line and down the hill to the dam below.  At the top of this hill it was really windy, but there has always been a lot of traffic.

I waited for about 2 hours, but nothing came by.  At this point I felt a skunking had taken place.  This is when you usually get a really good shot.  I took some field glasses and checked the valley below.  No birds were spotted.  They must have scratched and pecked their way through the fields and went somewhere else.  It was time to move again. 

This is the lane up to the landowners home.  When a person is really desperate, it pays to sit on the embankment across from the road.  The birds will come up out of the timber and walk part way up the road and then cross over to the next stand of timber. 

Today was not my day.  After a 2 hour wait, the only thing that came by me was a small group of hens and some singles.  Not one tom or a jake came within shooting distance.

It is called hunting, not shooting.

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Good hunting, good fishing and good luck.  Hank

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