Spring Turkey Hunting
A while ago I got an email from Cash Hogsett, the Manager at Birds & Bucks, a hunting club in Colorado, about a turkey hunt in Nebraska on 10,000 acres of private land, including lodging. It sounded incredible, and after weeks of anticipation, my spring turkey hunt in Nebraska has come and gone, and it was a great hunt!
As I drove east on I-70 with a strong wind blowing from the north the entire four hours to Colby, KS, I had a lot of time to think. When I was near Strasburg, CO there was this huge church to the south of the highway on an open plain. The church seemed too big to be there, it just looked out of place with no homes or town near it. In the playground of the church there was a lone young girl swinging on a swing set, with her white petty coat Sunday school dress billowing in the wind as she swung back and forth. For some reason the image of that girl brought thoughts of my own childhood to mind, the moment of freedom and innocence of a child. Back and forth she went; I am sure without a care in her mind. As I drove on through the shadows of the patchy clouds racing across the road I thought about how much I would like to be as care free as that child on the swing.
When I got to Colby I turned north on Highway 25 with about an hour and a half left to go to get to Hayes Center, NE. The land was wide open plains with farms and ranches every couple of miles or so, a few small towns along the way, and some rolling hills and wooded creek bottoms interspersed with the farm land, it was very beautiful country.
Arriving at Hayes Center just after 6:00 PM I quickly found the house where I would be staying in that tiny little town no bigger than a few city blocks. Allan from across the street came over to show me around the house, and then we got in his truck to see where I could hunt the next day. Allan is a part of a group of families that decided to create this hunting opportunity by combining 10,000 acres of their private land together and offer it to hunters for a fee, and it included staying in this little house in town.
We got into Allan’s dusty truck and headed west on a dirt road about seven miles to the first property, and right away saw some turkeys. We continued driving to other properties, seeing tons of mule deer and turkeys, they were everywhere! We also came across Mike and his son Tristan, who were also staying at the house with me. It looked very promising for the next morning.
After we got back to the house, I unpacked my gear, and then walked a block down the main street to this little bar and restaurant to have dinner. At first I was the only one in the place, I guess the owner opened it up for the night because there were some hunters in town, although he didn’t seem too happy about it. He handed me a menu and asked if I wanted something to drink. “Do you have regular Coors?” I asked. He just said “No.” “What kind of beer do you have?” I asked. “Coors, Coors Light, Bud, and Bud Light” he said. “OK, I’ll have a Coors.” “I don’t have Coors, but I have Coors Light” he said. “OK, I’ll have a Coors Light” I said. After eating an unremarkable chicken fried steak sandwich I went back to the house.
Mike and Tristan were there having dinner, and we had a good time talking and watching the new episode of “Naked and Afraid” on TV. He is a nice guy, a bow hunter like me, and we had a good conversation. I admired him for bringing his five year old son on this trip. They were hunting out of a blind and didn’t get a shot at anything, although he did take a shot at a bird when they went for a walk along a cedar row wind break. We all headed to bed, and then at 5:00 AM we were having oatmeal together at the dining table, and then headed out to hunt.
I decided that I would hunt the first area that Allan showed me the day before. I parked my truck off to the side of the dirt road next to a mile long row of thick cedar trees choked with tumble weeds, it was nearly impenetrable, but I found a place to crawl through on my stomach to get to the field on the other side. There was another cedar row going east-west that split the large field in half, and I decided I would hide in there with my decoys set up about 30 yards away. You can see a video by clicking here.
As the sun started to light up the darkness I could hear turkeys yelping and a few gobbles. The birds all seemed to be to the west of me, on the other side of the north-south cedar row I crawled through. But I sat there patiently, calling with my box call and my slate call. The lighter it became, the more activity arose, with turkeys calling louder and more frequently. When it was light enough to shoot I felt like I needed to be on the other side of that north-south cedar row, so I left my decoys and found another place to crawl through the thick trees.
Once on the other side of the cedar row I heard more birds, but I didn’t see any yet. I sat there until about 8:30 when I finally saw four hens about 60 yards to the south. I watched them for a while, and then they went through the cedar row back into the field I had just left. I decided to crawl back through the trees to my original spot. I watched those hens meander through the field, feeding cautiously, and then they disappeared over a hill and out of sight.
By then it was about 9:00 and I wasn’t hearing many calls at all. I decided that I had missed my opportunity for that spot that morning, and decided to pick up my decoys and head to the truck. I was either going to try another spot, or head back to the house and eat and take a nap. I packed up my decoys and crawled through the cedars for the fourth time. As I was walking up the dirt road towards my truck I heard a couple of loud gobbles, again from the field I had just left.
So I crawled through the cedars one more time and about 100 yards out into the field I saw several hens and two toms chasing them around in circles, fanning their tails and strutting. I was about 20 yards away from the original cedar row that I had hid in that morning, so I crawled on my hands and knees towards those trees so the turkeys wouldn’t see me. Once I reached the trees I stood up and walked quickly towards the east in the direction the turkeys were heading. As I came to the end of the tree row I kneeled down and peered out into the field.
Sure enough, I had intercepted the birds and they were coming right towards me. I pulled up my binoculars to try to identify the toms, and then I saw one fan his tail about 30 yards away. I shouldered my gun and aimed. As the tom continued walking towards me, he stopped to look up and around him, presenting me with a perfect shot at 20 yards. One shot, and that was it, he went down immediately while the other birds panicked and looked around for what the danger was before sprinting off over a hill.
As I approached the bird its feathers were so beautiful, iridescent and glowing in the sun. The wind was blowing his fan up as if he were in a strutting motion. You can see a video by clicking here. I knelt down next to the bird, put my hand on his back, and thanked him. He was a huge bird, and when I picked him up he was at least 25 pounds, I couldn’t believe the size of him. I was thankful to be leaving the field with a bird and feeling pleased with my hunting skills that allowed me to take him. This bird will provide many meals to my family, and he will be memorialized with as much class as I can give him when I mount his fan, beard, and spurs.
It was a great hunt, and I have already let Cash know that I want to go again next year.