Turkey Hunting in NebraskaNovember 1, 2018 | Hunting
I have to be honest. Turkey hunting was something I’d always viewed with scepticism. I prefer pheasants soaring at heights of 50 yards or more from one side of a valley to another, chukar to look like midges as they zoom over hedges and trees, and quail roaring past at speeds so fast that, if you blink, you miss them. How wrong I was.
Us hunters are a curious breed, and so, despite my scepticism, when I was offered the chance to hunt turkey in the spring in Furnas County, Lexington, Nebraska, I took it. We had three days and three tags. I slightly wondered what I would do with myself once I’d filled all three tags on the first day. Surely it wouldn’t take long? Perhaps there were some interesting sights in the area that I could visit…
I was hunting with my buddy Jeremy. We spent the first day together, so that he could show me the ropes and, most importantly, the various calls he used. “If a turkey could smell you, you’d never get one. Their eyesight is amazing,” Jeremy explained, warning that any movement would ruin our chances once a Tom came in to the call. “In the morning they are re-establishing their dominance, collecting their hens. That’s why they’ll come in to the call.” That first morning, while we heard a few, and I was deceived time and again by how realistic Jeremy’s calling was, we saw none. Maybe this would be harder than I’d thought.
That evening we headed out again, setting up near a roosting spot among some cedars. It wasn’t long before there was action. We heard the birds before we saw them, Jeremy’s call bringing a large Tom in. Seeing these huge birds in the wild for the first time a tremor of excitement coursed through me. A large Tom, his beard twitching to and fro, his head blue-white with anger, was coming into the call fast. I held my breath. Fifty yards, still too far. He wasn’t stopping, he’d be right on top of me any moment. And then, at the last second, something spooked him and he was away, far faster than I though these giant creatures could travel. “That’s turkey hunting for you,” Jeremy said, shrugging his shoulders.
Jeremy may have been relaxed, but I wasn’t. I was shaking with the thrill of how close the Tom had been, with the near chance I’d had. I barely slept that night, eager for my next outing, excited to see if I, too, could call in a bird.
We headed out in the dark, Jeremy setting me up with a decoy and lending me a slate call. As dawn broke, I heard, not far away, the sounds of birds coming down from their roost. I tried the call. Not as convincing as Jeremy’s mastery of it, but not bad. It didn’t take long – a Tom, enraged that another should be courting his hens, came storming in. Moving as much as I dared, I shifted the shotgun to aim at him. At 40 yards, he presented a shot. I squeezed the trigger. Nothing. Nothing but the click of a shotgun that hadn’t had the bolt fully forward. Unsurprisingly, the Tom was gone, almost before I’d worked out what had happened. I felt sick with disappointment, enraged by my stupid mistake, the chance lost. What if that was it? What if I didn’t get another shot?
My frustration only increased the next morning. The wind had dropped, and nothing was moving. We walked through the scrubby, woodland, not holding out much hope, until, late in the morning, we heard movement. In a clearing, 70 yards off, was a big group, with a couple of Toms fanning, the strange boom sound reverberating around the area.
We could get a little closer, we reckoned, without being spotted. Creeping in, I set up the Tom decoy then retreated to a wide tree that would cover my outline. I got comfortable, did a visual check of the bolt on the shotgun, and started to call. At first, there was no reaction at all. Then, before I knew it, both Toms started coming for the decoy. Strutting, angry and defensive, they barely hesitated. Both were in the same range, nearly close enough at 40 yards, when they disappeared behind a bit of deadwood. I made a decision. I’d shoot the closer one first, and then swing round and try for the second. I drew breath. They reappeared, this time 30 yards out.
The shotgun boomed and, as I started to swing around for the second, I realised there was no need. For that shot had got them both, stone dead. I’ve been lucky enough to hunt all over the world, and for all manner of game and I can honestly say that at that moment, the rush of adrenalin was as much as I’d had when I hunted Cape Buffalo. I’ll never be sceptical again. In fact, I’ve already booked my tickets for next year’s turkey season.