Time for a spring turkey 2012 update. As I am writing this, I am still waiting to punch a tag. If I wanted to shoot a jake, a 1-year old Tom, I could have punched a tag just about every time I have been in the field hunting. As a matter of fact, at one spot I have been hunting this spring there are two groups of 3 jakes running around. We have named them. The one group is the “Coyote Gang”. One of the first evenings we had those 3 particular jakes come into the decoys and to my expert calling (Ha) and when they eventually drifted over the hill the coyotes immediately started howling and yipping over there (I believe the coyotes have a den over there but we have not found it yet). Those 3 jakes went over there and gobbled with the coyotes howling. So, naturally those three jakes have become the “Coyote Gang”. The other 3 jakes that are always running together spend their time to the north and we have called them “The Three from the North”.
Half the fun of spring turkey season is watching the birds and their behavior, and two bunches of three jakes running around together have provided us with entertainment almost every time out. One evening the two gangs of jakes ran into each other in the same field. I thought there was going to be a rumble, but apparently these birds had already encountered each other before; there ended up being a lot of posturing and some chasing but the Coyote Gang knew their place and it was subordinate to The Three from the North. It is all about the pecking order with turkeys.
The big Toms have been a little bit harder to come by. We have been seeing a lot of hens alone, sneaking away by themselves, so I am sure egg-laying is in full swing. That should mean the big Toms are becoming a little more lonely and susceptible to being called in, but that still does not mean they are tripping over themselves to come into a face-full of number 4′s. Early one morning my son and I split up; both of us had a big Tom gobbling on the roost. Daniel had his bird pitch out of the roost and strut right over to his calling and his decoy. I heard a bang and knew he had scored. My bird flew down and went the other way (wish I had a dollar for every time that has happened), and then the Coyote Gang came waltzing into my setup, again, (I told you my calling was really good, at least those jakes think so).
Here is Daniel’s bird
Yep, another spur for the necklace!
We named Daniel’s bird the “Chocolate Tom” for the dark brown tail-feathers. Let me digress and talk about that for a bit. There are different subspecies of wild turkeys found throughout the Americas; I believe there are 6 subspecies if you count them all, but I am NOT a pointy-headed turkey biologist. I do know that the wild turkeys that have become established and successful in Nebraska are largely hybrids between several of the subspecies. At one time or another Eastern, Rio Grande and Merriams wild turkeys were released in Nebraska. The turkeys we have now are largely a hybrid strain that may contain genetics from one, two or more of those strains! The different strains of wild turkey can be identified to some extent by the color, the amount of white, in their tail fans. The bird Daniel killed has the classic characteristics of an Eastern wild turkey and that bird may be a pure Eastern. Or, it may be a hybrid expressing its Eastern heritage through its coloration. Regardless, it was an absolutely gorgeous bird and with the brown coloration in the tail fan, it will be remembered as the Chocolate Tom.
Hard core turkey hunters aspire to taking a “Grand Slam”, the 4 different subspecies of wild turkey found in the United States. If you throw in some foreign travel, you can aspire to a “Royal Slam” and take a couple more subspecies in Mexico and Central America. I have joked that hunters can take 3/4 ths of their turkey Grand Slam in Nebraska alone! It is not uncommon to see Toms running in the same flock that exhibit different colored tail fans representative of the different subspecies. They are all wild turkeys to me, they are all beautiful and I love ‘em all! The variety is another thing I love about spring turkey hunting in Nebraska.
Gotta include the vital statistics: Daniel’s Chocolate Tom weighed 21.5 pounds, had spurs each about 1 1/4 inches long, and a beard that taped out at 11 inches. That was an excellent Tom in anybody’s book! I do not know if “the old man” can top that, but I will try!
I will mention one other thing before I quit. We have been finding these funny-looking fungi while in the woods turkey hunting. Anyone know what they are? Are they any good?
Just kidding, we have picked a bunch! Love this time of year.