I am sitting here in the office, at my keyboard, doing some “pre-emptive” blogging. Let me explain. If you have read my blog for awhile you will know that I almost always blog about fish and fishing, usually Nebraska fish and fishing. That is what I do, that is who I am. But, I have to confess that for a few weeks each year my one-track fishing brain gets sidetracked by big black birds with beautiful red, white and blue heads, long beards and sharp spurs. As soon as the turkeys start strutting and gobbling in the spring, I am mentally gone, the only thing that will rivet my attention is the gobble of a turkey.
That is why I am getting some blog posts written up ahead of time; the next few weeks are going to be full of turkey hunting, mushroom picking and yes, fishing. I ain’t going want to be sitting in the office writing some blog post when I could be out in the field or on the water gathering material for a blog post (wink). When this is finally posted and you are reading it, you can pretty much bet that I am in the field or on the water someplace in Nebraska. I love this time of year, but there is so much to do and so little time.
Let me harken back to younger days and share some stories that may explain how I became a bona fide spring turkey addict. . . .
Believe it or not, I was in college before I ever tried turkey hunting. With the abundance of turkeys we now have, you may find it hard to believe that there was a time when turkey hunting was limited to certain parts of Nebraska and a person had to apply for permits (and applying did not necessarily mean you would draw a permit). One spring my Dad and I applied for buddy permits, got drawn and were off to north-central Nebraska to hunt spring turkeys with my uncle. For weeks before the trip, I studied every piece of literature about spring turkey hunting that I could get my hands on (I am really old, that was back in a day before VHS and DVD videos, I actually had to read!). By the weekend of our trip, I thought I had an idea of what to expect, and I was expecting that in a weekend we would be lucky to hear a Tom or two just gobble, and would be really lucky if my Dad or I either one actually harvested a Tom.
I will never forget my first morning turkey hunting. Let me digress for a moment and tell you about my Uncle Ivan. My Uncle Ivan had been hunting turkeys in Nebraska literally from the first year a spring season was permitted (take some time and read about the success story of wild turkey management in Nebraska sometime, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/wildlife_species_guide/wildturkey1.asp ) . He was to be our guide for my first turkey hunt and I am convinced to this day that Uncle Ivan is one of the most knowledgeable turkey hunters in Nebraska. In my mind Uncle Ivan and Dick Turpin are THE turkey hunting gods of Nebraska. Anyway, that first morning, 0-dark thirty, Uncle Ivan has my Dad and I standing on the edge of a Niobrara River canyon. Remember, I was hoping to just hear a turkey gobble that first weekend of spring turkey hunting; I figured we would be fortunate to just hear a Tom turkey. Well, the racket that arose from that Niobrara River canyon that morning was beyond my wildest dreams. In fact, I even questioned if Uncle Ivan was playing a practical joke on us by positioning us in the dark above some barnyard full of tame turkeys. I believe that is why a turkey gobble is such an attention-getter for me to this day.
By 10:00 that first morning I had harvested by first Nebraska turkey; a jake that we managed to get in front of. By sundown that evening, my Dad had also taken a bird, a respectable adult gobbler. I could not believe it.
I will never forget mid-morning that first day sitting on a pine-studded knob trying to call a turkey and a plane flew over and made a sonic boom (again I am betting many of you are too young to know what I am talking about; back in the day, military aircraft actually flew around faster than the sound barrier and when they broke that sound barrier they created a sonic boom that made the ground shake). After that sonic boom, the Niobrara valley was filled with turkey gobbles; for as far as a person could hear both up- and down-river you could hear turkeys gobble. Again I was hoping to just hear one turkey gobble that weekend and after the sonic boom there were more turkeys gobbling than I even thought walked the face of the earth.
Many times after that morning, those times when I am sure every turkey in the state has dropped into a hole someplace, I have wished for a sonic boom so I could hear a turkey gobble. Someone should market sonic booms as locator calls. I wonder if some fighter jet jockeys would fly around doing that for me, and I wonder how much that might cost?
Would you believe that my uncle actually let me do some calling that first day? Again, this will let you know how old I am, but at the time there were darned few diaphragm, mouth, turkey calls on the market. Now a person can find dozens of different diaphragm calls, but back then there were only a few and the one I had been given by my cousin was an instrument of torture. If you have used a diaphragm mouth call, you know it takes some practice and some getting used to; the call sits at the roof of your mouth and if you have a sensitive gag reflex, well, it will make you gag. I wish I could show you that old mouth call because it was nothing like what is on the market today–this thing was a small U-shaped aluminum frame with some latex stretched in the opening of the “U”. And that was it. It was uncomfortable and not near as nice as the half-dozen mouth calls I use today.
But, that was my turkey call and I had practiced on it for weeks. I did not think I knew what I was doing, but Uncle Ivan said it was good enough and I will be darned if I did not call in the big Tom that my Dad killed that first afternoon. Dad stretched the barrel a bit to get that Tom, but I had called him in nonetheless! My Dad and I not only filled both of our spring turkey tags that first year; we “Got-R-Done” in one day! I told you my Uncle Ivan is one of the best turkey hunters in the state!
I have been hooked on spring turkey hunting ever since. As I mentioned it is such a great time of year to be outdoors and besides the gobbling turkeys I enjoy all the other sights, sounds, smells and experiences of spring. I run out of time to hunt turkeys, pick mushrooms and fish. There are early mornings, late evenings and a lot of go-go-go in between. There are days when I feel something clipping the back of my heels and I turn around and see my butt is dragging. But, then off in the distance . . . “shhh, listen. . . there, did you hear that?”. . . “That was a turkey gobble!”. . . and suddenly I have all the energy I need and I am off again!