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2019 Spring Turkey Season, One to Remember By Gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

June 9, 2019

It had been one miserable spring turkey season, with downpours and heavy winds for weeks at a time, making it tough not only to call birds, even tougher to get to them.

Because much of the land we hunted was located along minimum maintenance roads or where we needed to drive through a landowners place to get to the birds. We surely did not want to tear up the roads and the land we hunted, so I had not been out much this season.

When there was a break in the weather, I went out, but did not have much luck, called in several Jakes and hens, but not the mature bird I was looking for

Finally the weather broke giving Larry Myhre, Sioux City, Iowa and I was our first chance to hunt together; it was suppose to be decent weather, no rain in the forecast with just a slight wind.

I like to get out before the “crack” of dawn and set up on the birds, where Larry is more likely to get up around the crack of “Noon”, so it was around 10:30 when we finally arrived at our first spot.

Driving down the road, we spotted a small group of turkeys in the field to the south, drove by and parked on the other side of the hill.
We set up and about fifteen minutes later, two gobblers made their way across the gravel road, disappearing into the steep ditch off to our west.

They gobbled a few times, showing little interest, they went silent, the one thing all turkey hunters hate, as you never know if the bird is still hanging around or simply lost interest.

Then, both birds came up over a rise to the west, out about 50 yards, a shootable distance, with the chokes we had on our shotguns and the loads we used, but we passed, we did not want to shoot a bird and not put him down.

It was the middle of the 2019 Nebraska Spring Turkey season; Larry was setting off to my left as he shoots left-handed while I was on the right facing our Dakota Decoys?

I scouted this location several times prior to the season and knew it was one gobblers passed through on their way out to eat and then back to their roosting area south of us.

We started at another location where there were numerous birds roosting, the only problem being was that the cedar windbreaks behind where they roosted were very thick. There, we had very few openings from which to call and in order to get to those areas where we set up our decoys, we had to travel through the thick cedars. To do so without alarming the birds was impossible.

The year before, we set up on this location between two groups of cedars and had a gobbler talk to us on our first call. Before we could try to close the distance between the one gobbler, off to our left we saw a hen walking along the edge of some trees, followed shortly thereafter by a nice gobbler.

Neither of us had a shot because of the cedars between the opening and us. I told Larry, I wanted to take my fan, crawl over him and slide down to where we had seen the birds.

When I got there, neither bird was visible, so I called with my diaphragm call, waved my fan out in the opening and proceeded to wait for a gobble, I had just knelt down with my fan in front of me, when a gobbler came from around the cedars on a full run.

The gobbler, zeroed in on my fan, thinking it was another bird trespassing on its territory closing the distance quickly.

I had just enough time to drop the fan and bring my shotgun up as it was coming under the single barbwire a few feet in front of me.
I fired in self-defense, as if I had not, this irate gobbler would have spurred, pecked and beat me up with its wings.

Once again, there were birds there, but in order to get set up, without being detected, we would need to come through the place before dark. Then set up and call the gobbler in, which would be shortly after sunrise and I really did not want to mess this hunting spot up by scaring the landowner half to death when my shotgun blast rang out in the pre-dawn darkness.

Once the gobblers went silent, Larry and I continued to call, hoping that the birds may still come in.

We were facing south, the directions the turkeys generally came from as they moved through this area, but in the dead silence, we seriously thought we spooked them and were giving a lot of consideration to picking up and moving.

Then, we heard a gobble coming from the open field to the south on the other side of the trees where we were.

We were facing the wrong direction and needed to decide quickly to reposition to the north side of the tree, which did not take us long.

Facing north, we quietly called numerous times, using different types of calls with no response, perhaps the gobblers had spotted us when we made our move, but we are not ones to give up easily.
Setting there for six minutes without a response is not easy, but how long do you wait as some gobblers take their sweet time coming in

On several occasions on previous hunts, I had decided to move and as I stood up, spooked birds which had came in quietly, not making a sound.

In order not to spook the Toms, once again we called softly, sat there and waited.

Off to my left, I caught a glimpse of something red, I whispered to Larry “left, left” and as he picked up the bird, a second gobbler came in behind the first one.

Both mature Toms strutted and as they turned around, we re positioned to get better shots, but once they came around and saw the Dakota Decoys, they did not waste any time moving in.

They were off to our right with Larry in between the gobblers and me, I re positioned my shotgun, whispered to Larry, if we did not shoot quickly, and I had no shot, telling him I did not want to shoot in front of him. His response, do not worry, “Shoot.”

Both shotguns went off together, my 12-gauge with Hornady Heavy Magnum 6-shot turkey loads, took the back bird while Larry’s 20-gauge loaded with Hevi-Shot put the lead bird on the ground.

Talk about an exciting hunt and as we congratulated each other, we headed up to claim our trophies.

I got to the first bird ahead of Larry and pinned down the flopping bird as Larry made his way to get to the other gobbler. As I looked up at the other downed bird, its tail feathers came up, and spread, I just had time to yell to Larry that the bird’s fan came up, when the gobbler stood up, and darted over the hilltop.

We hunted over the hill through the trees and out into the pasture for over an hour hoping to locate the gobbler, but it was long gone.

Talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, well that pretty much said it all.

We tried several other spots to bring in another gobbler, unfortunately they did not want to play, so we made our way back to my office, cleaned the gobbler and since Larry had paid for a non resident permit, he took the bird home with him.

In between the rain and high winds, I made several trips out to look for birds, each time; I would get a response to my calls, but no luck bringing in a mature bird.

On one of my last outings, I received permission from a landowner to hunt the shelterbelt to the rear of his house.

As earlier, I had observed several gobblers and hens using the area, hoping that they were still around.

Coming close to the place, I used my binoculars to see where the birds were, seeing only one hen dusting herself, but if there were hens around, there had to be a gobbler close by.

I decided to come in from the west using my hen decoy and turkey fan.

The grass along the edge of the trees was waist high and I had no problem, using my fan to put the hen decoy in the open field to the east.

Once set up, I started calling quietly, with no response, I glassed the area where the hen was and located a gobbler who was paying no attention to my calls or my decoy.

Using my fan in front of me, I began crawling through the tall grass, hoping to get close enough to the gobbler for a shot.

I crawled up on three hens, close enough to reach out and tap with my shotgun, but could not locate a Gobbler.

That pretty much is the way this season has went and as the end of season drew near, I was running out of time.

I decided to give it one more go, gotten permission to hunt some land east of town and decided to head out on the gravel roads to see if I could locate the birds.

Coming in from the south, I wanted to glass the tree line where the landowner indicated that he had heard the birds.

As I came over the rise, there they were, on the south side of the tree line. There were several gobblers and as I drove by slowly, they paid no attention me.

At the top of the next hill on the north side of the trees, I parked, grabbed my turkey fan approaching the trees from the north.

The grass along the east side of the tree line was tall and still wet from the early morning rain, in order to get close enough for a shot, I would need to crawl about 100 yards, using my turkey fan in front of me.

Crawling through the grass, my fan and I were soaked before I was in range for a shot, but that did not deter me as it was now or never.

Approaching the field the birds were in, I rose up on my knees with the fan in front of me and as I peered through my wet fan, one gobbler could not figure it out and was looking intently at the wet gobbler fan.

Dropping into the grass, I let go of the fan and came up, had the gobbler in my sights and put him on the ground.

This year was one of the wettest, windiest and toughest spring turkey seasons I had in a long time and as I picked up the wet gobbler, threw the bird over my shoulder, I happily made my way back to my truck.

What it all boils down to is to never give up, do not let two or three inches of rain or twenty mile an hour winds stop you as if you do, you will miss another exciting outdoor adventure that only comes around once each spring.

Gary Howey, originally from Watertown, S.D., now residing in Hartington, Neb. is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award winning writer, producer, photographer and broadcaster, Inducte into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. Howey is also the Producer-Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out, like Gary Howey’s Facebook or watch his shows on

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