The spring turkey season is here with the bow hunters doing well who were hunting gobblers this past month.
Our Nebraska shotgun season opens Saturday the 13th, and with the flood we had in northeast Nebraska, there are numerous roads closed, soft muddy impassable roads and bridges out, making it hard for hunters to get to some of their spots without backtracking around closed roads and detours.
This along with the forecast of rain and heavy snow; some may think it that spring isn’t here yet and that it may be a good idea, to pass on the first weekend, to wait for better weather.
Don’t think because the weather isn’t to your liking that the birds won’t be active, strutting, gobbling and chasing the hens.
I’ve tagged turkeys in almost every weather scenario, rain, excessive heat, ice, hail and in snow, some of those hunts were easy well others were a nightmare, yet I still tagged my bird.
Last spring, mid season, I walked in a half mile, forded a creek and set up on the edge of a wooded draw, hoping to catch the gobblers as they returned to their roost.
Skies were dark and there was rain forecasted until later that evening, but no measurable amounts, Yah right!
I set up along a fence line in a wet and slippery field, I figured, the way the birds were responding, I wouldn’t be there long, either bringing one in quickly or getting tired of setting there with no response, only to hang it up to comeback another day.
My first calls had hardly reached the woods when a gobbler answered back, then another. It looked as if this hunt wouldn’t take too long.
The birds hung up at the edge of the tree line, refusing to advance any farther. It didn’t take me long to figure out that they had an old boss hen with them, gobbling after each of my calls, yet refusing to come my way.
I’m not one to give up too easily, so I hung in there and decided if the Toms wouldn’t come, maybe I could coax the hen in by making her mad enough to come over to kick the tail feathers out of another loud mouth hen trying to move into her territory.
I decided to start working on the hen, quietly at first, each time I called, increasing the volume until she responded. I became vocal, making her increase her calling and before long, here she came with both gobblers in tow.
Since I was concentrating on the birds, I didn’t notice the black nasty looking clouds coming in or because I was in a sheltered location realized the wind had really come up.
The hen was about half way across the field and if she kept coming, so would the gobblers.
Then it happened, there was a tremendous crack of thunder, which really caused the Toms to gobble, as they came my way.
The hen was getting nervous with all the thunder and began to meander off towards the trees directly in front of me, but not the gobblers, a few more yards and they were in range.
The first raindrop that hit me was a big solid one, not quite hail, but darn close to it. I persisted, drawing the birds closer.
Then everything went to pot, the skies opened up and a deluge came down with the gobblers making a mad dash looking for cover back in the trees. I jumped up, made two quick steps slipped, fell down and continued to do so as I slid across the sloppy muddy field and down the hillside on my butt, across the creek through another muddy mess, arriving at my truck, soaking wet, cold to the bone.
These birds were going to pay, I was mud head to toe, shivering as I did my best to unlock my truck and then slide-into the seat, spreading water and muck through the inside of my pickups cab, some bird was going to pay for this, I’d be back.
I returned a few days later, a much better, and was met with the same scenario, a bossy hen, henned up gobblers, so I really got on the hen, making her so mad by mouthing off to her and each time she responded, getting louder only raspier..
She came over, quickly this time, walked past me towards my decoys with two long beards in tow; I let the first pass, took aim on the second bird, fired and dropped him in its tracks.
A heavy downpour had messed up my first hunt there, but I learned two things, one to check the weather more closely and when each time hunting this land. When hunting a location where the gobblers are henned up with a dominate hen, to work on the hen, as she wasn’t going to put up with another hen in her territory, fight to keep it, and in doing so, bringing the gobblers with her.
The coldest wettest nastiest weather I’ve ever hunted in was when I was filming my show and filming with Denny Geurink from Michigan for their Outdoor Adventures television show.
Team member, Chuck Doom was operating the camera on this trip as we spent the day before learning the territory, scouting out the area.
Once again, the weather forecast didn’t look that bad, so we headquartered out of Winner, South Dakota, driving to the Rosebud Reservation where we hunted.
That evening, the wind picked up and it started to rain, the following morning, as I tried to open the outside motel door, it wouldn’t budge, it was blocked with 10″ of wet heavy snow.
Luckily the motel had an inside hallway, allowing us to get to our vehicles, the state had been out, opening up the main roads, so if we took our time, we could get back to where we hoped to film.
This was before snow camo and with the camo, we were wearing; we stood out against the snow, making it tough to hide our three-man crew.
We drove to the reservation, as we came up with a plan where the dark colored turkeys would be easy to spot, standing out against the snow, which was still coming down, to spot a gobbler and using the logging trails running into the hills, to get above the bird to call.
As we rounded a curve, there he was, a big gobbler at the bottom of a hill plowing snow along a fence line, pushing snow with its chest, having a tough time getting anywhere.
The gobbler saw us, dropped down, trying to hide in the snow, as we drove by, towards the next logging trail, then hustled up the hillside, hoping to find a location where we could set up and try to work the bird.
The only cover there was one large pine tree beside the trail on the hillside about 300 yards above the bird. We set up quickly, didn’t have time to put out a decoy as we scraped away a foot of snow at the side of the tree in order to have a dark background behind us. Chuck and Denny positioned themselves just above me, filming over my back, across the road on down the steep hillside.
We were fortunate that the wind was at our back, allowing my calls to carry a longer distance.
We sat motionless, waiting for the bird to gobble again, thinking the bird had to come up the same open trail we had, as the snow on the other side of the trail, downhill towards the fence line was deep.
Then, the bird gobbled, not from the road, but below us as once it heard my calls, it zeroed in on them and backtracked so it was almost directly below us.
Returning its call, I must have hit a sour note, as my box call had gotten wet and then there was silence,
nothing, for about a minute, It didn’t look good and I was thinking that either I’d spooked the bird or it was coming in silently where they suddenly appear not allowing you to move in order to get a shot on the bird.
I hoped that a change of calls would get a response, letting us know if the bird was still around and which direction it may be approaching.
I quickly switched to my diaphragm call, putted several times, as a hen would when she’s trying to locate the gobbler.
The bird gobbled, as it moved away from us, and since we weren’t sure if exactly where the bird was we couldn’t move, fearing, we’d spook the bird.
My crew and I, were soaking wet, cold, and at that point, desperate, so I pulled out another call, turned away from the Tom, putted with my diaphragm, waited a short while, and then hit him with a young jake call.
Almost immediately the bird gobbled back, I kept up my game as each gobble from the bird below us came closer.
Chuck tapped me on the back, letting me know what direction the bird was coming in, as it plowed snow, coming up the hill.
It gobbled once, and then went silent, after almost a minute, I whispered to Denny, asking where the bird was, he pointed off to my left, as I slowly re-positioned myself in that direction and waited for the bird come into view.
There we sat, not sure, where the bird was, in desperation, I putted softly several times with my diaphragm call.
I was facing left as the fan of the gobblers appeared just below the trail, giving just enough time to change positions before he stepped onto the trail.
Chuck nudged me with his boot, our signal that he had the camera on the bird that stepped up onto the trail was less than five feet from me, putting the front bead of my 12-gauge on his head, I fired, tipping the gobbler over, rolling it back down the hill.
This bird came 300-feet through deep snow, hung up and then using two calls, mimicked another young bird approaching the hen, the gobbler pushed its way through chest deep to get to us.
Other hunters might of not even gone out such a nasty day, while others may have spooked the bird when they relocated or simply given up, when we toughed it out, using unconventional methods to bring the bird in.
We’ve filmed and hunted turkeys during all weather conditions, where we had to change our game plan, not once, but numerous times in order to film our show.
Sure, they may not be the most pleasant way to hunt, but if you wait for the perfect day, which may never come, you’re missing some exciting hunts, those that you remember as those mentioned in this column.
Weather should not be as much of as factor, as now we’re outfitted with warm, light layered clothing, boots, rain-gear and calls that help to make the weather more bearable, giving you the opportunity to fill your tag and to chalk up another great hunt.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb. who is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award winning writer, producer, and broadcaster and inducted into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. He is the Producer-Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, like Gary Howey’s Facebook or watch his shows on www.MyOutdoorTV.com.