Three generations turkey hunting
Thanks to the Nebraska Game and Parks and the N.W.T.F., this year the turkey permits for youth were lowered to $6 which includes the agent’s fee. This made it possible for hundreds of families to experience the thrill of turkey hunting and all the beautiful sites and sounds that God has created here in Nebraska’s great outdoors without breaking the bank.
During the weekend of May 22, my son-in-law, Mike Keene, and myself, Tony Morrow, had the privilege of taking two of my grand children Mikaela and Trevyn, of Grand Island, Neb., on their very first turkey hunt. Mikaela is 13 years old and Trevyn is 5. The hunt took place just North of Elba in the Beautiful North Loup River Valley on the farm of Galen and Christi Poss.
Mike pulled up in my driveway in Elba at 6 a.m. We loaded up Mike’s truck with all of the stuff that a serious turkey hunter like myself and my son-in-law could carry. This included two ground blinds, numerous turkey decoys, chairs, stools, water, shotguns, calls, etc. I’m thinking man we are going to need a pack mule to carry all this stuff in! But hey if you are a diehard turkey hunter you can never have too much stuff! (At least that’s what I tell my wife when she sneaks a peak at my checking account.)
We headed up into the hills; luckily we were only 10 minutes from our first set-up of the day. The sun was already up and the wind had come up too. We drove up to the top of a ridge overlooking the North Loup River. What a beautiful site, you can see for miles up and down the river. We could already hear turkeys gobbling all around us. This was going to be easy. Mike and I quickly drew up a game plan, myself and Mikaela (armed with a 20 gauge) headed back south along the ridge where I had been seeing a tom strutting on previous scouting trips. Mike and Trevyn (armed with a .410) headed north to where three canyons intersected and they also set up on a high point on the ridge. We were set up about 300 yards apart and with our high vantage points we could watch each others’, back so to speak.
Mikaela and I quickly set up our blind. The wind had already picked up to around 25 mph and was really howling across the ridge top. Mikaela had to hold the blind down while I put in the ground stakes. I then set out my hen decoy and my B-Mobile strutter (Bubba). These I had to double stake so the wind would not blow them into the next county! I crawled into the blind and got my No. 1 box call, slate and mouth call out. I then started my series of calling trying to send enticing sounds into the canyon below to draw a tom into our area.
Well, after three hours of this and only having one hen show up in our spread we decided to pick up all of our stuff and head to where Mike and Trevyn were set up. We headed over there and they found out that they have had much the same luck with a lonely hen coming into their calls also.
We were standing on the ridge trying to get all of our gear on our backs when Mike noticed a tom strutting below the ridge (out of the wind) two canyons away. I put up my binoculars and saw not one but three toms below that ridge in the cedars along with several hens. Well this is looking better but it is not going to be easy getting to those turkeys, the canyons are choked full of cedars and nearly straight up and down in the bottoms! But hey did I mention that we we’re diehard turkey hunters? We set off circling to the north and east crossing the two canyons and came up on a ridge overlooking the spot where we had last seen the turkeys.
“There they are!” Mike exclaimed, pointing to an opening approximately 200 feet below us.
We quietly backed off of the ridge and circled back to the south end of the canyon we thought they were heading down and set up the blind along with three hens and the strutter (bubba) all four of us crawled into the blind and I began calling again. I would call softly on my box call with a series of yelps and clucks about every 10 minutes. Occasionally I would throw in some purrs on my slate mixed in with some excited cutting on my mouth call. Well, after about an hour of this we had heard and saw nothing coming down the canyon. Mike crawled out of the blind and worked his way up through the cedars to the top of the ridge to lay an eye on the turkeys and report back to us. Mike came back down and said the turkeys were nowhere to be seen and had most likely circled around to the other side of the canyon and went over the ridge into the next one. Beings it was almost noon, we decided to give the kids, ourselves and the turkeys a break and head back into Grandma’s house for a lunch break.
At about 2 p.m., we headed back out to the same pasture except we went all the way to the northeast corner where all of the big canyons are. We parked the truck on top of the ridge and loaded up my blind, decoys, chairs, guns and kids and headed down into the bottom of the canyon. We found a spot that I have had good success with in the past and set the blind up back against the south bank in the shade. Mike was in the blind getting Mikaela and Trevyn locked and loaded while I stepped off 15 yards and set up Bubba and two other hen decoys in a tight semi-circle. I quietly crawled back into the blind with the other three and began my calling sequences for the afternoon.
After about three series of calls we heard a hen calling from behind the blind. I picked up the tempo and suddenly we heard a gobble coming from in front of the blind around the corner of the canyon. I called again on box call the tom gobbled again this time cutting of my call! He’s coming in fast! We scrambled to get ready. All of the sudden there he was right behind the cedar tree on the bend of the canyon. Mike got behind 5-year-old Trevyn and helped him to hold his .410 up and got him pointed in the direction of the turkey. I got Mikaela up and ready with her 20 gauge just in case we needed a follow-up shot. I then started cutting and purring enticing the tom to step out into the opening and giving Trevyn a shot. He is not coming in any closer, I whispered to Trevyn; you take him when you get on him. Mike helped Trevyn to hold steady. I don’t know how that young man kept his cool, I know that I nearly choked on my mouth call I was so excited.
All of the sudden, bang, the .410 sounded off and the tom flipped down the bank under the cedar tree that he had been hiding behind. He had bagged his first turkey. Man we were all so excited! Let’s just sit tight awhile and see what happens, I said.
The tom that Trevyn had shot was still flopping around in the grass and sometimes that sound will bring in another turkey. We managed to hold Trevyn in the blind for almost a half hour then after looking at his watch Mike said we had better pack it up so we went and picked up Trevyn’s bird. It was a Jake with a 5-1/2-inch beard.
“I’m 5-1/2 too!” Trevyn exclaimed!
“Yes you are,” said Mike. “I am so proud of you but we better hurry back up to the truck I told your mommy that we would head home at 5 and it is already 5:30.”
“Are we going to get in trouble?” Mikaela asked.
“No, mom will understand,” I said.
We packed everything up and headed back up to the top of the ridge where the truck was. (Now why is it after a long day hunting you have to walk up hill back to the truck?) I think that I may have to work on my parking skills! We got back to the truck and were headed out when we saw three toms across the canyon with hens, one of the toms was strutting while the other two where just kinda following along. I told Mike to turn the truck around and head back down the ridge. We drove down out of sight and Mikaela and I got out while Mike and Trevyn headed back out to the gate with the truck.
“We can cut through the canyon and get around in front of those turkeys,” I told Mikaela.
“I’m game,” she said.
We took off across the canyon and headed up the ridge on the opposite side of the hill the turkeys were on.
“Be very quiet,” I whispered “and keep directly behind me and keep your eyes peeled. We could walk right into another group of turkeys.”
We eased on up the hill, moving slowly from cedar to cedar, heading up the ridge to where we had last seen the big tom strutting. Suddenly there he was in the shadows beneath a cedar 17 yards directly in front of us! I quickly back stepped behind another cedar and whispered to Mikaela, “Get your gun up he is right in front of us.”
Mikaela stepped out from behind the cedar and put a bead on the Tom’s head and wham! The tom rolled out from underneath the cedar into the sunny opening.
“You got him!” I exclaimed.
“Wow I can’t believe that I nailed him,” Mikaela said. “Is he big?”
“I think so. Let’s check him out.”
We went up to the turkey and I had Mikaela stand on his head as he was still flopping.
“He is huge,” I said.
He was too. A big Rio Grande gobbler with 1-inch spurs, a 9-3/4-inch beard and a 2-3/4-inch beard and weighed 18 pounds.
What a wonderful way to spend the day with my family!