Turkey hunting

Sometime you go to go where the turkeys are…in this case, an island in the Platte River. Deer season starts this weekend, but don’t forget that The turkey season is still on. Good luck on the remainder of your hunting seasons.

OK…the upland bird seasons are on, duck season is here, archers have been in the field after deer since September and firearm hunters are getting ready for their deer season that opens Saturday morning. It is a busy time for hunters.

With all this going on, it just might slip your mind that there is still a fall turkey season open that runs until January 31, 2018. Hunters can purchase two permits in the fall and each permit allows you to take two birds.

Being successful at fall turkey hunting can be summed up in one word….scouting. Fall flocks are large and they have a very structured daily routine. If you get out and find some birds, just watch them. It won’t take long to figure out their patterns. And, once you know where they go and when they will be at certain spots, setting up an ambush is a lot easier. I also use my fall turkey hunting time to scout for deer!

I remember a past season where I’d been watching a flock of turkeys and about 40 deer along the South Platte River for a couple of weeks. I’d stop by the property and glasses the area at different times of the day to figure out where the critters were. By doing this I figured out the main travel routes for both species, the times each species visited the area and where they were feeding at certain times of the day. I was also able to figure out where the turkeys were roosting.

This was not your typical river bottom terrain. An alfalfa field butted right up to the river. Only a grass buffer strip, maybe 10 yards wide separated the river from the alfalfa. There was trees/timber east and west of this spot, but not on the property I had permission to hunt. Both the deer and turkeys typically worked their way into the alfalfa field from the east and then crossed a channel in the river to an island that had a big stand of cottonwoods that the turkeys used for their roost and heavy cover where the deer bedded down.

The lay of the land made it difficult for me to get close to where I wanted to be for the turkeys, so on a nice warm afternoon I put on my waders and crossed the river channel to look for a spot to conceal myself on the island. I found a “major” trail the turkeys had been using and it led me straight to the roost site. Lots of feathers and droppings on the ground below the trees told me what I needed to know. I just had to find a spot where I could blend in with the brush.

I found a couple of trees that had fallen and provided me with both good concealment and a reasonable place to sit and be comfortable. I wouldn’t need to bring much with me across the river for this hunt. My plan was set.

The next day I waded across the river and tucked myself into my “blind” about two hours before dark. I knew from my scouting that the turkeys and deer fed in the alfalfa the last couple hours of the day and then moved toward the roost as the shadows began to stretch out from the trees on the island.

It didn’t take long for things to get exciting. I saw the flock, about 40 birds; enter the open field from the eastern fence line. Deer were appearing on the eastern edge of the alfalfa field as well. The turkeys spread out and went about their business. They leisurely fed and meandered around the alfalfa field for about an hour, then they began to bunch back up and move toward the river. They were coming right to me!

A pickup drove into the field at the far eastern end and all the deer retreated. That was fine with me. I didn’t want them near when I fire a shot at a turkey because this was a likely spot I’d be hunting for deer in a couple of weeks.

I made myself as small as I could and readied my shotgun. From where I sat, the main trail of the turkeys passed 12 yards of where I sat. The first few birds began their trek across the river. They sort of hopped and half-flew from sandbar to sandbar and then onto the island.

The first few birds were a mixture of jakes and young hens. During the fall season, either sex is legal to take and I was just starting to take aim on a hen when I spotted a big tom standing across the channel from me. I guessed he was perhaps triple the size of any of the other birds closer to me. I waited.

About 30 birds crossed the river channel before this big tom made his move. I was trying to be as still and blend into the brush around me as best I could. I had turkeys all around me, some as close as 10 feet! Finally the old tom trotted up the bank and began coming up the trail toward me.

I pushed my safety off. The tom continued up the trail and seemed to be hurrying some of the jakes along. I set my sights on the base of his neck and pulled the trigger. The magnum load of number 5 shot anchored the tom. The hunt was over. There was wild turkey for Thanksgiving that year!

Salute to Veterans

I saw a bumper sticks once that said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a veteran.” Amen. To all veterans and all that are serving now, Thank You!

And to those that understand…Semper Fi…242 tomorrow!

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