Nebraska’s fall turkey season is almost here! The fall shotgun and archery seasons began September 15 and run January 31 of next year. It is one of the longest seasons we have and it runs through the firearms deer season. That means turkey hunters, during the deer season, must wear 400 square inches of hunter orange during those dates. Just for something to ponder, I think hunters should be able to use rifles for turkeys during this period as well!
Over the last couple of decades, Nebraska’s turkey population has exploded. Turkeys have been documented to be in all of the state’s 93 counties. Just about any spot with marginal habitat has turkeys. To help manage the bulging turkey population, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission allows hunters to purchase up to two hunting permits in the fall, and you can harvest two turkeys of either sex with each permit. With the numbers of turkey we have now, this should also be the case in the spring. Ponder that, too.
To give your turkey hunting adventures a better chance of success, you need to consider several critical items: shotguns, scouting, hunting spot selection, camouflage and decoys.
You may hunt turkeys with any “legal” shotgun. A legal shotgun is 10 gauge or smaller. The venerable 12 gauge is probably the most used shotgun, but any gauge, any model, any action will work. I’ve taken a number of turkeys with the smallest standard gauge, the .410. The best shotgun to use is one that you can shoot the best.
For a new hunter, especially a child or person of smaller stature, I recommend a 20 gauge with a #5 or #6 shot size load. If you can handle a 12 gauge, that’s even better.
Simply put, scouting is the single most important thing you can do to insure a successful hunt. If you haven’t been out there scouting your turkey hunting spots, you may be out of luck, particularly if you’re hunting public ground. Remember that after a group of turkeys has been shot at that they are likely to change their daily patterns. Scouting more remote locations usually pays off.
Turkeys are creatures of habit. Once you find a spot to hunt, start looking for turkey activity and begin figuring out their pattern. Look for areas that indicate active feeding...scratchings on the ground are a good sign. Also, look for natural pathways. Physical features on the landscape like ridges, tree lines, canyons or draws that funnel turkeys to take a certain path, or pathways that are easily traveled. Turkeys are not that different from people. They will take the path of least resistance if they can. A spot along this kind of route can provide lots of shooting opportunities.
The art of camouflage requires you to think about cover, concealment and what you wear. You don’t need to be wearing the latest camo pattern or perfectly blend into your background, but you don’t want to standout in the landscape
Another key point for turkey hunting is practicing how to use the sun and shadows. Think about the old western cowboy movies, every gunfighter wanted the sun at his back. It’s the same way in turkey hunting. If the sun is at your back, it is far easier for you to see the turkeys and more difficult for the turkeys to see you.
I will use decoys for fall turkey. Just look at how turkeys travel in the fall…..family groups. They are gregarious birds, so they look for other birds to join up with. Decoys can help you do this very effectively. I use both static and moving decoys. It can make a big difference and can increase your shooting opportunities dramatically.
Time is running out. The fall turkey season begins Saturday morning. Good Luck.