Ok … we have almost a month left in Nebraska’s 2020 spring turkey season. In most years hunting can get a little tougher in the latter stages of the season, but with fewer hunters in the field this year due to coronavirus concerns, I’m not sure the birds have really felt pressured by now. Gobblers may not be as wary as they normally would be at this point in the season, especially on public ground. That could be a good thing for the hunter.
Turkeys are smarter than a lot of hunters think. Turkeys can adapt to hunting pressure just like they would adapt their daily routines from any predator. That’s how they survive. As a hunter, you have to assess the situation, and if you feel the birds are acting as if they have seen other hunters, recognize that the dumb/easy ones are already in the freezer and change your location and maybe your tactics. Late season gobblers can be a real challenge to hunt. Here are a few suggestions you can try:
» Hunt high: Where possible, get on the highest piece of ground you can find and start searching the countryside with a good pair of binoculars. Be methodical in your search. Learn the ground you are looking at and know the landscape. Turkeys can be hidden from view by a simple shallow trough in the ground.
» Hunt later: I think gobblers stay closer to the roosts and breed the hens he’s been with all night. I wait until late morning before I hunt. By this time, most of the hens have been bred and have moved off to nest. The gobbler is still on the prowl and a hunter with a decoy has a chance to fool him. Once I hear a gobbler, I will quickly set out a hen decoy. A tom that does not see a hen where he expects to see one will most likely drift away before you can get a shot.
Once I set up my decoy, I move off to some cover about 30 yards away, then I make a few “kee-kee-run” calls. Quite often you can get a shot at a gobbler who is sneaking in on a decoy by circling and studying the situation.
Now is when a little movement from your decoy can be helpful. Some four-pound test monofilament attached to the stake the decoy is sitting on, and run back to your hiding spot is all you need. Give the decoy a little wiggle occasionally to draw a tom’s attention. It works!
» Hunt light: Don’t rely on your usual set ups. Leave your big blinds and most of your decoys at home. Adapt your tactics to be more flexible and ready to move quickly. You need to find traveling gobblers and set up along those paths.
» Hunt specific areas: Roost trees and strut zones are high priority spots this time of the season. I want to find a spot that is along the path a gobbler follows from roost to strut zone. This can be especially true if a rain shower has passed through the area recently. Gobblers like to get to their strut zone to get into the sun and dry off.
Unless a gobbler has been pressured, he’ll follow this path about the same time every day. Find a good spot that provides plenty of cover and ambush the bird when he walks past. I like to find a spot that keeps the gobbler from seeing me until the last second, like tucked into a row of hay bales or under small cedar trees. The downside of this tactic is that I can’t see the gobbler either. This is a necessary tactical gamble because if you can see the tom coming from a mile away, he can see you too.
» Call less: Generally by this time of the season, gobblers have heard just about every call a hunter can make. I believe that gobblers learn that calling means danger and they tend to stay quiet. A gobbler may still come to your calls, but he may never answer you. These wily toms will often hold up outside of shotgun range and watch for the slightest movement. Late season turkey hunting also requires good camouflage that matches your hunting terrain.
» Buddy hunt: Grab a buddy who is a good caller and head into the timber in the afternoon. Find and open spot where a decoy can be seen, set up the decoy, then plant your calling buddy near it … maybe 10 to 15 yards away. His job is to call and not move. This way the sounds come from the area where the decoy is located. You, the shooter, need to move off about 20 to 30 yards and wait for the gobbler to come in. His attention will be on the sound and the decoy. That just may give you the opportunity you need to get a shot.
Good luck on your hunts for the remainder of the season.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission made a decision to be more proactive earlier this week to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They have now delayed Free Fishing and Park Entry Day. It had been scheduled for May 16.
Free Fishing and Park Entry Day is typically held about mid-May. Its purpose is to allow anyone to enjoy fishing anywhere across the state without a fishing permit or explore outdoor opportunities at any Nebraska state park, state recreation area or state historical park without the need to purchase a park entry permit.
Normally, other activities are scheduled in state park areas in conjunction with Free Fishing and Park Entry Day, but the NGPC has cancelled of all agency-sponsored activities through May 31 in order to prevent large gatherings of people and maintain appropriate social distancing protocols.
Free Fishing and Park Entry Day will be discussed at the May 8 meeting of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in Lincoln. A rescheduled date for Free Fishing and Park Entry Day will be announced at a later time.
Get out and enjoy the outdoors.