By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
Scott Dillon pointed to a field about a half mile across a small creek drainage lined with trees and showed me a field full of turkeys. “Mike, there’s probably 300 to 400 turkeys grazing in that field and they’ll fly up and roost on the trees along that drainage tonight,” said Dillon. Can you imagine a flock of turkeys that big yelping, clucking and creating all kind of noise? Nearest thing to Heaven on earth!
It was unreal, unlike anything I’d ever seen. We were hunting near Whitney, Nebraska with Scott and Doug Dillon at their Spring Creek Ranch and I was astonished at what I’d just witnessed. Turkeys were yelping, cutting and cackling to beat the band. It sounded like a huge chicken house at daybreak.
At fly up time it was more of the same, as the whole flock made their way towards the roost. The roost trees were spread out in the drainage which was 50 to 100 yards wide in places, with nowhere else to roost for miles. As the first birds flew up in a tree I counted 75 in one tree. The flock continued meandering along and as they filled up each tree with 50 to 75 birds, the others would move to the next one and fill it up. This continued until all of the birds were roosted.
My plan was already forming in my mind and I knew that I’d be somewhere downwind of the turkeys the next morning. Since this was an impromptu turkey hunt, I borrowed one of Doug Dillon’s shotguns and was seated and leaning up against a tree before dawn.
As the night melted into dawn the eastern sky turned just a hint of pink, orange and finally bright yellow and blue. Hens clucked and yelped and a gobble or two could be heard up the drainage.
Yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp, yawk, yawk, yawk, yawk, called the hens to any available gobblers. One old boss hen was particularly close and more vocal than the others. I cut on top of her yelps and copied her each time with my natural voice. The more she called the more I copied her and she just couldn’t stand it. Closer and closer they came until she was really torn up.
As they closed the gap I counted 40 something birds strung out in a line. Before long I counted 67 birds moving past me. Once they passed I started cutting up and was answered by a few low muffled gobbles.
I purred, clucked and yelped and shortly there were sounds of fighting purrs and wings flapping as a bunch of gobblers fought. I could see bits and pieces of the birds about 80 to 90 yards distant up the hollow. I had plenty of time to get my gun up, which was resting across my lap as I enjoyed the crisp cold, clear Nebraska morning.
As the gobblers continued fighting I’d get them torn up by cutting, yelping and clucking aggressively.
Suddenly I heard a crack on the knoll off to my left. As I cut my eyes over that way, not daring to move a muscle I spotted a big ole tom walk up to the crest of the ridge and look down towards me. He’d walk and strut a few feet, stop and look in my direction.
Finally the old bird got about 20 yards to my left angling towards my position and looking hard for the hen. I had only one chance to get my gun up and that was to bring it up when he went behind a small tree some 20 steps to my left. As he went behind the tree I swung my gun around and put the bead on the tree.
The gobbler disappeared for an instant, hidden by a six inch tree, before he peaked around it and strained his head way out to see where she was.
Tic-Boom, roared the 12 gauge widow maker as the Merriam’s gobbler met his maker and crumpled to the rich Nebraska soil. At the sound of the shot four or five gobblers sounded off and marked the end of my Nebraska gobbler quest.
An hour or so later, I heard the roar of Randy Pope’s muzzleloader as he hammered a fine Nebraska tom. We’d doubled up on Merriam’s gobblers and finished a fantastic Nebraska adventure with a plate of fresh fried turkey nuggets! It just doesn’t get any better than that! If you’re looking for a chance to harvest your first Merriam’s gobbler, then check them out on Facebook at Spring Creek Ranch, or give Doug Dillon a call at 970-208-7054 to line up a hunt.
Contact Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or e-mail him at email@example.com