As the 2016 spring turkey seasons approached, my eager anticipation seemed to be at an all time high. Iowa’s spring turkey season opened on April 18 and I couldn’t wait. In Iowa we hunt the “Eastern” turkey subspecies which is found predominantly east of the Mississippi. The Eastern is found in 38 states and parts of Canada. Many avid turkey hunters consider the Eastern to be quite difficult to call. The other four subspecies found in the U.S. include the Osceola, Merriam’s, Gould’s and Rio Grande. The Osceola is found only in Florida and is considered the most difficult to call. The Merriam’s is most abundant in the mountainous west. The Rio Grande’s are concentrated in the western desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and are found in other western states. Mexico also has good numbers of Rio Grande’s. Gould’s are found in small numbers in Arizona, New Mexico and Northern Mexico.
Having only hunted the Eastern turkey in the past I decided to investigate an out of state trip for a Merriam’s turkey. Nebraska seemed to be a good choice as their season opened before Iowa’s and their Merriam’s population is very good. Interestingly, Nebraska has areas that have good numbers of Eastern, Merriam’s and Rio Grande turkeys. I planned a trip to central Nebraska for a 3 day archery hunt.
On April 7, I headed for central Nebraska for my 3 day hunt. On day one I sat in a pop-up blind near a timbered creek. Some gobbles were heard at first light but only 4 hens were spotted from the blind. On Day 2, I was again in the same blind in a different position in the same field. As the eastern sky slowly showed indications of sunrise several gobbles were heard. A few yelps followed and soon I could hear the turkeys flying down from their roost. My calls got some response but the Toms would not commit to coming to the decoys. As the morning passed I continued to call periodically. Turkeys would strut and gobble, obviously interested in the decoys but unwilling to commit to coming in. At approximately 11:15 I noticed movement to my right, 3 strutters were slowly moving into the decoys. Their robotic march slowly led them to the “Jake” decoy first. They started to attack the decoy as they didn’t like this intruder! Then 2 of the 3 birds headed for the hen decoy leaving the lone bird open for a shot. I slowly drew and released the arrow. The arrow hit hard and sent the bird spinning and flapping his wings for only a short time. My beautiful Merriam’s turkey lay only several yards from the blind.
Having had a great time in Nebraska, I returned home and began preparing for the Iowa Turkey season. I set up my blind, readied the decoys and kept practicing with the calls.
On a chilly Sunday morning I headed for the blind well before first light. I slowly and quietly set up a feeding hen and ¾ strut “Jake” decoy before slipping into the blind. As day light finally arrived the roosted Toms started to gobble. I answered with some soft yelps which seemed to interest them. Unfortunately they flew down in the other direction and slowly wandered off. Every few minutes I would call in hopes of a response. At approximately 7:30 I heard a gobble to the North East at some distance. I responded with calls for 15 minutes with no response.
Checking my watch I felt I had only 15 more minutes before I needed to head to church. I decided to give a good look all around the area before exiting the blind. As I look to the East I spot a long beard in full strut only 40 yards away on the other side of a small timbered draw. I got back into a shooting position and start softly yelping, no response, more soft yelps but still no response. I slowly turn and peer out of the blind and saw that the Turkey has circled around to the South East and is now 20 yards away and closing. I get back into position in hopes he will come into the decoys which are North West of the blind and the only direction I can shoot. A make a couple of soft yelps and wait. A few minutes go by with no response. Then a thunderous gobble erupts just outside the North East corner of the blind! I ready my bow and watch thru the right shooting opening. A moment later the Tom appears in full strut just out side the right shooting opening, only 3 feet from the blind. I freeze, not able to move or draw my bow. I decide to wait until he moves between the two shooting windows, and then draw my bow. As the turkey is only a few feet away I will attempt to tip the bow up so as to hide the arrow movement when I draw the bow. The turkey slowly moves allowing me to attempt to draw my bow. The unusual position I’m in makes drawing the bow very difficult. Struggling, I finally seem to get the bow drawn past roll-over; the turkey appears in the second shooting window. With the bow still at a 45 degree angle up, I accidently bump the release and send the arrow thru the blind into orbit! WOW! I’m not sure who jumped more, me or the turkey. The Tom runs 20 yards, stops, and looks back at the decoys not sure what just happened. I quickly nock another arrow and focus on the nervous turkey. The Tom hesitates long enough for me to release the arrow. The arrow finds it mark and the Tom runs 35 yards before going down.
Still a little rattled I sat quietly and replayed the last few minutes in my mind. A Turkey at almost point blank range, struggling to draw my bow, shooting a warning shot thru my blind, and harvesting a turkey! It was a crazy hunt to say the least. I exited the blind to retrieve and admire the beautiful turkey. After tagging the bird I headed to church as I had a lot to be thankful for!