Nebraska Turkey Hunting Photo Blog

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Late-Season Action in the Cornhusker State

I'm a huge fan of Nebraska turkey hunting. Over the years, I've visited the state in April during the early season. Falling snow. Gusting winds. Sub-freezing wind chills. Massive flocks still in "winter" mode. We've always done well though, despite the challenges. Cornhusker strutters coming to your calls while plowing through several inches of white stuff on the ground is a memory to be savored.

This season, late in May, I turkey hunted the state once again. Warm days. Tornado threats. And gobblers either running alone, or in small mixed groups. It was just as great as my previous April hunts. Storms came at night, and cleared out by morning. Perfect.

Check out this photo blog on the trip to see how we did.

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So Much Land

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1 | So Much Land

Land. There's so much of it in Nebraska it takes your breath away. Wow.

And it's full of turkeys. Source estimates put bird numbers at around 145,000.

We met up with our friends from Winchester Ammunition, Browning, Trijicon, Thermacell and the NWTF.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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First Blood

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2 | First Blood

Guide Dustin Riggins of The Roost put us into turkeys immediately. Tactics included glassing or locator calling from rural dirt roads, finding birds, hatching a tactical plan, moving on turkeys, and using a combination of calling and fanning to get close enough for a kill.

Jon Draper batted lead-off, and dropped the first longbeard.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Good Birds

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3 | Good Birds

Nebraska has Merriam's, Rio Grande and hybrid wild turkeys.

Most of the late-season longbeards we tagged were two- and three-year-old gobblers (maybe even older) based on spur length, with a few true limbhangers in the mix, for sure. 

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Two Longbeards, Two Hunts

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4 | Two Longbeards, Two Hunts

After Draper tagged his first bird, I was up to bat.

Riggins and I first tangled with a solo gobbler that hung up to the calls as a team of nearby pasture horses panicked at our presence, and alerted the lone bird to our approach. I joked with Dustin, wondering if Jon had carrots to settle the renegades storming around behind us, but we had a turkey to kill. 

It took several hundred yards of repositioning, but we did. Head up. Bird down. High-fives.

My second longbeard, shot in a different spot, was part of a bigger flock including a massive strutter, who couldn't shake his running buddy. They eased in shoulder-to-shoulder and I couldn't get shot clearance. Two hens ran in ahead of them, challenging the kill shot even more.

By the end of it I swung left and dropped a nice bird approaching from the rear. 

Riggins joked: "Sure, you had a sharp-spurred gobbler at 10 steps and took the two-year-old. Pathetic." We had a good laugh over that one.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Afternoon Scouting

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5 | Afternoon Scouting

As the day warmed into afternoon, we scouted all that land. And we scouted some more.

Turkeys were no doubt loafing in the shady margins of properties.

And then, later in the day – following a massive pepperoni pizza at a local hangout and big icy Cokes in styrofoam to-go cups – we found a solo gobbler in a field . . .

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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A Merriam

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6 | A Merriam's for Draper

Draper wanted one with a white-tipped fan. And he got his wish.

Guide Dustin Riggins found a lone longbeard out in a field and the turkey was looking for companionship.

We drove past, parked, hoofed it down the field behind the bird, and made our setup in a swamp bottom. Riggins and I sat a little above Draper, who readied himself to our right.

And we did what some of you would do. We cold called. We ran every vocalization in the book. And then we did it some more. 

Finally, the gobbler hammered back. We did the same. And then it was clear he'd closed the distance and was steadily coming in.

At that point, I shut up. Riggins, as humble as he is funny, is one of the best mouth callers I've ever shared the turkey woods with . . . and he slowly worked his magic. The gobbler hit the field's edge cover, through leafy-green growth, now maybe half a football field away from Draper's muzzle.

Slowly, surely, he gobbled and moved in. He gobbled 100 times, I swear. And then we could all tell he was close, there on the other side of mosquito-swarming water, but we couldn't see him.

And then Dustin eased the full-fan strutter decoy out from behind a tree to give the bird a visual of the far sloping cover we sat on. And with that, the longbeard took his last few steps.

Draper shot. Bird down. Four total were taken that Monday, May 23, each of us punching our two tags. Wow. 

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

 

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Hybrid Turkeys

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7 | Hybrid Turkeys

Nebraska's hybrid turkeys sometimes have cool feathering characteristics.

Check out this tail fan from our recent hunt with lower tail coverts we might see on a Rio Grande gobbler, and Merriam's white-tipped upper tail coverts.

Go here for our Grand Slam Gobbler ID Guide.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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"Unkillable" Gobbler No. 1

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8 | "Unkillable" Gobbler No. 1

My longtime buddy Eddie Stevenson arrived in camp that night, and we got out with Riggins the next morning. At first, locating birds came a little tougher. My crow calling, for instance, struck out . . . and of course granted me the nickname "Crow," dubbed by Dustin, for the remainder of the hunt. 

And then our guide decided to really raise the bar, after we'd checked out a bunch of spots without luck. He wanted to target several turkeys that had been missed by clients that season. So we did.

He struck a gobbler while mouth calling. We moved on the bird, yelping and slipping in with the full-fan strutter decoy. And then it was over just like that, as the turkey was much closer than we'd first thought. Up it stepped into range, head and neck on fire with color. Boom, it was down. Stevenson was on the board.

"You just killed the unkillable gobbler," Riggins added. And there was another one fitting that description he wanted to go after elsewhere.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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"Unkillable" Gobbler No. 2

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9 | "Unkillable" Gobbler No. 2

And so we went after the second longbeard that had been missed by a client earlier in the season. 

At first, our cold calling and locator efforts (including my crowing) were met with silence. And so we slipped into a shady woods edge, and clucked, yelped, purred and even kee-keed some more.

"They'll start up at 12:15 or so," Riggins said, full of experienced confidence. We'd learned not to doubt him, and dang if he wasn't right. We'd just started to think about leaving when a far-off gobble made us all smile.

"See, told ya," he hissed, grinning. And we set up again, cold calling. Soon, jakes – gobbler yelping and gobbling in sub-par unison – stepped up and moved in close, followed by hens. The big boy we wanted strutted, gobbled and cruised at a distance, right on the edge of range.

"I'm gonna take him," Stevenson whispered as I sat against the same tree trunk. He shot, bird down, and at all of 50 steps.

It wore two beards, sharp spurs and weighed a hefty 20-something pounds.

"You just killed the second unkillable gobbler," Riggins reminded. We relived the hunt on the way back to the vehicle.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

 

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Wild Turkey Grilling

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10 | Wild Turkey Grilling

Back home in the Northeast, following the Nebraska hunt and celebrating it with my family on the table, we made shish kabobs with gobbler breast meat.

Go here for wild turkey recipes and many others: Timber 2 Table with Michael Pendley.

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