The countdown to the start of Nebraska’s spring turkey season is on. And what you do right now could ensure one of your most memorable springs, yet. These simple prep items can help get that ol’longbeard strolling your way right off the roost on opening morning. And they won’t take too much of your time.
You got to be where the gobblers are. Quickest way to find them is using your ears early in the morning as they sound off before flying out of their roost trees. Quickest way to cover a lot of ground is to drive county roads, safely pull over at likely spots and listen for them. (Keep road safety in mind.) Early on turkeys will be bunched up and most of the gobbles you hear will be pretty close together – sometimes the same tree. Past experiences help narrow down the search area. If there were birds there last year before season there is a good chance there will be birds there again this year. Check as many potential spots as you can, keeping any eye out for birds on the ground as you drive back home or to work. For those needing to check out brand new territory, make use of the NGPC’s Public Hunting Areas Map and/or the online Public Access Atlas.
If you found them on a public access area – great, proceed to the next step. If they are gobbling on private lands track down the landowners to obtain the required permission before doing anything more. Many Nebraska counties now have landownership maps online, often listed as a GIS workshop map or layer, that you can find with a quick Google search. There are also great Apps for your mobile devices nowadays, such as onXmaps, that do the same for a fee. Once you have secured permissions move to the next step. If you are unable to secure it find a different area with turkeys – Nebraska has a healthy turkey population. Or talk to neighboring property owners – the birds won’t spend the entire spring on just one place.
Don’t bump birds out of their roosting areas. It will only make things tougher on you. Instead wait until at least mid-morning when the gobbling has died down (I prefer midday) and then go for a stroll. You are scouting the property for good hunting spots. Look for likely strutting spots, food sources and travel routes. Best places to hunt will be semi-open areas for toms to strut that have little to obstruct the birds coming to your call. Gobblers will avoid walking through thick brush or crossing fences and deep ravines when they don’t have to – most of the time. Hidden areas that meet these criteria that also have limited people or vehicle intrusions can be golden. Remember the best looking spot or three and how to get into and out of them discreetly.
Listen some more
As opening day nears do some more predawn listening from a safe distance – either from a good listening post on the property or safely from a nearby road. This time linger a bit longer so you hear or see where the gobblers like to head after fly-down. If its toward one of the hunting locales you identified in your tromp – you’re in business. If not, make the adjustments when you place your blind or walk into hunt on opening day. Using an online aerial/satellite map can help you zero in without having to tromp again.
We’ll talk more about opening hunt strategy as the season nears.