I am always about learning new things in Nebraska’s outdoor scene. I believe it makes you a better, more knowledgeable, well-rounded outdoor enthusiast.
I know, I know. What kind of crazed hunter goes after wild turkeys in the frigid, snow-covered landscape of a Nebraska January, huh? After all, the birds are in their larger winter flocks and may be pretty tough to get near.
After all, a big, cold-weather flock of wild turkeys holds a lot of wary, vigilant eyes and acute hearing capabilities. Some of these birds have either been spooked by humans or experienced some fall hunting pressure. Whatever the case may be, wild turkey flocks present fun challenges for a January hunt!
There are many positive factors for hunting North America’s largest game bird this time of year.
A turkey hunter may be able to get access to private lands that have not been available in the fall because of other hunters pursuing game. Public hunting lands are also not seeing much traffic. There is virtually nobody else hunting wild turkeys in January. That quite possibly could be because of the sometimes brutal cold and snowy weather, or it simply might be because hunters have yet to discover this opportunity. The birds are also much easier to spot and hear from a distance due to snow blanketing the ground and lack of foliage.
What’s also interesting is that the turkeys will they lower their guard to avoid danger in January, and become very predictable.
Wild turkeys in winter typically roost in the same woodlands, follow the same travel paths and use the same food sources around the same time each day, with weather conditions normally having little impact. Roosting the birds, or finding fresh tracks or droppings offer great clues to these locations.
January turkey hunters will find that the birds generally segregate by sex, and they will be bunched together when they’re at a common food source. Wild turkeys gather in wintering flocks that range from a couple hundred birds or more to less than a dozen.
Watching these winter flocks up close is a remarkable sight and really gets the heart pounding!
Believe it or not, wild turkeys in January are quite vocal. I have heard a fair amount of tree yelps, fly-down cackles, clucks, yelps and feeding purrs. I have noticed once on the ground though, few calls are made. Soft yelps and feeding purrs with my slate call have brought inquisitive hens to me sitting in the shadows of old-growth Missouri River woodlands.
I think a good rule of thumb is to call infrequently or at times not at all during this final month of turkey hunting. The exception, wildlife biologists say, appears to be a massive group of gobblers. They can be highly vocal when they are flocked up and battling for dominance.
When it comes to wild turkey hunting in the Cornhusker State, no need to wait until spring. Most hunters already own the gear they need to take to the woods and use now. There is an abundance of birds in the Nebraska countryside and still time on the calendar to buy a (fall) turkey permit (good for two birds of any sex) and habitat stamp for a unique late season, January wild turkey hunt.
It sure is a wonderful time to be in the woods, too!