By Rick Windham Outside Columnist
Things are heating up in the world, if you’re a turkey. Spring is mating season and I observed several herds. I can tell you that the toms strut their stuff. The Nebraska turkey spring archery season started last Friday and I know several local archers who couldn’t wait any longer. Good luck!
Spring turkey hunting is addictive. This type of hunting can combine the anticipation of deer hunting with the excitement of calling and possibly point-blank shooting waterfowl on decoys. Either way, it’s a guaranteed adrenaline rush.
For you hunters, you should watch your hunting area right now. Like all other creatures, turkeys need a good habitat. Good turkey habitat includes a stable food source, water, and resting places.
Finding feeding areas may be the fastest way to locate turkeys. Areas where new plants are growing, grain leftovers from previous harvests, and mast crops like acorns are good places to start scouting.
Scour the edges of fields or tree lines and look for tracks, feathers, droppings, scratches and just don’t forget to listen for the sounds of the turkeys. If you hear birds, you’ve hit the jackpot.
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Turkey hunting is hard enough with a shotgun, but with a bow it adds a few more levels of difficulty. Compound bows are fine, but I prefer my recurve bows or my longbows. One of my favorite bows is a modern replica of a Mongolian horse bow. It’s an arc like Genghis Khan and his horde sacked most of the Asian continent around 800 years ago.
I really like this bow. It is short, therefore light, but powerful. It’s a perfect combination for a bow that was to be shot from a galloping horse.
I try to keep it very traditional with this bow by using cedar arrows, real feathers for the fletching and a broad point that looks like it was forged and hammered a thousand years ago. I like the challenge of hunting this way.
I’m still healing from shoulder surgery, so shooting a bow might present a challenge. Maybe that’s my excuse for using a crossbow this season. I have hunted with crossbows several times in the past for magazine articles. These crossbows were super high tech compound platforms. It worked great, but I didn’t like them and they went back to the manufacturers. I love the concept of crossbow hunting, especially for any hunter who may have difficulty shooting a traditional bow. This led me to start looking for a classic style crossbow. I finally found a Barnett Wildcat 150 pound pull rig. It’s more my style.
Calling a tom is another challenge. A hunter must practice and master several basic calls to be effective. The best way to learn the different calls is to be in the field, hearing the calls the turkeys make and imitating those sounds. If you can’t get to the field regularly, there are many “how to” tapes or videos sold that will be a great help in learning different calls.
One of the best callers is Matt Morrett. Morrett is a master and has won over 50 national championships. I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with Morrett many times and I’m always learning something. Asked about his calling philosophy, he made some very interesting comments.
“I like having a big gobbler all set up and then playing hard to get it,” Morrett said. “I used this technique one spring in Georgia and got a bunch of turkeys on fire on the roost. Got the toms talking when suddenly a hen started screaming aggressively. I gave it all back straight away and in five minutes I had the whole herd on my knees. Just use an excited beat and you’re good to go.
Morrett said you can get the good sounds you need to call both diaphragm and friction calls. It often uses both a diaphragm call and a stick and slate call when hunting.
Distance from birds is another factor to consider. Morrett also had some thoughts on this topic.
“I used to sneak so close to the birds that I sometimes scared them. I changed tactics,” Morrett said. “I backed up more and found 100 to 200 yards worked well. .”
“One more thing,” Morrett added. “Never give up on a gobbler who responds to you, no matter how far away they are. Often this pays off.”
If you are interested in walleye fishing at Lake McConaughy, you can attend a public information meeting on March 29 at the Lake McConaughy Visitor Center. The meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MT. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can participate via Zoom. Those present in person can ask questions, participate in the discussion and give their opinion.
Fisheries staff from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will discuss fisheries research, changes in stocking, and what they learned from angler surveys. Recent meetings at the lake with anglers and concessionaires focused on the agency’s golden 2022 plan for the lake. Part of this plan includes a nighttime creel survey in April and May to assess the walleye fishery along the dam during the spawning period.
Part of the meeting will focus on stocking plans for 22 million newly hatched walleye in the North Platte River above the lake and at the river-lake interface. It is also planned to store 1.5 million walleyes with a length of 1.25 to 1.5 inches), and a small part of these will be raised and stored at a larger size of 2 to 2.5 inches. These stockings will be evaluated to determine which size has been the most successful.