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Turkey

Wild turkeys walk around the edge of a harvested soybean field heading toward timber down the hill from a ground blind in Sarpy County.

It never ceases to amaze me that more avid hunters don’t buy a turkey permit in the fall.

Hunters say there are too many other game birds and animals to hunt in the fall and they may not even see turkeys. They say the fall hunt for turkeys is merely an ambush and not as challenging as the spring hunt, when you can call in love-struck gobblers. They even say there could be an issue with over-harvest.

None of those things can be further from the truth.

According to Dr. Jeffrey, Lusk, wildlife biologist, ecologist and biometrician for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, a 2019 Nebraska fall wild turkey hunt should be on any hunter’s list. He points out that while other upland game bird populations are most likely lower due to weather factors, the turkey population in the state increased 12 percent, according to the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey. He notes that turkey numbers in Nebraska remain strong and stable.

Lusk adds with youth turkey permits only $8 for those 15 years of age and younger, fall wild turkey hunting fits perfectly into Nebraska’s new Take ’Em Hunting Challenge for introducing new hunters to the field.

Lusk reminds hunters that the original Nebraska turkey hunt was a classic fall version in 1962. He says you can make your fall wild turkey hunt a traditional one with a “scatter and recall” method or create an opportunity to acquire a bonus game species for the dinner table while hunting your primary quarry, such as deer. He says some hunters set January aside to hunt turkeys when many other seasons are waning or have closed. The turkey season opened on Sept. 15 and runs through Jan. 31, 2020.

Wild turkeys thrive in all 93 Nebraska counties and utilize a variety of habitats, so the chances of seeing them are good on various hunts, especially on deer hunts.

Are turkeys vocal in the fall? “Contrary to what some hunters and others think, turkeys in the fall are expressive with their calls,” Lusk said. “Wild turkeys speak the same language in the fall as they do in the spring, but differently. Whether it is just coming off the roost or getting worked up along a trail, a flock of hens and young-of-the-year birds can be very vocal and even make quite a racket.”

He added that tom turkeys will gobble in the fall to typically show their dominant status in a flock. It is also not uncommon to still hear a tom gobble before leaving his roost.

Lusk recommends learning and using the kee-kee and assembly yelping calls in the fall. “The turkeys really respond to those two calls during our fall season,” he said.

Overharvest of turkeys is not a potential problem in the fall. Lusk has calculated that the amount of harvest in the fall by hunters is not large enough to affect Nebraska’s wild turkey population.

“Just look at 2018, when we had roughly 6,000 turkey permit holders take a little over 3,000 birds for a 54% success rate,” Lusk said. “It’s all about the numbers.”

Keep in mind that nearly 1 million acres of publicly accessible lands can be found throughout Nebraska, with many of them supporting wild turkeys. You can get more information about turkey hunting in Nebraska at OutdoorNebraska.org.

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Greg Wagner is a public information officer in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Communications Division. Contact him at greg.wagner@nebraska.gov. Read his blog, In the Wild, at OutdoorNebraska.org.

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