I slipped out west for some family celebrations a while back, and I managed to sneak away for some quiet time with the turkeys.
I ventured out to the loess canyons southeast of North Platte for a quick hunt the evening we got into town. I took my time working up along the first ridge, careful to not spook birds. Within minutes, I spotted some deer on a patch of green grass and knew there should be some turkeys using that spot, too. Not long after, I spied the first turkeys on the next ridge over and had an idea where they were heading.
I figured if there were some jakes heading to a certain canyon bottom, there likely would be other turkeys heading there, too, and probably a couple of big toms with long beards. But I was already too late to get to that spot before the birds got there. If I headed there, all I was going to do was bump into birds and scare them.
But I knew another place, just above that canyon bottom, where a person might be able to call a bird before it headed to roost. I walked the few hundred yards down there, put out a couple of decoys and slipped the diaphragm call into my mouth before I sat down. When I started yelping, I was immediately answered by a hen yelping back, and then another.
The calling contest waned after a bit, and I knew that most of the birds answering me were not going to come my way. I was hoping there might be a tom come sneaking up to check out my calling.
And then, there he was, a big red head walking up the trail out of the canyon. I figured I could pull a long-bearded tom away.
Then there was another red head, and another, and another, in single-file they just kept coming. I was focused on the first one because he had a long beard. He was crossing under the barbed wire fence in front of me and he was going to be in range.
He crossed and then angled up the hillside to my left. He was in range, but looking out from under the cedar tree where I was sitting, there was no way to take a shot through the branches.
I yelped softly. The big tom stopped, looked, and then came marching straight down the hill right to my jake decoy 10 yards in front of me.
At that point it was just a matter of putting the bead on his head and squeezing the trigger. I got the sights on him and tipped him over on his chin. His beard went nearly 9 inches in length.
We spent a lot of time with family over the next couple of days, but even though we did not have another turkey permit to fill, we could not resist spending some more time back out in those canyons watching and listening to turkeys.