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Merriam Hunt in Nebraska with Chip Handley,

Gang Violence in Nebraska

Every now and then things just work out the way you want them to. Everything just seems to come together. It doesnít happen all the time, but every now and then, itís like magic. Those are the times we all live for. Sometimes itís something we have heard or read about before. Other times itís a brand new experience! Such was the case in Nebraska in 2007.
I was guiding for IMB Outfitters. IMB offers top quality spring gobbler hunting in Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, offering three different species of birds, easterns in Missouri, Rio Grande in Kansas and Rioís and Merriamís in Nebraska. IMB is also the premiere whitetail outfitter in the United States offer trophy class whitetail hunting in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.
If you have never turkey hunted in Nebraska, youíre in for a real treat. The rolling prairie country is quite different from anything I had ever hunted before. I spent most of my life hunting easterns in the mountains of Virginia. On A typical morning hunt in Virginia, you would be happy to hear a couple of birds gobbling off the roost. The next order of business involved getting to them, which sometimes meant going straight up a mountainside, to try and get above them. If you were lucky, and could get to them before they got off the roost, you stood a pretty good chance of killing them, but once they were gone, it gets pretty tough because of the tremendous amount of cover available to them. The hunting then turns into run and gun, and in the Appalachian Mountains, that means doing some serious walking and climbing.
The open prairie country of Nebraska is completely different. With very limited amounts of timber in the bottom of the canyons and draws, there are only so many places for the birds to roost . Once you identify where they roost, odds are they are going to be there on a consistant basis. Iím not talking about one or two birds. Its not a bit unusual to hear fifteen to twenty birds gobbling in a single patch of timber. Once the birds start flying down, things happen real fast.
I like to use decoys when Iím hunting the roost. I get there real early and take my time getting set up. If possible, I donít use a light, but if I do, I use a green LED headlamp. I have actually set up the decoys within fifty feet of the turkeys roosting in the trees without spooking them. Another sound piece of advice is to make sure your not stepping on branches or talking when you get to your set up area. I also like to use the ďGimme Three StepsĒ approach. Turkeys have other wildlife moving underneath them all night long so if you sound like a deer walking, by taking a couple steps and stopping, they pay very little attention.
The first morning of the Nebraska season found my client and I hunting a roost area I had scouted the previous morning. When I scouted the property the day before, several birds started gobbling around 6:15 and by six thirty there were probably thirty gobblers, tearing it up within hearing distance. Most of them were in the main block of timber in front of me. After the birds left the roost and dispersed out into the fields, I returned with my H.S. Strut popup blind and set it at the edge of a small field that jutted into the block of timber. I had seen eight different longbeards leave the woods from that field, and anything that came through that field was within shotgun range of the blind.
The next morning, it was fairly easy to make it to the blind without a light because all we had to do was walk through open fields. My client that morning was from Alabama, and was working on getting his Grand Slam. He already had his Eastern and Osceloa and needed a Rio and Merriamís to complete it.
We got settled into the blind, shortly after 5am and waited for the day to begin. Shortly after 6 a couple birds started gobbling. My clientís excitement was evident when I told him to relax, because he wouldnít believe what was going to happen. Within ten minutes there we too many birds gobbling to even try to count. I made a few tree calls but donít think they were necessary as there were so many hens raising cane that they were probably ignored. The first birds that came by us were group of about ten hens. Then came a group of six jakes. Upon seeing the hen and Jake decoy out in front of the blind, they immediately raced over to the Jake decoy and basically destroyed it. The first one to hit it almost severed the head and then all six of them tore into it. There was one time that I believe one shot would have killed all six of them as they were standing on top of the decoy and all of their heads were within an area the size of a basketball. They also were raising quite a ruckus with their fighting purrs and their wings pounding the downed Jake decoy. It was about then I noticed a big Rio gobbler strutting across the clearing towards the commotion. The gobbler got behind a cedar tree and I told my client to get his gun out the window. When the bird walked out from behind the cedar, I gave my client the green light, and a few seconds later it was all over from a distance of twelve yards. Like I said at the beginning, sometimes it just magic. Not only did we harvest an awesome bird, but we got to see some natural gang violence, up close and personal. Later in the trip, my hunter completed his slam, and is now employed as a guide for IMB. Hereís to you Chip! Iíll always remember that experience we had together!

Bob Cramer

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