October 27, 2021

Backcountry Bowhunting

Off The Beaten Path… No Regrets

Sage Houle’s Nebraska Turkey

5 min read

The snow was falling quickly as Andy and I headed towards the Denver area after we left Gunnison. Our phones continued to buzz as we drove to Nebraska, warning us about the snowstorm in Denver. The hotels we passed were packed as the highways continued to shut down. Andy and I pulled up next to the gate on the highway and closed our eyes anticipating hearing roosted toms in the morning. I woke up dazed around 2:30am barley able to see the road. As my eyes cleared I saw that the gate was open and we hit the road heading to Nebraska. We arrived early and the birds were just about to sound off before they hit the ground for the day. Andy and I stood outside my truck as we listed to 13 toms gobble their heads off for an hour straight. They hit the ground and began to strut their stuff for the hens in the flock. They started to feed off and we knew where our blind was going that morning. We spent the rest of the day glassing birds and checking our bows for the opening morning. We decided to attack the field at two angles one of us on the west side of the field and one of us on the east side of the field. I found myself 100 yards from their roost tree in the morning and the birds began to sound off like I never heard before. Gobble after gobble the birds lit up the woods in the trees next to me. I lightly called as a roosted hen to arise some interest from the birds before they hit the ground. I had two hens and a jake outside of my blind hoping a tom would come running in. The birds hit the ground and started to feed away from me, I got slightly disappointed but I knew that this is public land and birds have a lot of pressure from hunters. I sat there for an hour or so and one bird continued to answer me. I looked to the left and the tom strutted in the field drumming and gobbling his head off. I ranged him at 80 yards and I knew he needed to get much closer before I would take a shot. I gave a few soft yelps and the bird continued to gobble and strut around. He was held up at 80 yards for 20mins until he finally decided to head into the decoys. I sat in the blind with my heart racing as this lone Nebraska tom headed in. He hit 20 yards and strutted away from me and I drew my bow and took aim. As the bird turned and gave me a broadside I settled my pin and released my arrow into his vitals. The tom ran 30 yards and flopped over. I jumped out of my blind with excitement after harvesting my first archery turkey. I got Andy out of his bind and we took some pictures, grabbed ice and begin to start looking for my birds in the area. The evening ended up not producing any luck for us and the birds seemed much quitter in the evenings than they were in the mornings. We ended up heading in early after our long few days of traveling and decided to get some rest. The next evening Andy watched a large group of toms and hens strut around in a field and we knew we had to get there in the morning. The morning was slow and the birds headed the opposite way. We headed out grabbed some lunch and came back to the blind hoping the toms would come back in the field to strut in the afternoon.

The hot sun beat down on our blind as we our sit was hitting the boring portion of the sit. I looked at my phone and the time read 2:30pm, I did a few yelps on my slate and a tom answered back quickly on the other side of the field. I answered back and the tom hammered back much closer. We scanned the ridgeline looking for the tom. We looked to the left and 3 toms were running towards our decoys gobbling every 20 yards. The birds began to strut and put on a show for Andy and I. The three birds came in quickly and Andy raised his bow and started to draw. The birds hit the decoys and Andy fired an arrow at tom in the back and his arrow sailed over the birds back. Andy ‘s face looked pale after he missed his first turkey. I tried to encourage Andy after his miss and I knew we had to be back here in the morning. We left the blind that evening and glassed the bird’s roost that evening near the field where Andy missed earlier that evening. We hit the field early that morning and set up the blind in a different position with a 2 hen and 1 jake set up. The birds began to go ballistic an hour before sun rise. Our anticipation arose as the birds sounded off continuously until they hit the ground. The large group  of toms continued to sound off in the hallow down below for a few hours. I continued to call but the birds did not seem to be interested. We waited and waited and finally 3 jakes arose from the hallow and started to strut towards our decoys. The birds cautiously came into our decoys, and Andy drew his bow back settling his pin on a jake in the group he released the arrow and the bird jumped and started to run across the field. Excitement exploded in the blind as Andy just shot his first turkey with his bow let alone his first animal ever with the bow. We knew the bird was hurt but we didn’t know how bad, we waited for 30mins before pursuing the bird. We got out of the blind and searched for the bird for an hour with no luck, blood was slim and the bird wasn’t anywhere to be found. We continued to search and we finally stumbled across a large brush pile and the bird was lying dead in the brush.

This trip is going to be something that we do every year from now on, the public land opportunities to hunt in Nebraska are very good and have always seemed to produce very well for my family and I. I cannot wait to hit the road again in late March and chase the gobbling toms of Nebraska.

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