When I received the generous invitation to hunt Nebraska, I wasn't overly thrilled. Sure, I'd heard good things about the state, and I was certain it'd be a fun time, but I really yearned to stretch my legs in some other areas.
Thankfully, Nebraska soon revealed the truth.
I joined Carson House of Outlaw Decoys at a wonderful ranch near Brewster, by the North Loup River in central Nebraska's Sandhills. Brewster had a population of 22. Years earlier, the population had also been 22. But then, according to legend, the preacher, his wife and their 10 children moved, reducing the town's population to 10. The town had, however, rebuilt to 22 folks by 1999.
The first morning, Carson, our guide and I set up across the road from a known roost. And true to the guide's promise, turkeys flew into the field and began doing their turkey thing. I sat behind Carson, calling pretty much, as the cliche says, way too much and way too loud. But it worked, and after 20 exciting minutes, Carson put the hammer down on a gorgeous hybrid longbeard. I was elated.
"How'd you know where they'd roost?" I asked the guide.
"Those are the trees above my sister's house," he replied.
Oh. Only in Nebraska.
That afternoon, it was my turn behind the gun. At about 1 p.m, we drove into a gorgeous little farm and saw three longbeards trot over a hill. With a plan in mind, we slipped low behind some cover and crept to the edge of a woods where we thought the birds would travel. And about 30 seconds after we sat down, heads popped up over the rise.
For the next three hours, I called — yep — way too much and way too loud at three longbeards and two hens. Sometimes, they'd look toward me and the decoys. Other times, they'd just strut or preen. But finally, the trailing bird drifted within 35 yards to check out all the noise. Without going into ugly detail, I'll admit that I made the shot exciting, but the bird eventually dropped dead, and I had my first Nebraska gobbler.
To top off the day, our guide let us mess around with the turkeys near the lodge. They were off limits to hunting, but I wanted to yelp at them and see if we could get some photos. So, that evening, we set up, and I called — all together now — way too much and way too loud at the house turkeys. And they gobbled their heads off. And then they roosted right above us.
Carson and I slipped out as darkness fell, chuckling and smiling about an incredible day.
Nebraska. Yep, I realized then that I'd have a long love affair with that state.