The Life Members who participated in the April 2008, NAHC Life Member Turkey Hunt with Osage Outfitters near Dubois, Nebraska, were definitely not disappointed. Over 3 days, everyone tagged at least one bird, 14 of 15 tags were filled, and the only unused tag was literally inches from being filled.
I must admit I wasn’t very optimistic on day No. 1 of the hunt. It was cold, spitting rain and blowing strong—not ideal conditions for hunting turkeys. Despite the weather, I was able to coax a tom off of the roost only to have my setup busted. Believe it or not, my only good shot at the tom was under the belly of a white-tailed doe. It would’ve been a “You Call the Shots” classic if I had a camera with me. The doe spooked and the tom quickly followed suit.
During a lunch break, I was thrilled to learn the group had put down four birds, which was a shocking success considering the bad weather. Gerry Weaver of Calhoun, Georgia, scored on a four-bearded, 30-pound gobbler! Dave Bergmark of Garden Prairie, Illinois, and Frank Youdleman’s (Tucson, Arizona) 13-year-old son, Robbie, each bagged their first turkeys ever. The fourth tom was taken by Dave Randall of Ft. Collins, Colorado.
Day No. 2 was unseasonably cold for the end of April, as frost-coated windshields greeted us at 5 a.m. On the upside, it was clear and calm—a true turkey-killing morning. As dawn approached, I slipped beneath a cedar tree near the spot where the doe intruded the previous day. Gobbles erupted across the woodlot like fans doing “the wave” at a football game. Shortly after daybreak, I heard drumming from very close behind me. I about jumped out of my skin when gobbles from two toms exploded directly into my ears. Then more gobbles erupted over a rise in front of me. I s-l-o-w-l-y shifted into shooting position as two tail fans wobbled their way in front of my sights. I waited until the heads separated and took a 25-pounder with two beards!
I packed my bird out and moved to another area with Life Member Steve Kohles of Tooele, Utah. Just as I settled in to start a calling sequence, I heard the blast from Steve’s shotgun.
We headed in for lunch and an obligatory afternoon nap. At the lodge, I learned that Dave Weekley of Berlin Center, Ohio, shot two toms within an hour. Charles Randall had also taken a respectable bird.
About 4 p.m. I decided to head back out to the spot where Steve Kohles shot his tom. I spotted a group of strutting birds in a pasture and raced through the cedars to the fenceline on the far edge. As is typical, the birds were gone when I arrived. I decided to wait and see if they reappeared, so I settled in at the base of a tree and started calling sporadically.
After an hour of uninterrupted boredom, I decided to move. As I always do, I let out a few yelps, then stood slowly and scanned the surroundings—nothing moved. I slid my calls in my vest, put on my jacket and stepped out from under the tree. I glanced down the fenceline and froze at the sight of two wobbling gobblers moving my way. I eased back down to the ground, shouldered my Benelli and watched the two toms stroll toward me. Calling wasn’t necessary as they were doing what I wanted them to do. As they rounded a deadfall, I switched the safety to “fire” and dumped my second tom—another 25-pounder.
The only bummer was that I was done hunting, unless I could tag along with someone else. Frank Youdleman was still working hard at getting a bird, so he asked me if I’d take Robbie out to fill his second tag. Let’s see, should I keep hunting or sit in the lodge and watch TV? Um, I think I’ll take Robbie hunting.
On the morning of day No. 3, Robbie and I nestled into a brushy fenceline and began a conversation with some roosted toms. Robbie nudged me and whispered, “There’s one.” I glanced at a big jake that had sneaked through the brush within 10 yards of us. He was spooked and there was no shot, so we let him walk and waited for his larger buddies, who never showed up.
Robbie and I had been skunked, but others were successful that morning. No one had put in more time or hunted harder that Keven Ellert of Kendallville, Indiana, and Frank Youdleman. They deserved the birds they killed that morning. And Steve Ellert and Dave Bergmark had each filled their second tag.
That afternoon Robbie and I found a comfortable vantage point against a huge cottonwood tree. Fighting a nap, I yelped for a lonely tom, and movement to my left caught my attention—a tom had slipped in behind us. I whispered to Robbie, “He’s coming to your right.” The tom let out an “I’m here honey” gobble and strutted by. I heard Robbie’s safety click and waited for the shot. At the report, I turned to see a disheveled bird hop up on a knoll, and I yelled, “Shoot again!” Robbie let another round fly and the tom sprinted into the cedars.
We charged around the trees in time to see the tom exit and race away. He was in fine shape and unfortunately, well educated. Good luck to the next hunter who meets him. Robbie took the miss well. He said, “That one really got my heart going.” I told him, “That’s what it’s all about.”