Scott ‘ Coach’ Stankowski
Senior Outdoor Writer, centralwisconsinsports.net
It was that time of the year again. Time for our annual pilgrimage to the Cornhusker state. The boys, Randy Kruzicki and I have been traveling to Nebraska for the past five years chasing gobblers.
We have always had great success in short windows of time and have made some great friendships along the way. The learning curve is at its peak for us and we headed down with great confidence.
The amazing thing about the trip is the importance to what the boys learn out here. Not only do they get to experience a different culture, they learn plenty of things they would never learn in a school setting. I see first hand the importance of becoming a worldly traveler, especially if the students stay on top of their school work.
We took after Austin’s baseball game and drove into the night. The boys slept and Randy and I switched off on the drive. We arrived in time for the two of us to take a two hour nap.
We awoke the next morning and the four of us surrounded a hillside that has always held birds. CJ and Randy were up on top and Austin and I split up down below. A family of coyotes awakened the warm dark air about 100 yards down the valley perhaps a rendezvous to get back to bed before the light came.
Next came the whip-poor-whil, and soon thereafter the gobble. This ridge holds a special place for us. We have harvested a lot of birds. They gobble their heads off here like nothing I have ever heard. The birds were shock gobbling to each other over and over.
On this morning there were over five mature toms, a lot of hens and even a few jakes from what I could tell. They gobbled until the first hen flew down. By this time we had already heard nearly 500 gobbles. The birds all proceeded to fly down and seemed to be heading towards Austin and me. I called and got a response. There was a bruiser heading my way, he got to within 70 yards and did an about face up the ridge.
The bottoms of the ridges were lush with creeks running through. Old cottonwood and oaks lined the valleys. As the ridges rose, they were filled with oaks and up on top was a completely different ecological landscape. Barren, with sand, and plenty of cactus. The top was intermingled with Yuccas and plenty of cedar, or juniper trees as they call them down here.
There were hills and valleys everywhere, and once a bird headed over one it was virtually gone in the landscape, like big waves out on the ocean.
As the birds headed up I could see their silhouette against the top. The owner of the property had recently cut all the cedars along the ridgetop providing better habitat for his grazing cattle. I was waiting for CJ or Randy to shoot, but it never happened. Once plenty of time had passed, Austin and I headed up to hear the story. The birds were just out of range for the two and had ascended the highest ridge about a quarter of a mile away. I took the boys and said let’s go get on them.
We charted a course and climbed higher through the hills. As we approached the top I peered over anticipating the sight of birds and saw nothing. We walked a bit further and I called again nothing, so I cranked up the volume and got a response. It sounded like the birds were over the next hill. We began to walk when I noticed a hen to my left about sixty yards away as I began my descent around the first hill. We backed off.
I knew the birds were heading away. We tried flanking them by staying below the crest of the hill. We trotted about one hundred and fifty yards. When I felt we were far enough along I had the boys sneak behind a pair of Yuccas and peer over. There were the birds right in their laps!
Cade pulled up the gun and shot, it wasn’t but a second later and Austin echoed the cause. Two gobblers were down in a matter of seconds and we were on our way into the 2015 season.
We packed up our gear and headed to another property we had permission to hunt. As we drove up to it we had seen about a dozen gobblers on various fields during the twenty-minute ride. The birds were definitely out displaying. We decided to divide up. The boys still had a pair of tags and Randy and I each had one. Randy and Austin would go together and CJ would hang with me.
Read part II of our Nebraska hunt tomorrow.
Until next time,