By Scott “Coach” Stankowski
It was the last day of our two-day hunt.
We woke up well before the hint of light and CJ went again with me. We decided to set up where the birds had walked out onto the ridge top the day before, and Austin and Randy went to a new property where a farmer had all but guaranteed Austin a bird on a field nearby. We had about a half hour walk through pasture, and then climbed the daunting hills of the countryside.
The morning once again awoke with the sound of whip-poor-wills and crows. The toms began to gobble on the ridge and again were as vocal as a bunch of kids.
There was one tom that was awfully close, you could easily hear him spitting and drumming. CJ was sitting up against an oak and behind that was a large pile of cut down junipers. I was flanking CJ just to his right and I was actually in the pile of junipers as there was nowhere else to go. I was basically laying down.
I soon realized this was a bad move as the light began to brighten. To our left on the ridge were several hens within view and less than 100 yards away. I was stuck in position. Besides that, the tom seemed virtually just on the other side of the junipers, I assumed he was in a tree that was a ways down the ridge, but being in the canopy put him at about or just above our eye level.
It was a glorious morning as the sun began to brighten the sky still beyond the horizon. CJ was nestled in wearing his winter hat having forgotten a regular hat to wear. He was a trooper in this warm spring weather. Last year the weather was cold and he didn’t dress warm enough and had to stay back for part of the hunts. That was not an issue this year.
The closest gobbler was ringing my bell every time it gobbled. As he was constantly doing so I noticed CJ was breathing rather hard and I noticed he had fallen asleep. Obviously the gobble is soothing to his ears and he was tired. For the next fifteen minutes I wondered to myself who was going to alert who, but CJ was not budging. I threw a stick at him and he awoke. I told him to get his gun up and ready.
The closest hen flew down basically right into our laps about 30 yards away and started yapping. The gobblers responded and flew down basically on the other side of the brush pile. CJ was wide awake now and had his gun in position. He had it tightly shouldered and was ready. I was still on my side leaning to be able to fire. The toms came into the opening one by one. I whispered to him to let the first one go on through and to pick another one. They came from our left about 15 yards away and moved out to about twenty climbing a small ravine. CJ fired and the bird dropped. The others jumped up in the air and began to scatter.
I sat up, put the bead on the head of one that seemed rather confused at 40 yards and hammered. Two birds down and we had just basically woke up. I took a sweet picture of CJ’s bird for him and we headed back down to the farm as the air went silent.
We started packing up our things and setting it outside the farmhouse when Randy pulled in. It was evident on Austin’s face that we would not need to hunt anymore.
The landowner was nearly 100 percent correct on his prediction. The birds were roosted nearby and made their way out onto the field where Austin was set up with Randy. The only problem was that as they hit the field they began to move in the opposite direction.
Austin had to get up and move down below the slightly elevated field. The birds worked their way down into a ravine in the field where Austin was patiently waiting. Randy heard the gunshot and shortly thereafter saw Austin walking about the field edge with his tom over his shoulder.
We gathered our gear and packed the birds that we had not cleaned from the morning before, took a quick picture and loaded the truck.
We headed on out of town and stopped to get some ice for the birds. It wasn’t long before both boys were sawing logs in the back seat of the truck and probably dreaming about the bounty of birds that we just had.
Great weather, great kids and great times made this weekend an unforgettable experience. With Nebraska offering discounted pricing for youth and an abundance of birds it can be a great experience.
It should be noted that these two boys are exceptional hunters and willing to put in the extra work, neither of them complained about the fifteen plus miles that we put on foot or the early morning risings, or the crawling in cacti. They are a rare breed, my boys, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Until next time,