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Long Road Trip

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Returned home yesterday from a long road trip chasing birds in Missouri and Nebraska.  I arrived in MO on April 15th around 5:30 p.m.  The next morning I was out early to listen for gobbling birds before the season opened the next day.  Heard a lot (~15) so needless to say I was fired up the the MO opener.

Missouri Round 1...Day 1:  I set up on the S side of a field close to where I'd heard 5 birds gobbling the prior morning.  Heard 4 of them gobbling behind me.  At flydown, 2 went SE further into the timber and the other 2 went W.  I heard several of them later pass behind me in the timber but calling couldn't coax them out into the open.  They got close but wouldn't leave the timber.  Around 11:30 I decided to look for a good spot in the timber where they'd been passing through.

Day 2:  I'm in the woods before dawn.  3 birds begin gobbling not far away.  At flydown, the closest 2 head SE and the other goes into the field real close to where I was the prior day.  You gotta be kidding me!!!  I got him all worked up gobbling like crazy but he wanted to stay in the field that morning.  Go figure...out foxed myself.  He gobbles his way to the N and then W.  I cut through the timber trying to get on him before he quits gobbling.  Failed attempt...he quit gobbling so I returned to call where I'd been in the timber.  Called in a silent gobbler ~9:30 but he didn't get closer than 70 yards.

Day 3:  While I'm drinking my coffee on the back deck of our camp birds are gobbling their heads off at thunder in the dark.  It's at least 45 minutes before the crack of dawn.  I decide to go for them.  I get set up close to a clover patch real close to where they're gobbling on the roost.  At flydown they all head SW toward the creek away from me.  My calling brought them back but they wouldn't leave the timber.  Finally one brakes loose and heads NE into the field behind me.  I crawl through the narrow timber line and there he is...strutting with a hen.  Called but no luck coaxing him closer with a hen near him.  He later took off NE to parts unknown when his hen left.

The following morning I make the 11 hour drive to Nebraska to meet Tim Andrus there for a 4 day hunt.  The rancher gives us a quick tour before Tim & I head out to set up his blind for the following morning.

Nebraska Day 1:  Tim heads to his blind and I take the high ground to listen for gobbling birds.  I hear 2 birds gobbling at the 1st spot but they seem far off so I move to the next.  Had to pause to take this pic of the sunrise for the 1st day.


I didn't hear anymore birds so I hot footed it back to the 1st spot and hit the woods in the river bottom.  I catch movement through the trees by the river and see a hen.  Then hen talk starts followed by a lot of gobbling.  I circle around to try to get in front of them, set up, and start calling.  Hens and gobblers respond...a lot.  In just a few minutes 12 hens appear and 4 gobblers...2 in full strut.  The 12 hens get to what I thought was ~35 yards with the gobblers ~15 yards on the other side of them.  2 gobblers move out of sight gobbling with hens  I can't see.  The other 2 move a little closer.  Then one moves toward the other 2 that are now gobbling to my left out of sight.  Figuring the remaining bird is ~45 yards, I turn loose a Nitro load.  Clean miss...he moved about 3 steps and stopped  to look around before leaving.  Needless to say, I'm confused.  I later understood was closer to 75 yards.  I was fooled BAD!  My own fault and the size of these birds is big compared to what I'm used to.  Here's a pic of a hen next to my DSD hen decoy (close to the size of a MS hen).


I returned that afternoon to the same area and called up this full fan gobbler but he didn't have a beard at all so I passed him.


Day 2: I opted to be in the same area before dawn the next morning.  Although I heard a lot of gobbling, most of the birds were either across the river or toward Tim.  I coaxed 1 gobbler to my side of the river but he never got closer than 125 yards...never saw him either.  A little while later this young mulie buck eased up on me getting to ~5 yards.


That afternoon I set up for a while and blind called but never heard a bird.  Around 5:00 I opted to cover some ground and glass.  Before long I was glassing 2 gobblers with a group of hens above the tree line on the high ground.  Using cover, I moved in to try to get between them and where they needed to go before heading to roost.  I manged to get in position in time to coax 2 of their hens in to ~15 yards.  The gobblers had already left.  OK...I have a plan for the next day.

Day 3:  As gobbling time cranks up, I'm set up on a grassy area along the river where the 1st easy access is to the high ground where I saw the 2 gobblers with hens is.  I hear a group of gobblers in the distance going nuts.  They're all across the river out of sight after flydown.  I can see up the edge on my side for ~150 yards to some cedars and then where the river makes a bend ~400 yards away.  About an hour passes by when I finally see 2 gobblers on my side at the bend in the river.  I call...they answer.  I call some more...they get fired up.  Game on!  They disappear behind the cedars obstructing my view until they clear them.  4 more gobblers appear at the bend in the river with 3 hens.  The hens go into the timber.  The gobblers proceed toward me now out of sight.  I continue to occasionally call to keep tabs on their progress.  The 1st 2 birds suddenly appear again in full strut coming toward me.  Light calling now has them slowly moving toward me.  They finally make their mark at ~30 yards.  Now...I'm getting greedy.  I'm trying to line up to kill 2 in a shot.  One bird starts to move up toward the top.  That's when I came to my senses and took the remaining bird.  Now...after dropping him, I attempted to take the 2nd bird now to my left.  My 2nd shell didn't feed due to excess dust from 2 days there in the wind.  DANG!!!  Oh well got another day.  My Nebraska Merriam has a 9 1/4" beard and 3/4" spurs.


About an hour and a half after I killed my bird, Tim killed one.  I'm sure he'll tell you his story.  We both took the afternoon off to clean birds and relax a bit. make phone calls, etc.

Day 4:  The last morning I opted to be back on the river but closer to where I'd seen all 6 of the gobblers the prior morning near the bend of the river.  The first 3 hours was spent mainly watching these 4 gobblers hang around 9 hens way across the river in open country.  They are over 600 yards away in this pic.


Finally they start moving closer to the river but behind me.  I crawl out & try to circle around to get in front.  When I do, they are now close to the river moving back toward where I left.  This circus continues through several move moves with me never getting them inside 75 yards.  During my last attempt to get around on them ~11:00 they vanished.  Fun hunt though.  That afternoon Tim & I hunted together trying to cut them off before they went to roost.  We had a jake and a hen come through us but no gobblers.

The next day I drove back to Missouri.

Missouri Round 2...Day 1:  I wake up to rain so I opt to wait till it quits.  I head our birds gobbling at all.  At 12:15 I spot these 4 gobblers (2 strutting) that came out of the timber...then went right back in ~500 yards away.


Day 2:  Over cast but no rain when I head out to a new area.  I hear 2 birds E & on W of me.  The bird to the E of me gradually works his way toward the other bird.  Then toward my calling.  While I'm working the gobbler responding, these 4 jakes come in shortly after a hen comes & leaves.


About 15 minutes later the gobbler I've been working comes into view between 60 & 70 yards away...closing in.  Now...I've heard of this before but never seen it...till that morning.  The 4 jakes hot footed it over to the gobbler and ganged up on him.  It was a sight to see!  The jakes were running him around in circles, figure 8' name it until he escaped going away from me.  The jakes slowly passed by again at ~25 yards.  I have to admit...I was REAL tempted to give one a dirt nap but refrained from doing it.  

Day 3:  Rained during he night.  It's overcast at dawn, very windy, and rain is supposed to move back in by mid morning.  I head out to a blind for cover.  Shortly after I set up, I hear a bird gobble to the N.  I call...he answers.  We keep it up for about an hour before I finally see his red neck & head moving through CRP grass toward me.  Beats me why he took that route rather than open ground a little S of him.  At ~35 yards he turns to my left...OK...close enough...I drop him right there.  My 1st MO gobbler for 2017 has an 11" beard and 1" spurs.  I'm back at the camp right before the rain started.


Day 4:  Since it wasn't supposed to rain until mid day, I set up on the field where I'd seen the 4 gobblers on day 1.  I heard 1 bird gobble twice a long way off to my left.  4 hens fly down.  2 hens hang around me within shotgun range until 8:00.  Where the heck are those gobblers.  Around 11:30 I see a gobbler ~500 yards away close to where I took the pic the 1st day.  Figures.  He doesn't pay any attention to my calling.  He's only interested in feeding.  Something spooked him off at 12:15 so I called it quits.

Day 5 (final hunt):  I decided to hunt an area where my son got close to a bird on his last hunt.  I hear 3 birds not far away.  The closest gobbler flies down and moves away then back toward me.  He works his away around toward my N side not far at all.  He answered me a number of times so I'm thinking he's coming.  Shortly after flydown, these 5 jakes come to visit but don't stick around.  


The gobbling bird shuts up.  I figure he must have found hens N of me.  Later, 3 hens came in from that direction.  When they arrived, these 4 jakes came it too.


I ended up seeing 15 jakes that morning.  I think the bird I was trying to work is the one that showed up ~11:00 S of me at ~200 yards heading back to where he started.  He had his mind made up where he was going and never moved toward my calling.  I could only make him stop, look, and then continue on where he was going.  That was it...except for this strutting bird I saw off the back deck that afternoon while I was taking a break from my clean up chores before I left the next day.  Figures!!!  He'll be around next spring.



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Now THAT'S my kinda trip !!!!!!!!!!

One of these days...........................

CONGRATS on a gorgeous Merriam's !!!!!!!

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Thanks Don.  It was a whole lot of fun.  The only bad part was my son and my daughter-in-law arrived in MO last Thursday evening.  It rained every day while they were there.  Made for tough hunting.  I sat through rains (no blind) twice during those last 5 days...once without a rain suit on.  MY BAD!  I haven't done that in a long time.

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Hey guy     in terrible stretch at work (dbl shifts)     will tell my story in a few days ok    when I come for air  lol

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Those Merriam's are beautiful! If we get a RT hunt set up I may just have to make it happen despite already having a 2018 spring bear hunt booked.  Great story and pictures Al.

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