20150628_BrettMerriam2

2015 Nebraska Merriam’s (Part Deuce) – Jeff and Brett Bueltel

Our first full day had ended in excitement as I had finally taken my first Merriam’s.  With the monkey now off of my back, all focus shifted to getting my Dad on a bird.  It was still early in the week with three full days left before making the journey back East.

Finding Turkeys

The next day was fruitless as we struggled to find the birds.  Our hopes once again were dwindling. We spent several hours in the vehicle glassing potential spots and put several miles on the rental before we finally found another good property to hunt.  It was getting late in the day, so my Dad and I opted to scout/listen that first evening in hopes of roosting a bird for the morning hunt.  We sneaked up to the edge of a field overlooking a vast creek bottom when we spotted a couple of hens working the creek edge heading to roost.  As we sat waiting for darkness to fall, gobble after gobble erupted in the tree-line behind us on the neighboring property.  They weren’t on the property we could hunt, but it was good to know there were several longbeards within close proximity.  We headed back to the cabin and put together a game plan on where to set up the following morning.

As it always seems, the next morning came way too early.  We weren’t exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we woke up, but we were definitely looking forward to hunting the newly acquired property.  After arriving at the property, we grabbed all of our gear and made the trek in to the spot we had picked out the night before.  The sun was already peeking over the horizon as we finished setting out the DSD decoys and got situated in the blind.  Birds gobbled off in the distance, but the mornings hunt ended without laying eyes on a bird. Around noon we headed into town to grab a bite to eat at the local Arby’s and strategized on what we would do for the evening hunt.  Shortly after 2PM we get a text that Rich had finally killed a bird…at the expense of my brothers Hoyt Carbon Spyder.  You can read about their hunt here (Calvin and Rich’s Hunt, Part 1).  We drove around for a little while that afternoon looking for birds.  As we made our way back to the property to hunt, my Dad noticed a gobbler strutting along a small creek on the property.  I didn’t see anything as I was driving, so we drove down the road a bit, turned around and headed back in that direction to confirm.  Sure enough, as we passed the creek again, we saw a strutting longbeard disappear in the vegetation.

Elk Hunting Turkeys

The location was absolutely perfect to get out and attempt to spot and stalk with the bow.  The creek bordered a large stubble wheat field.  The field had a slight rise to the center of it running parallel with the creek which would provide cover for us to make a stalk without being seen.  We quickly turned the vehicle back around and parked in the owners driveway before grabbing all of our gear.  Dad grabbed his bow and rangefinder, and I grabbed the DSD breeding pair, a mouth call, and my pair of Razor HD binos before heading across the field.  Sticking to the west side of the rise in the field, we crept almost 500 yards across the open wheat field in an attempt to get down to the far end of the creek.  After we were certain we couldn’t be spotted anymore, we made our way down to the creek bottom.

We setup and called a few times in an attempt to get the birds to come our direction, but never heard a peep.  We quietly worked our way back in the direction we saw the gobbler until we had made it to about 150 yards away.  We thought maybe we had spooked the longbeard as he wasn’t responding to any of the calls.  About that time I look ahead and see a tail fan sticking out just past some brush.  There he was!  With small pockets of brush between us and the bird, we slowly worked closer and closer.  Finally, after sneaking to within about 80 yards, I sent my Dad up ahead to a pile of brush while I stayed back to try to draw the gobbler past him.  I didn’t have much cover, so I laid flat on my stomach and stuck the DSD Jake decoy within arms reach of me.  All of a sudden a bird came around the brush about 30 yards in front of my Dad.  Another bird quickly followed behind the first…neither one was the gobbler we saw before.  No wonder he wouldn’t respond…he had plenty of ladies around.  The birds saw the Jake decoy and slowly came my direction…leading them right past my Dad.  Finally I see the gobbler, and then another gobbler.  As they came within about 40 yards of me I hear an arrow release and the birds scattered.  I met up with Dad to replay the shot and retrieve the arrow.  We couldn’t find any blood, but he assured me that the bird he shot at was hit.  We headed in the direction his bird had headed for several hundred yards when we were just about ready to chalk the shot up as a miss.  Just then, a couple of birds take off in front of us and I see a dark heap laying at the edge of the field.  Bird number 2 for us was on the ground!  We gathered up our gear and headed back to the truck to get pictures!

Calculating the Next Move

It was getting late and a storm was brewing on the horizon.  Calvin had still not killed a bird and the next day was our last day of hunting.  My Dad and I decided to stay put to see if we could roost something after the storm passed.  We roosted a couple of birds and made our way back to town.  After making it back to the cabin, the four of us came up with a game plan for the next day.  Calvin and Rich had a pretty good idea of where a few birds were for Friday, so I decided to buy my 2nd tag and go after the birds my Dad and I had roosted to try to kill one with my bow.  I pulled up Google Maps and studied the aerial maps for the area to pick a spot to set up in the morning.

The Next Morning

The next morning found my Dad and I setup in the Double Bull blind on the edge of a freshly disked field with a running creek about 25 yards below/behind us.  We could hear birds gobbling all morning behind us, and every so often it would sound like they were finally heading our direction.  Gobble after gobble, moving parallel to our location for what seemed like an eternity.  Just after 1PM we get another text from Rich…this time there are two birds laying next to each other.  Calvin and Rich ended up doubling that morning!  You can read all about their “Part 2” here (Calvin and Rich’s Hunt, Part 2).  The birds gobbling behind us were still close and still gobbling so Dad and I stayed put.  Finally a little after 2PM a lone hen made it into the field from our South and made her way into the decoys.  She headed right for the DSD upright hen and proceeded to fight the decoy for what seemed like a half hour.  Finally the gobbles got closer and closer and before long my Dad got a visual of a gobbler heading our direction.  Cameras rolling and bow in my hand, I waited patiently for the bird to make his way into bow range.

Pure Chaos!

When the gobbler got to about 5 yards from the Jake decoy he suddenly dropped strut, spooked, and circled around in front of us before hitting the tree line to the North of us.  I quickly dropped the side window and tried to get a shot off, but the gobbler dropped down into the tree line behind the blind.  I dropped a second window and came to full draw but had to let down as he went behind a tree.  He cleared the tree and I came to full draw again.  By this time I couldn’t pan far enough left to get a shot off as the bird moved right to left and had to once again let down.  At that moment I thought my hunt was over.  I peeked out of the window directly behind where my Dad was sitting and surprisingly saw the bird again.  My Dad grabbed a hold of the window and held it open for me as I came to full draw one more time.  I guess the yardage at a touch over 20 yards and released an arrow.  I heard an impact and the bird twirled in the air before taking off.

First Archery Merriams

I replayed the shot in my head several times before heading down to investigate the location of the shot.  We searched and couldn’t find the arrow, nor any sign of a solid hit.  Frustrated, I headed off the direction the bird left to attempt to find some sign.  Finally, about 20 yards away, I found some blood…then some more…and finally a bit more before it disappeared.  We searched for almost an hour and started walking the creek looking in brush piles hoping the gobbler had piled up inside one.  Just as we were about to give up, a gobbler popped up out of the brush only 10 yards away from me!  He headed into another pile of brush on the other side of the creek right in front of where my Dad was standing.  I sprinted back to where I had left my bow and sprinted back to put another Grim Reaper in the bird.  And with that, I had finally punched a Nebraska tag with my bow!

What a Trip!

I couldn’t think of a better way to cap off our last full day of the trip!  By weeks end, we ended up killing 6 birds between the 4 of us; Our best Nebraska hunt to date.  Out of the 6 birds we killed, 4 of them fell within the last 2 days of the hunt!  Only 1 more sub-species to go and I’ll have finished my archery Grand Slam with a bow.  Watch out Osceola turkeys…I’m coming for you!

Bird Stats:

  • 17 lbs. 12 oz.
  • 9″ beard
  • 1″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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