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“The Monkey is Off My Back” – Brett Bueltel 2015 NE Merriam’s

The 2015 turkey season began much like the past several years have.  Opening day quickly approaching and I’m not nearly ready for it to begin.  I had obviously been looking forward to season beginning for several months, but with working a full-time job and other life events in general, it always seems to sneak up on me.

Nebraska Bound

We had decided to head out to Nebraska for our annual turkey hunt a few weeks earlier this year in an attempt to get at the birds before they were able to be pressured by other hunters.  If you have read any of my previous articles covering my turkey hunting success, you’d notice that Nebraska certainly hasn’t been too kind to me in the past.  From missed shot opportunities to plain bad luck, it seemed like the Merriam’s turkey was always just a step ahead of me.

We arrived a little later in the afternoon on the first day, grabbed a bite to eat at a local favorite BBQ place and headed out in search of some birds to hunt the next day.  Our searches seemed futile, and by the end of day one our excitement had already began to dwindle.  My Dad and I headed out right before sunset in an effort to roost a couple of birds.  Not a single peep.  We headed back to camp to regroup, and fortunately, Rich and Calvin were able to roost a couple of birds for us all to set up on the next morning.

The Next Morning

The next morning we awoke to a coughing roommate.  Rich had been battling a little bit of a cold and without being able to go more than a couple of minutes without coughing, elected to pass on the first mornings hunt.  My Dad and I setup several hundred yards away from an old home site while Calvin setup a few hundred yards in the exact opposite direction.  We sat until about noon and after only seeing a lone hen, decided it was time to pack up and try to locate more birds.  We split up and covered a lot of ground, not having any luck.

Target Acquired

After covering miles and miles of back roads, we finally spotted a couple of birds working away from us along a fence row.  We were able to track down the property owner and gained permission to go after them.  Being that I had yet to kill a Merriam’s I grabbed my bow and my Dad stayed close behind with the 12 gauge in hand.  I stalked slowly along the fence row until I was within about 30 yards of the strutter.

I came to a point along the fence row where I couldn’t continue on unless I crawled under the fence.  Doing so would put myself at risk of being spotted, but I had no other choice.  I decided it was going to be almost impossible to belly crawl my way into range, pop up, and draw my bow, so I grabbed the gun from my Dad before making my way under the barbed wire fence.  The field side of the fence row was at a lower elevation with thicker/taller grass outlining the fence.  The tall grass helped to conceal my advances as I made my way closer and closer to the flock.  I belly crawled, inch by inch, for what seemed like an eternity.  I slowly lifted my head to try to see where the birds were located, when at no more than 3 yards away, a hens head popped up out of the tall grass.

Crap!  She putted and several more heads popped up a couple of yards away.  I hastily made it to a kneeling position and sought out the longbeard.  There he was, still in full strut!  He was oblivious to what had startled the hens.  I shouldered the gun, drew a bead on his head and squeezed the trigger. BOOM!  

The Monkey is Gone

The shot rang out and less than 20 yards away laid my first Merriam’s!  I let out a loud yell of excitement as my Dad made his way around the corner to make sure I had connected.

I had finally kicked that monkey off of my back!  After a few minutes of reliving the stressful seconds leading up to the shot with my Dad, it was time for pictures!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my hunt.  Several more Merriam’s hit the ground, and this time it is with the Hoyt!

Bird Stats:

  • 17 lbs. (estimated weight)
  • 7 5/8″ beard
  • 11/16″ and 3/8″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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