Windham: Can you hunt under the DHM protocols?

Hunting can be done while staying within the governor’s directed health measures, it just takes thinking through the task. I took this gobbler at 22 yards in a meadow along the South Platte River. There is still a couple weeks left in Nebraska’s spring turkey season. Good luck.

You are probably familiar with Gov. Ricketts’ directed health measures. We’ve all been living with these guidelines for a while now. You know the drill:

» Stay at home.

» Stay 6 feet away from other people.

» Grocery shop once per week and do it by yourself.

» Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

» Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

» Wash your hands right before you eat.

I was really having trouble dealing with my self-imposed sequestration earlier this week and re-read all the COVID-19 safety precautions above and I did not see anything in there specifically about not turkey hunting. Nebraska’s spring turkey season runs until the end of May and that’s all the excuse I needed to get out of the house.

Now the whole social distancing thing is nothing new for hunters. That is a natural part of going hunting — getting away from other people. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve been working on perfecting the art of social distancing for roughly 40 years.

The governor’s directives said you should shop for food once a week; I was technically meeting that requirement. You are also supposed to shop by yourself, and I was doing that, too. Incidentally, hunting turkey is also about acquiring totally organically grown food, another plus.

I had talked with a local landowner and found out where he had been seeing turkeys on a regular basis and at specific times of the day. The next day I was sitting in my blind and scanning the timber and meadow that I had been directed to keep under surveillance. The wind was beginning to blow hard and I was worried that the turkeys might not show up. Moving around in the wind is not something turkeys like to do. All the noise masks the presence of predators.

The time was about 4:30 in the afternoon. Right about then I heard my first gobble. By 5:15, the sounds of the gobbling appeared to indicate two toms in the area and they were getting closer. Things were looking up.

At 5:35 p.m., a hen appeared on the edge of the timber some 75 yards away and a pair of toms were close behind her. I was now on full alert and intently watching the birds. The landowner had told me that the turkeys usually moved east to west at this time of the day so I was anxious to see if they would move my way.

It took a few more minutes, but they began to walk toward my blind. If things kept going as they were, the turkeys would pass just to the south of my blind, and soon. One of the toms was clearly bigger than the other and I had my sights on him.

I decided to make a few calls. All the birds looked my way and seemed to take notice of the sounds I was making. I made a few more low purrs and clucks. I was certain they heard me.

As often happens in hunting, things did not work out like you had expected. About 50 yards away, the toms split up. One moved north and began to walk toward a tree line that boarded the meadow. The bigger gobbler stopped where he was and surveyed his domain. He boomed out a couple gobbles. Even at 50 yards, the sound was impressive. The hen kept walking my way and ultimately passed within 15 feet of me.

The other tom changed course again and began moving in a westerly direction. I kept an eye on him and calculated he would walk by my blind at maybe 25 yards away. The big tom stayed where he was. It was time to make a choice … take the tom to the north of me or wait and hope the bigger tom came a little closer. I flipped off the safety on my shotgun and got the tom to the north of me in my sights. He was now close enough for a clean kill.

The tom stopped and turned slightly back toward the other gobbler. The gobbler provided me with a near textbook hunting stance. I gently squeezed the trigger and a load of buffered No. 5 shot hammered the tom. He never took another step.

I stepped off 22 paces to where the gobbler lay. Even though he was the smaller of the two toms, he was a fully mature bird with a 9½ inch beard and 1¾-inch spurs. I later weighed him when I got out of the field: 21 pounds! Not bad for the second choice.

After I cleaned the bird I washed my hands and again after I bagged him for the freezer. I also cleaned and disinfected my shotgun. I could check off both of those items on the governor’s list. And, I will wash my hands before I cook and eat him, so check that item off as well. In all I completed five out or six of the governor’s safety directives. I feel better now.

Oh, there was that “stay at home” thing — that was a bit of a problem. I haven’t seen any turkeys walking through the living room recently. I need to talk to the governor about that one.

There is still some time remaining in the season, and I have another permit. I’m thinking I need to go “shopping” again and practice my social distancing out in the timber. Like the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Good luck to everyone who is still actively turkey hunting.

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