The fall turkey hunting season in Nebraska offers a lot of advantages.

Both archery and shotgun seasons are open now until Jan. 31, 2020. The fall turkey hunting season is one of the longest hunting seasons Nebraska offers — a definite advantage.

Turkey populations are up all across the state, with estimations of over 400% growth in the last decade. It’s to the point that you will not find a biologist that will even estimate the total number of turkeys in Nebraska.

There are probably more turkeys now in Nebraska than any time in recorded history. The National Wild Turkey Federation has even identified Lincoln County, Nebraska, as one of the best places to turkey hunt in America. That’s another advantage.

Biologists will tell you there are more turkeys in the fall than spring. Young birds swell the overall population numbers. Winter hardships and natural predators will take a toll on these numbers between now and the spring season. Young birds are not wise to the ways of hunters, another certain advantage.

Under current Nebraska hunting regulations, a hunter may take two turkeys of either sex per hunting permit. This doubles your chances to be successful, which is another great advantage.

All of these advantages add up and make the fall season an outstanding time to take a new hunter into the field, especially kids.

With respect to young hunters, a question I often get this time of the year relates to the kind of shotgun to use. The question is usually something like:

“I want to take my granddaughter hunting. She is 10 years old and slight of frame. Would a .410 be a good choice?”

There are a lot of things to consider when getting that first gun for a young hunter.

Safety first!

Ask yourself, is the youngster mature enough to handle a firearm? I’ve been around 10-year-old kids who were very safe and handled their firearms properly. I’ve been out with people in their 40s that I’ll never hunt with again because they did not practice safe gun handling.

Next, ask yourself if the young hunter can shoot the gun comfortably. The size of the hunter has much to do with this. All shotguns, even a .410 has recoil.

My last bit of advice has to do with shotgun selection. I know many of us began our shotgunning careers with a single-shot .410, but that is not what I recommend. I believe a pump model 20-gauge is a far better choice.

A .410 is really an expert’s gun. That’s why they have a special .410 level of competition in skeet shooting. With less than an ounce of shot, there is not much to work with. You must have a perfect aim to hit your target. Why would you want to handicap a new shooter with this? A 20-gauge offers a bit more margin of error.

The recoil of a 20 gauge is mild, and with proper stock fit and a good recoil pad, what the shooter feels is very manageable. The selection of loads is also far greater for a 20 gauge than with a .410, particularly when it comes to waterfowling loads.

And finally, most single shot designs have an external hammer that must be pulled back by the shooter. This can be difficult for smaller shooters and weaker hands. I was hunting once with a friend who had his grandson along. The dog was locked up on point and we let the youngster move in and attempt to shoot a pheasant.

It was November in Nebraska, so it was cold and the shooter was wearing gloves. As the young man pulled back the hammer, it slipped out from under his thumb and the gun fired. Credit should be given to my hunting partner, because he’d trained his grandson to keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction at all times. When the gun fired, only a patch of ground was hit. There were a few frazzled nerves, but no one was hurt. That single-shot was retired and the young man had a 20-gauge Remington 870 pump gun on our next hunt.

If you are planning to hunt turkeys this fall, remember that hunting these birds in the fall is quite different than spring turkey hunting. In spring, you are capitalizing on the sex drive of the gobbler. You want to sound like a hen and bring the tom to you.

In the fall, turkeys are either in small bachelor tom groups of family flocks. The bachelor toms are generally quiet, but hens are constantly calling to their young to keep the flocks together. Knowing what sounds to make can help you call turkeys in the fall.

Get out there and have fun!

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