Thunder in the Heartland - Lloyd Kimmen
It seemed as if we had just fallen asleep when the knock on the door came from Gary, the NWT’s gourmet cook, we had a quick cup of coffee, and a still hot cinnamon roll right from the oven, loaded our gear into the truck, I couldn’t help but look up and gaze at the stars, as I have done many times on many different continents. I always revel at sight of the stars when away from the city lights that seems to dull the incredible view of the night sky.
We closed to within maybe 75 yards of where the birds were roosted; Paul crawled out into the picked corn field, and placed 3 turkey decoys, which made sense to me being a waterfowler my entire life. As I’m use to placing 120 diver duck decoys on the lake I lived on when hunting ducks, Paul told me most guides only use a single hen decoy, but he says more than one puts the birds at ease, which I hope we were about to find out .
As the sky reddened to the east, the first gobbler let loose with a thunderous gobble that seemed to almost blow my hat off, then another gobble and another. I looked over at Paul, we both grinned. As it got lighter the birds soared down into the picked cornfield, first two hens , the three gobblers, the three more hens , three Jakes, the three more long beards , fourteen birds total , about 75 yards away. The six gobblers all instant fanned out, strutting, spitting, drumming and gobbling, what an incredible spell binding sight!! The Toms chased the hens, then would stop and fan out again followed by more gobbling, drumming and spitting. I have never witnessed such a display, and this was just the first morning!! Suddenly I heard Paul, yelping on his chalk box, the gobblers all unfanned and stared our direction . The jakes spotted the decoys first, they walked over to the decoys, stood there staring at them, the six long beards couldn’t stand it, they started toward our decoys, unaware of the two of us sitting leaning against a large oak tree on the edge of the woodlot. As they closed the distance now some 40 yards out, Paul whispered,”Take one when ever you’re ready".
We returned to the lodge, had a great breakfast. Finally Kent and my son Shane returned from there morning hunt, Shane was ecstatic, “Dad you wouldn’t believe all the birds we saw, I missed three!”I showed him my bird, he looked it over admiring the beautiful colors, “Dad that ones huge!”
At breakfast we made plans with the guides, they would set up the Double Bull blind, along with the decoys, and me and Shane would hunt together, I was armed with the video camera, Shane with his Mathews Legacy Bow.
It was a beautiful spring afternoon , as we walked the edge of the 20 acre wood lot , which was surrounded on all sides with agricultural fields , our blind was right on the edge of the woods , directly out front of the blind were our two hen turkey decoys , this would be fun , what a view , nothing but miles of rolling hills , with scattered woodlots and fence rows , god , this was turkey and whitetail paradise. We settled in for the afternoon, deciding to wait ½ hour before I would start to call, just to let things settle down.
We touched down in Lincoln, Nebraska on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the middle of May. Quickly picked up our rental car, loaded our bags, headed south to Nebraska Trophy Whitetails Lodge, located on a cattle farm. We arrived late in the afternoon, unloaded our bags and Paul said” Why don’t you come with me Lloyd, and your son Shane can go with Kent, and we’ll pick out some birds for you guys”. I said sure.
We found 5 toms and a few hens a few miles from the lodge, NWT has over 45 different farms they hunt in a 30 mile radius of the lodge. We watched the turkeys file into a small woodlot right where Paul said they would go, geez, and this guy knows turkeys I thought. We made sure they didn’t move and left them .planning to be here 5am the next morning, when we got back, Shane and Kent were just getting back as well, I never saw Shane so excited, he said,” Dad, We must have saw 40-50 turkeys, they’re everywhere!!!”. We turned in early as we were tired from traveling, and also we were informed that we would be awakened at 4:30 am, as we had to be all set up by 5:15 am.
“Here!!!“ ,I yelled to the auctioneer, he pointed at me and kept the bid going, my wife ,Sue and son Shane looked at me , Shane said Dad, what do you want to go to Nebraska for??”, I told him I heard the turkey hunting there is great , wide open spaces with few hunters, besides , I want to try to get all the different turkeys in North America, I have an Eastern , Nebraska has 4 different kinds of turkeys , Easterns like we have in Michigan , and also Merriam’s , Rio Grande, and a mix called a “Buff” .I just finished telling him when the auctioneer pointed at me and said “Sold to the gentleman at table #46!!”.I was at the Safari Club International Detroit Chapter Annual fundraiser for the Detroit Chapter. Now I would be going to Nebraska the first week of May with Nebraska Trophy Whitetails or NTW as they call it.
I called them and asked them if my 20 year old son Shane could some along and hunt as his birthday was only a week away, Paul Peyton the outfitter said” Sure we have plenty of room ,and lots of places to hunt”. I was thinking of bow hunting, but the hunt was only 3 days, which I felt would be pushing it to bow hunt, so I went online and purchased a shotgun for myself, I called Shane into my office at Topcraft Tool Inc, in Clinton Twp, Mi., I asked Shane “The outfitter says he has guided a lot of bow hunters for turkey and has been pretty successful, do you want to shotgun hunt or bow hunt “. Shane thought for a moment, I could tell he was torn between the probably sure thing with a shotgun, and maybe coming home empty handed with the bow. But he’s a lot like me as far as doing things the most challenging way, besides we both love bow hunting tremendously. He said ”Dad, I’m going to bow hunt “, I said,”Are you sure?”, He said .”Yep all I need is one good shot”. I said “Ok”, and clicked the box for “Archery “on his permit, and hit “Print” on the printer. We were all set now.
I had been watching them the whole time through my Nikon binoculars, there seemed to be five Eastern Toms, which I wasn’t interested in, as I have taken two fine Eastern’s in my home state of Michigan, but the farthest one had some white in the feathers at the base of his fan, I whispered to Paul,” the one on the right ,is it a Merriam’s?”, Paul whispered back ,” yes it is , and he’s a monster!” I lined up the bead on the front of the 3 ½” over and under loaded with #6 shot .holding it steady on the base of the tom’s neck ,I squeezed the trigger , just as he gobbled in full strut.
The shotgun roared shattering the spring morning, the tom tumbled over, but was on his feet in an instant. He ran toward us as we stood, disorientated from the shot, as I squeezed the trigger to finish him off, nothing happened!!! I thought to my self “Oh No. a misfire now??!!!”, the bird now 30 yards out spotted us , turned hard and took flight , not unlike a rooster pheasant flushing from the nose of a Labrador. As I swung on him, I let off the trigger, and pulled it again , Kaboom!! The gun fired, the second load of #6s cleanly folding the bird at 35 yards , which weighing in at 23 lbs , hit the ground like a 100 lb sack of concrete. I let out a “yahoo!” ,and ran to the fallen bird. What a trophy he was, 10 inch beard, 1 ½ spurs, just a majestic Tom!
Then in the distance on the top of a hill about 400 yards away , I saw black forms moving our way , turkeys I thought , I whispered to Shane , “looks like there coming our way “, I then pulled out my Primo’s Turkey diaphragm, and let loose, with a 7 note yelp, why 7 you ask? Virtually every hen I heard over the last 2 days all seemed to yelp a series of seven. I learned long ago, don’t question wildlife, sound like they sound, be it ducks, deer, elk or turkey.
Suddenly a gobble right behind us!!! He shook the blind, it was so loud. I slowly opened the window of the blind to take a look, I glanced out the window, as Shane put a Steelforce broad head tipped carbon arrow on his bow. I looked back at the decoys, there were 2 jakes, standing next the one of them at less than 20 yards. I tapped Shane on the shoulder , and pointed out front , he shook his head and whispered ,”Dad I want a long beard!”, I said ,”Alright “, and let out another series of yelps , which were answered immediately, from about 75 yards out. Then we saw them a hen and a huge tom all fanned spitting and drumming as he paraded back and forth for our lady decoys. I quickly yelped again softly, trying to sound as sexy as I could to the Tom.
He answered with another gobble, as the hen he was with must have thought I sounded pretty good, as she walked right in among'st the hen decoys, feeding as she came, the gobbler, strutted back and forth at 35 yards, putting on an incredible display of gobbling and strutting. Shane started to draw, I whispered,”wait he’ll come right in”. Shane let down his bow; the Tom finally had enough and slowly walked in, 30 yards, 25 yards, 20 yards…. he was in range, but he stopped behind a patch of tall weeds, Shane had his bow up, waiting to draw when the tom stepped clear. I gave a soft couple of yelps, the bird instantly fanned out, and strutted clear of the weeds, I said “Now, get em”. Shane drew his Mathews bow, settled the pin on the bird, as I kept the camera zoomed in on the bird, I whispered “Anytime I’m on him”. The bow softly thumped sending the arrow at 310 feet per second right through the bird at the base of the wing , the tom jumped into the air when hit , ran about 30 yards , toppled over , he had done it!!!! I was so proud of him, what a shot. I unzipped the door , we both ran out after the bird , turkeys running everywhere , hens jakes , and toms , we were surrounded by birds and had only saw 4 of maybe a dozen birds or more. Shane got to the bird first, and just sort of stared at if stroking its beautiful feathers, and what a bird it was 9 ½” beard, over 1 ¼ “spurs, 23 lbs and perfect fan. As we sat there , admiring the bird , probably 2 miles from the nearest road, I couldn’t help but think, I got to be the luckiest guy in the world , not only to hunt such a beautiful place , but not only spend time with my son , actually get to call in and watch him shoot a trophy tom with his bow. Like I tell everyone,”This can only happen in America”.
We trudged across the cut cornfield, the woodlot loomed dark in the distance, and then we heard it, the soft yelping of a hen turkey. I just smiled to myself this would be fun. As we closed the distance along the woodlot to where we saw the birds enter the woodlot the night before, my guide Paul whispered,” Lloyd, place your arm on my shoulder as we get closer to where the birds are “. I kind of gave him a look, he said “ I know it sounds strange, but these birds are real nervous about anything that looks like a person, and by placing your arm on my shoulder ,instead of looking like 2 people stalking them ,we look connected, they think we are maybe a cow or a deer ,instead of 2 hunters”. We both giggled. The things you do to increase your odds I thought.
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