It was a timely question from a reader, considering the snow showers we have had recently. The question was, “Do you have any special tactics for hunting turkeys in the snow or rain?” Turkey season is already on for archers, and shotgunners just got started, so it is a timely inquiry. It is a relevant question because spring weather in Nebraska can be a challenge for turkey hunters.
Snow will tend to hold turkeys close to their roosts, especially if it is a heavy snow. If it is snowing heavy enough to cause visibility problems, turkey don’t like to move around a lot because the snowfall can hide predators.
Yet, even with snowfall, turkeys have to eat, so they will move eventually. Their feeding times may be later in the day than normal, but they will still go through their daily routine. You just need to be there and have some camo that makes you look like a snow drift.
Rain generally won’t stop me from hunting either. Rain is not nearly as big a deterrent to turkeys as snow, and they will follow their daily routines rain or shine, unless of course it is some kind of torrential storm. I think wind impacts turkey hunting more than rain — and we had wind this week!
Years ago, I discovered a reason to hunt turkeys in the rain. I was out in my blind on the edge of some timber overlooking an alfalfa field and it began to rain — and not a light rain, either. I had decided to give it up for the day, but was waiting for the rain to let up a bit so I didn’t get totally soaked walking out of the timber.
I was just getting ready to leave my blind when I saw turkeys coming my way. I counted about 40 hens and maybe a dozen young jakes out in front. There were also five mature gobblers trailing the other birds.
I noticed the turkeys were moving quickly and feeding heavily. It finally dawned on me that the rain was causing more food sources (seeds, insects, worms) to be on the surface of the ground. The turkeys were running from place to place gulping down everything they could find. I kept watching.
It also appeared to me that the birds were more interested in food than in being wary and being on the lookout. I had birds within feet of me and they never looked my way — they just continued to vacuum up everything they found to eat. Eventually a long-bearded tom got close enough that I couldn’t stand it anymore. My hunt was done, but I learned some vital turkey hunting information that day.
As I stated earlier, I think wind is more of a problem for turkeys. I believe the noise and all the movement around them make them even more wary. All that commotion can hide predators, and I’m sure it makes the turkeys nervous.
On windy days, look for the birds to stay in more protected areas along their daily routes. If a protected area holds a strut zone or a regularly visited food source, set up there. I will also begin calling softly about every 10 minutes. If I don’t hear anything with the first soft calls, I’ll get louder. Remember, the wind will make it harder to be heard, and the sound of your calls won’t travel as far. If a gobbler answers, sit tight and get ready.
One more thing to consider when hunting turkeys in the spring is snow: We are in Nebraska, and spring snows are not uncommon. In a world of white, dark camouflage may not be the best thing to wear.
Now, you don’t need to go buy special snow camo. Just stop by your favorite home improvement store and look around in the paint department. I like to have a full-cover set of white Tyvek coveralls with me.
Tyvek is tough and will stand up to moving around in the timber. It is almost windproof, so it will shield you from a cold breeze. Tyvek is also very water resistant, so it helps keep you dry. The cost of a set of these coveralls, complete with a hood, is about $12. It is definitely something worth having in your hunting pack.
I believe this is a first for me: a gubernatorial proclamation on turkey hunting. Gov. Pete Ricketts did it and signed an official proclamation recently declaring Nebraska the best turkey hunting destination in the United States.
The governor signed the proclamation in a ceremony at the Nebraska Capitol and presented it to Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Deputy Director Tim McCoy, who was joined by Jared McJunkin and Micaela Rahe of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
“Hunting brings family and friends together in a way that encourages appreciation for our natural world,” Ricketts said. “Nebraska welcomes hunters from across the nation to our beautiful state, creating a $848 million annual economic impact in Nebraska, fueling the economy of towns large and small and supporting nearly 9,000 jobs.”
Nebraska has an abundant turkey population, with hunting opportunities in all 93 counties. Parts of the state have opportunities for the highly sought-after Merriam’s sub-species.
Nebraska turkey hunters enjoy long seasons: 68 days in the spring and 139 days in the fall. Turkey hunting is allowed statewide. Nearly one million acres of land are open to public hunting in the state.