I’m sure anyone that’s reading this may have already seen parts of my recent trip to Nebraska to hunt Merriam’s turkeys this past weekend on my Instagram (@jameyshirah). So I’m writing this while making the return trek. The full story is below…
17.5 hours. “THAT’S HOW LONG IT TAKES TO DRIVE TO NEBRASKA?” That’s the first question I asked Caleb Copeland (@copecreative) when I jumped in the truck to go hunt Merriam’s for the first time in Nebraska. Am I the only person that didn’t realize that Nebraska is next to Colorado? What?!?
We started driving on Friday around lunch to make sure to miss our beloved Atlanta traffic…and didn’t arrive until Saturday MORNINGN. The temperature went from 82° to 22° in less than 24 hours. 17.5 hours to be exact. Obviously, I wasn’t prepared for this. There was SNOW ON THE GROUND. Hell, I’d never even been in a vehicle over 10 hours before.
You see, the trip we were taking was the first in (hopefully) many trips for a new series called “Make It Happen” that can be found on instagram HERE! It’s coming from the production company I started along with Caleb (he’s the brains and talent behind everything) where the premise is to stop making excuses, get in the outdoors, and make it happen as cheaply as possible. We got tired of saying we don’t have time, we can’t afford it, we don’t know where to start, etc. You can either find a way or find an excuse. And that applies to everything!
So back to the trip. The only strategy we had was to drive to Nebraska, find turkeys in fields, ask permission to hunt them, and then sleep in Caleb’s truck tent. And that’s exactly what we did. They first turkeys we saw, we stopped and knocked on the closest door we could find. Turns out the family rents the land and immediately gave us access to the spot (and 7,000 other acres. What?!?!). We knew we then needed to pattern them and find a campsite to set up the tent.
The first night was a liiiiittle chilly, but the Free Spirit Recreation (@gofsr) tent kept us just warm enough. Unfortunately, the only campsites around were no further than a football field from trains tracks that are used EVERY 15 minutes, NO EXCEPTIONS. Massive, coal-laden freight trains blowing their whistles/bull horns made sleeping a little tough, but we made it through.
The first morning (22 DEGREES!) we got set up in the corner of an alphalpha field. The birds were GOBBLING THEIR HEADS OFF! I’ve only hunted the Eastern sub-species (Georgia’s birds) and have never heard anyhting like this. We must have heard 500 gobbles the first morning. So we knew they were going to fly right down on top of us.
Unfortuantely, there was one major problem we hadn’t realized. They were roosted across a river and flew down on that side. I snuck up to the bank and could see them strutting, fighting, and cutting up down on the basin on the other side. I knew that it would be almost impossible to get them to fly across, but also knew that was our only hope. We had to work incredibly hard for about two hours to get two big toms to come across the water. We were honestly talking about getting up and leaving (it was 10:45am) when two hens came out of nowehere and appeared 10 yards from up. We knew it was ON! Shortly after, the big gobblers came right to the Dave Smith decoy and hand made strutting tom! My dream was happening right in front of me!
I was able to make a great shot and we were on the board. We’d done it. This was my first Merriam’s turkey (see picture below). Something that I honestly thought was impossible/insane had just been completed within 48 hours. If you’ve ever hunted or grew up hunting, you know how crazy an idea this was. If not, just imagine knocking on strangers’ doors more than halfway across the country and asking them if you can trounce all over their property. It was nuts, and I loved it.
So naturally I bought another tag and while we were at the gas station printing them off, we had a random stranger ask us if we needed another place to hunt. Since the first set of birds was on a 20 acre parcel, they could just walk around us. And so we said, yes! We were shocked. Just a random stranger. Again, what?!? Why are these people so nice? So he calls his boss and the guy says “ABSOLUTELY” (and a LOT of other words that I can’t type here).
After receiving directions from Barry (name changed per his request), we hurried our butts over. Now let me tell you this- this guy is absolutely insane. He’s a cowboy through and through, and get this, he controls 250,000+ acres. This was the holy grail of our pilgrimage to the midwest. There are turkeys EVERYWHERE! Long story short, we scared several birds out of a field while walkiung to our set-up. I thought it was over, but we sat, patiently, for about 2.5 hours. As we were approaching last light, we finally had a hen walk right to us and start feeding. Shortly after that, I finally got some gobblers to start working behind us. After firing off several hard calling rapports, we had two red-headed Rios run across at least 250 acres on a string RIGHT TO US! After missing a few shots (HEY, don’t act like you haven’t missed), I took my second bird, and my first Rio, another subspecies. I was/am speechless. It couldn’t or wouldn’t happen, but it did. And it was glorious.
There’s just somehting about being in the outdoors that changed me and makes me happier. Maybe I’ll write my next post about that. Regardless, you need to get out and do things. Get out of your comfort zone, take that trip, go on that run, go to that speaking class (I know, I know, me too), and push yourself.
We only get one go at this thing called life, so take this weekend and MAKE IT HAPPEN!