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My 1st (and only) Merriams (looong read + pics)

Posted: July 11th, 2016, 8:15 pm
by HunterGKS
Rather than edit the story, I decided to post it exactly as I did on that other site that will not be named.

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I thought a retrospective of our trip from start-to-finish might entertain some of y’all. Don’t forget, some of y’all have been clamoring for stories & always remember you don’t always want what you wish for.

Day 1 – 05/03 Bob arrived at Casa Swartzfager 10:30 A.M. We spent some time getting acquainted & then took a drive. I showed him the woods I hunt & what species I hunt in them. We drove through town & took in both murals. I explained that the Veterans Memorial Mural was painted using actual pics of Vets. We took the scenic route home through New Washington & got set up so Bob could sight-in all 3 of his guns. We loaded his stuff into my truck & had a supper of fresh brats, tator salad, & slaw. Then watched a DVD of some of my FL hunts, including a twice missed bird, the aftermath of a killed bird, & the kill shot on a hawg.

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Day 2 – 05/04 We started the drive to Hay Springs, NE at 6:45 A.M. and drove until 7:00 P.M. which put us about 35 miles south of Sioux City, Iowa. We saw some mule deer along the way as well as some turkeys. We also went through several wind farms which totally amazed me. Those things are huge!! We saw several blades being transported on extra long flatbeds that evening. Along the way, we did see some turkeys, a couple of mule deer, & 10 or so antelopes.

Day 3 – 05/05 – We got started about 8:15 A.M. & arrived at Beaver Creek Outfitters at 1:15 P.M... We were greeted by John & Carol Lewin & were given our licenses. We were introduced to Old Blue & John took us on a tour of their 8000 acre ranch. They have been raising Angus beef cattle for years. The land had been timbered some years earlier so we had timber roads to drive on. We saw some mule deer & a few turkeys including a strutter. We hunted/scouted from 3:00 until 5:30 when we headed in for supper. We went back out & roosted 2 birds that evening for the next days hunt. A T-storm was headed in & we just beat it back to the ranch house.

A word (or 3) about our hosts, John & Carol. They are 2 of the finest people it has ever been my pleasure to meet. I have spent time in several camps &, with the exception of my friends in FL, they are head & shoulders above all the rest. Every day we had a hot lunch in their home which consisted of a main meat course, veggies, salad, & dessert. Those lunches are what most people would have for dinner. Then for supper, it was more of the same. And all of the food was GREAT!! Everyone always left a clean plate. Wellll, almost everyone. There was 1 person who hates cauliflower but loaded up on cheese cauli cuz he thought it was mac & cheese. That person shall remain nameless but it tweren’t me!! It was very enjoyable to sit around the table after meals & swap stories & generally shoot the breeze. THANKS AGAIN, JOHN & CAROL!!

Day 4 – 05/06 – Up at 3 & out the door at 4. Birds gobbled from about 5:15 until 7:30 but would not respond & the ones we had roosted were not there. This will become a scenario for the rest of the hunt. Bob saw 2 jakes & a 7” bearded tom but none would work, just walked away. We met at Old Blue at 8:30 & headed up the mountain to try a couple of spots. I had a Black Capped Chickadee land on the tree right above my head. He moved from there to my stock for a second, went back to the tree, and then did a touch-and-go on my hat. I thought that was pretty cool but it got better. He landed on my hat & hopped around for several seconds before trying to pull hair out from under my head net at the back!! Just goes to prove that camo & sitting statue-still really works.

We saw 4 mulies (pics taken) but no birds & no action. We took the long road back to camp. Saw another mulie & took several scenic pics. The view was really awesome from up high. We headed back out around 3 after a great lunch. Bob went back up to where he saw the birds & built a blind for in the morning. I found out, from John, that the land where 5 birds had been gobbling that morning was state walk-on-hunting land. I went back, found a fence crossing & did some scouting. Headed in for supper about 5:30. Ton arrived just after we started eating so he got to share a great casserole. After supper, Tom & Bob headed out so Tom would have an idea of the lay-of-the-land. They were able to roost birds. I kicked it at camp & did some writing.

Day 5 – 05/07 – Up at 3:10 & out the door at 4. I went to the state WIH area & set-up at my “listening” tree. This was the same area where the 5 birds had gobbled the morning before. Not a peep but I did hear 3 birds to the NE semi-close to Bob & 1 to the north.

About 6:15, I ran a series of calls & at 6:25 saw a big, blonde coyote about 80 yards to my right. He must have seen my head move as he turned around & moved behind the bush. I thought, “That’s cool. Maybe I can call him back & get my 1st yote.” I moved 90 degrees to my right & called. About 6:40, I caught movement out of the corner of my right eye. I slowly turned my head & there that big sucker stood, inside 20 yards of me!!!! I’m not sure who was more startled!!!! He did the “looking-over-his-shoulder” trot away & was out of range before I could get on him. A few minutes later, a yote sounded off way to the ne & another responded way to the west. Then it was like sitting in the front pew listening to the choir warm-up!! I was sitting just back from the ridge & it sounded like at least 8-10 yotes started howling right below the edge less than 50 yards from me!!!! All I could do was sit there with my mouth hanging open enjoying the serenade. IT WAS AWESOME!! They must have gone on for close to 5 minutes. It was then that I turned from an offensive turkey hunter into a defensive coyote hunter!!

At 9 we went up the mountain. I walked to the end of the road & hunted until 11:30, time to head to lunch.

At 1:30, the 3 of us went up the other mountain to the cabin at the top. We saw 2 toms & a hen on the way up. Tom drove his rental & to say that the last 100 yards or so was exciting would be an understatement. Seemed like it was danged near straight up!! It’s a real nice cabin with a great view. More pics taken. We listened for awhile & heard a gobble. It took a few more gobblers before we had an idea where he was. We headed back down to the 1st road. Tom & I headed down the road, crossed the creek, & fought our way to where we thought he was. He had gobbled a few more times so we had a good idea of his location. It was rough going to get to “his” opening so it was a welcome relief when we set-up waiting for him to gobble again or show up. Nothing, nada, zilch, zippo. A t-storm was starting to roll-in so we headed down at 4:30. We got all the way back to the road & that $%^&*() started gobbling his fool head off from where we had been. I looked at Tom & said, “If you want him, go for it. I ain’t going back up there.” Tom didn’t go either. It was at that point we started yelling: “BOB!! COME GET US!!” as he was waiting at the truck. He finally figured out what we were yelling & met us about ½ way. On the way back to the road I mention that maybe it was a good thing we hadn’t killed him I couldn’t imagine trying to carry a big old bird down & up the mountain. Also mentioned that I was in the shooter’s seat. Tom replied, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” Now what do you suppose he meant by that?

After supper, we roosted 3 birds just off the road over the ridge. Tom was going to hunt the birds he saw that morning so they were mine to hunt in the morning.

Day 6 – 05/08 – Up at 3:05 & out the door at 4. It was graveyard quiet where the birds had been at 8:30 the night before. It had been dark when we roosted them. I did hear 2 birds on the ridge that runs at right angles to the end of the ridge I was on. I moved a couple of hundred yards down-ridge hoping to get them to fly down to me. No dice. I finally went down to the bottom & went up the other ridge. Another tough climb. Got to the area I figured they were in & again, nothing, nil, nada, zilch, zippo. I eased down the road to the base of the mountain & walked up another road setting up several times to call with no response.

After lunch, Tom headed out to do battle with the toms he had seen the last 2 days. Bob & I made the long loop up & around the mountain. We then went to pick up his blind & deke. We made a couple of side detours checking for birds/sign. At about 4, we were easing down the road & slipped around a curve when Bob said, “There’s 3 gobblers.” “Where?” “Going up the hill. I dropped to a knee, scoped the most open bird & sent a load of Fed HW 7’s on its way. The bird dropped & I started walking that way. Bob was hollering “SHOOT HIM AGAIN!! SHOOT HIM AGAIN!!” I had to move to my right to see the bird & he was standing so I touched off another round that put him down. I again started up to the bird & Bob is again hollering, “GET ON HIM!! GET ON HIM!!” Next thing I know, a MIG or F16 blasted past me. No wait………..it was Bob!! Let me tell you what…….this ole fat boy can’t run up hills no mo!! Hell, this ole fat boy don’t run DOWN hill no mo!!!! He got to the bird & stepped on its head. I unloaded & got up to them. Bob said, “It’s a jake.” My response, “I DON’T CARE!!!!” He started to flop, the bird not Bob, so I knelt down to hold his wing. I looked at the spurs & said, “UMM, Bob….This ain’t no jake!!” He had daggers that later measured 1 1/4” & were sharp. There had been a lot of snow that winter & we figure that his beard iced up & broke off. He would have had a dandy 10-12 inch beard. He was a good 4 year old long bird, 16 pounds 12 ounces.

We did the high-fives, handshaking, fist bumping, backslapping, & a little yeehawing. I was really happy to have my 1st Merriam’s. It was then that Bob said, “That makes your Slam.” I had completely forgotten about that part of it & the high-fives, handshaking, fist bumping, backslapping, & a little yeehawing started anew.

Bob took several pics & we headed back to camp. I cleaned the bird & we had supper. Tom & Bob headed back out while I started packing. They rolled in about 8:30 with a nice bird. We decided to head out Saturday morning instead of staying until Monday.

Day 7 – 05/09 – We had the truck packed & said our goodbyes & were on the road home at 9:15. We got a few pics of NE whitetails on the way out. We made great time & pulled into my drive at 4:15 Sunday morning. The drive was uneventful except for the IN deer that blocked I80 about 1:25 Sunday morning. The Lean, Mean, Red Dodge Machine did a great job of getting us stopped before a major malfunction with a deer could occur.

Bob got a nice 2 year old Thursday afternoon, the 1st & Tom got a good 3 year old Friday evening so Team Trifecta Perfecta had a great showing. They’ll have to tell their stories & post pics.

And now a word from our sponsor. No, wait, that should read, And now a word about the hunting. It was tough, Tough, TOUGH!! John told us that spring was about 3 weeks late & the birds just weren’t acting “normal”. As if there ever was such a thing as a normal turkey!! We found out very quickly that, just because you roost a bird in a specific area after dark, doesn’t mean he’ll be there in the morning. I think we roosted toms on 5 occasions only to find that they had moved. We don’t have a clue why & I certainly don’t think they were still on the ground in the dark. The terrain itself wasn’t that bad. In fact, except when going to the base of a gorge & back up the other side, the walking was much easier than in WV at about the same altitude. The weather, for the most part was good. Bob & I started to get into Old Blue the 1st morning when I said I though I was going to put on my longhandles. He agreed & that was the norm for the 3 mornings we hunted. It started in the low 40s & got into the 60s. There was rain every evening but generally after we were done hunting. Friday was a whole nuther story. The wind was blowing pretty hard at 4 & was screaming by 4:30. It was tough hearing birds unless they were on the far end of the wind & the gobbles were blown to you. Sometimes a bird could have lit on your shoulder & gobbled & you wouldn’t have heard him. I’m here to tell ya, it was wiiiiiiiindy!!

One thing I forgot to mention, except for cottonwoods in the creek/river bottoms, the only trees we saw were pine & cedar.


Now for my pics.

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His beard was only 5 ½” long. They had a lot of snow this winter & we figured that his iced/snowed up & broke off.

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The spurs were 1 1/4” & sharp. John told us he thinks they are the longest spur taken on the ranch.

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The bird was above the 2 trees above me & a little to the right.

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He had a single black wing feather on 1 wing only. He also had several black feathers on the same shoulder.

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Re: My 1st (and only) Merriams (looong read + pics)

Posted: July 12th, 2016, 7:42 am
by soiltester
Nice pics & read :thumbup:
Yup, my 1st had 1/2 the beard frozen off from severe ice the winter before and it took me 3 trips & 6 toms, before I got a 3 yr old with long spurs :banghead:

Re: My 1st (and only) Merriams (looong read + pics)

Posted: July 12th, 2016, 3:01 pm
by HunterGKS
We still had 2-3 days we could have hunted & the 2nd tag was only $90. I wanted to stay since it was a long drive for 1 bird but the guy riding with me wanted to go home so home it was. Then again, it was a tough hunt & I may not have even seen another gobbler let alone kill 1 so I may have saved $90.