In the Wild with Greg Wagner

THANKSGIVING DINNER: IT’S IN THE BAG! by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
October 8, 2009, 9:42 am
Filed under: Turkey | Tags: , ,

“I didn’t move! They couldn’t have seen me!” I thought to myself as I watched the three adult tom turkeys veer onto a completely different path from their late afternoon feeding area to their roosting area.

I guess they knew something was out of place – that something probably being ME. After bagging three hens for management purposes, I had scouted and attempted to pattern these large, mature toms to try to get one for the Thanksgiving dinner table. I was flustered; I couldn’t get any of them in range.  Let me tell you, the hunt after big gobblers in autumn sure isn’t like what it is in the springtime, they’re not in their breeding mode, and it’s a lot tougher!  

 Fast forward one week, a virtual chess match ensues – I’d move here, they’d move there, I’d move there, they’d move here. In the end though – CHECK MATE!

09.24.2009 007

 So, how was I finally able to succeed in shooting an elusive adult tom turkey amid the foliage of fall? I combined calling, careful planning and camouflage, that’s how, and you can too! 

 Generally, you can’t call big toms in the fall. You can however, call approaching hen, jake and jenny groups using soft yelps, purrs and clucks to set them at ease and hopefully have them hang out. This is what I did because I knew the mature toms typically trail these flocks and would be coming.  

 The adult toms are very skittish, they’ve been around a while, but they’re very habitual this time of year. Pattern these bachelor groups of several toms following the main groups of hens and young-of-the-year birds and you will be able to plan a good old-fashioned ambush according to their daily routines.

 Most importantly in fall wild turkey hunting, don’t look out of place. The adult toms absolutely know when something is out of place in their surroundings. I’m convinced that my leaf camo suit helped me blend in to the surroundings looking like a bush and allowed the toms to remain comfortable enough to get near me. Don’t overlook ground blinds as an easy means of disguising movement either (you knew I’d give them a plug), especially when you take new hunters or kids out with you. It may take several sessions for the birds to get used to the blind being in a particular place.

 Fall wild turkey hunting for big toms is a challenge. With the right set up, a bit of calling, stick-to-itiveness, patience and a little luck, (well, a lot of luck in my case) you’ll have that Thanksgiving dinner in the freezer sooner than you know.  

 Here’s a tried-and-true wild turkey recipe from the Wagner family that you can use for your Thanksgiving bird harvested from the Nebraska countryside. Bon appetit!

 Roast Wild Turkey in a Sack

Grease a brown paper bag inside with melted shortening. Brush turkey with melted shortening, salt and pepper.

Make a dressing, adding oysters or mushrooms, and stuff bird. Fit turkey into greased bag, twist end, and tie with string. Place in pan and bake in moderate oven (325 degrees) for 24 minutes per pound. When done, remove from oven but do not open sack for at least 20 minutes. This allows the turkey to absorb the steam for moister meat.   


4 Comments so far
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ARe there more wild turkeys in Iowa or Nebraska? Where’s the best place to hunt turkeys in either state? I love your mother!!!!!!!

Comment by Gaye Van Winkle

Hello Gaye,

Nice to hear from you. Say, I cannot answer for the state of Iowa, however, I’ll tell you we have thousands upon thousands of wild turkeys in Nebraska! In fact, more than likely, we have wild turkeys that occupy suitable habitat (anywhere a reasonable amount of woody cover exists) in all 93 Nebraska counties. Nebraska is home to three subspecies of wild turkeys — the Merriam’s, which is the most common, the eastern, and a hybrid of the two. We have thousands of acres of public hunting land and walk-in hunting land available to turkey hunters in prime turkey country! Many hunters, including myself, gear into hunting turkeys along wooded river and creek drainages – the same place where whitetail deer thrive.

Looking at wild turkey numbers for this fall, we have a record adult population of birds and experienced good spring weather that resulted in big increases in the Summer Rural Mail Carrier Survey that we run on upland game in Nebraska. Prior to that, a Spring 2008 Rural Mail Carrier revealed that the wild turkey population grew 500 percent in Nebraska since 2002!

THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THESE ARE THE BEST OF DAYS FOR HUNTING THE WILD TURKEY HERE IN THE HUSKER STATE! HUNT NEBRASKA! By the way, I wouldn’t enjoy the fabulous outdoor life that I live without being introduced to it by my Mother and Father! God love ’em!

Hey, you take care. Nice to hear from you again.

“Wags” — Greg Wagner

Comment by Daryl Bauer

Hi Greg,

WOW, what an interesting detailed answer about
Wild Turkey hunting. So typical of that wonderful son that DaD and I get so much credit
and Blessings for. Thank you so much.

Comment by Mother

Thanks Mom, love ya’!

“Wags” — Greg Wagner

Comment by Daryl Bauer

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