Thunder clapped in the distance, eliciting a chorus of gobbles that rolled from left to right across 100 yards of tall pines. There were so many birds it was impossible to tell their number; two, three a dozen? I chuckled to myself thinking about what our guide, Doug Stults of Table Mountain Outfitters, had told us the afternoon before: “The unseasonably warm weather has us almost a month ahead of schedule. The big flocks have already broken up.” If this was a small flock, I wasn’t complaining.

Steve Nessl from Yamaha Outdoors, Cody Prather from Careco TV and I were nestled into a small patch of brush — about the only way brush exists in the rolling plains of west-central Nebraska. We’d strategically placed ourselves within striking distance of the roost, yet still far enough away so as not to discourage birds from returning there. We hoped some of the dispersing flock would come our way, and when the birds eventually pitched down, it looked as though our plan might work.

Roosts are the hub — the origin and the terminus — around which a day’s hunt revolves. The morning typically begins in close, but not too close, proximity. It’s not difficult to find a roost as trees large enough to support a turkey are few and far between. Find the trees and you find the birds.

Fly-down time is a bit like dropping a handful of BBs on a tabletop. As soon as they leave the roost, the Rio Grande-Merriam’s hybrids spread out in all directions across the uneven and sparsely vegetated terrain. After several long, tense minutes we managed to coax four longbeards into range, and tag two.

If you don’t catch them near the roost, you head for the hills.

In true Western fashion, you can do some spot-and-stalk hunting. It begins by acquiring a high vantage point from which you may be able to see anywhere from several hundred yards to several miles.

Patience is important because the folds and cedar breaks can easily hide birds. Once birds are spotted, the next step involves using the terrain and sparse cover to maneuver into position, set out decoys and begin calling.

If no birds are spotted, you can simply troll through the lush bottoms, calling in hopes of raising a gobble.

At some point the cycle is reversed and the birds begin heading back from whence they came. Set up along a well-traveled route and you might be in business.

Such was the case on the second afternoon when Matt Anderson of Camp Chef and I found a steep-walled canyon out of the incessant Western winds where we decided to make a stand. Scarcely a moment went by when there weren’t birds in sight and soon we had a bird in front of Matt’s gun and shortly after, on the ground.

We repositioned slightly and it was my turn. Sitting back-to-back at the base of a big cottonwood we were able to watch different directions, which proved invaluable as Matt spotted a pair of longbeards approaching from my rear. His whispered instructions allowed me to shift into the proper shooting position so I was ready when they sauntered by.

Matt and I were still giddy over our good luck as we walked out of the steep draw, each with a big gobbler over our shoulders. The next morning the last hunter filled his second tag, bringing our total to 14 birds for six hunters in two days and about an hour.

I had to chuckle when Stults apologized that the hunting was a little slow due to bad weather and the early spring. “That’s all right,” I said. “I’ll just have to come back next year.”

For more information on Nebraska turkey hunts with Table Mountain Outfitters, contact Doug Stults at 307-631-4593, email him at [email protected] or visit his website:

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: [email protected]