LINCOLN – With a little over three weeks remaining in the spring turkey hunting season, Nebraska Game Parks Fisheries Outreach Program Manager Daryl Bauer is still looking to punch his tag.
Bauer admitted to his patient, persistent approach when it comes to turkey hunting in his blog Barbs and Backlashes in the Nebraskaland online magazine.
“I like to make my spring turkey hunting experience last as long as possible every year. I practice selective harvest in my turkey hunting. Based on what I have seen on social media I am the only hunter in the state who hasn’t killed a turkey, quipped Bauer.
Bauer prefers to harvest a “swinger”, a mature tom as opposed a “jake,” a one-year old tom when hunting turkeys.
When Bauer harvests this year’s tom he will be able to add to the only necklace he has ever worn. Bauer takes one spur off of every mature tom he kills and threads the spur onto a homemade band he wears around his neck.
This year’s spur will be number 26. It’s a reminder of his yearly quest for a bird he has grown to respect throughout his life on the other end of a gun.
“I love everything about wild turkeys. They are a challenge to hunt, and when taken they are great on the table and a great trophy,” said Bauer.
May is celebrated as bird month in the state of Nebraska and the turkey hunting season will culminate on May 31.
More than six decades ago, a spring turkey hunting season did not exist in the state.
There were no turkeys in Nebraska.
A conservation program released 28 Merriam birds into Pine Ridge located in the northwestern part of the state in 1959. The birds flourished.
Two years later, in 1961 more than 500 Rio Grande domestic birds were released in the central and south-central portions of the state mostly in the riparian forests. That effort was deemed a failure and Nebraska’s biologists focused their efforts on the Merriam flock.
Biologists relocated part of the flock to other parts of the state and they were able to expand their range and hybridize.
The surviving Rio Grande birds eventually found suitable habitat and reproduced as did a group of eastern wild turkeys in the extreme southeastern corner of the state.
The rest is history.
“Most of the turkeys in the state are a hybrid and they have done a great job of adapting to Nebraska’s climate and landscape,” said Bauer.
Last year, and three years previous, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has declared the state of Nebraska the best place to hunt turkeys in the United States.
Turkeys can be found in all 93 of Nebraska’s counties and turkey hunting in the state contributes nearly $900,000 million to the economy each year.
The Nebraska Game and Parks turkey hunting survey in 2019 estimated that 18,131 turkeys were harvested last year, an increase of 2.3 percent over the 2018 numbers.
In 2019, 28,334 permits were issued and 18,131 birds were harvested, 63.99 percent.