Bowhunting Hill Country Gobblers

Bowhunting Hill Country Gobblers

It was a cool morning in Western Nebraska as we loaded up the truck with gear and finished our tailgate breakfast burritos. This was my dad's first turkey hunt and we were determined to get on an illusive Merriam turkey. The rugged public land hills of western Nebraska is prime habitat for turkey. There is a mixture of open bottoms, green vegetation rolling topography and thick pine tree ridges to roost in.

Catching up to a mature tom with a bow in this country can be a tall ask but with a little wit and determination it can be one of the most rewarding and exhilarating turkey hunts to pursue.

We set out on foot down an old two track listening for birds and letting out a location owl call every now and then. I was studying the topography maps on my phone and looking for any possible roost locations that lead out into an open bottom where birds may want to stretch and strut to put on a show for the hens. As daylight broke we heard a faint gobble off in the distance. We took off quickly in the general direction looking to close the gap before the gobbler flew from his roost. Once we closed to within a few hundred yards I belly crawled the decoys out on the edge of the open grassy bottom and returned to the hill side to set up and call.

The Tom hammered off from the limb and the hens began to call the morning sun into existence. They pitched down into the grassy bottom and began to work their way out and around the pine tree ridge line they had roosted in. I called softly and the Tom responded… but seemed to have no interest in my efforts. After all the tom had live hens with him that he was already tending to. After a few hours the birds went on their pre-determined path and out of our lives. “He won this one” I thought as I packed up the decoys. 

After that morning hunt I began to game plan where I can place ourselves in the route of where these birds naturally want to go. I studied the maps during lunch and dropped pins on various locations that looked like possible travel corridors or strut zones within the cut up hill country. After a hearty venison pasta meal we loaded up and drove to the first location I had marked.



As we parked the truck and began to get our things together I surveyed the country below with my binoculars. Off in the distance I caught the glimpse of 2 Toms with 8-10 hens about to slip behind a large pine tree canyon and out of sight. I told dad we need to move quickly and cut them off. We took off running towards the opposite ridge line in order to slip into position before the birds got around the finger. As we got closer our best option was to split up and cover the country from both angles. Dad went right, I went left.

We crept slowly over the ridge and through the timber glassing and watching the bottom below. Each step was soft and calculated. I moved this way for about 100 yards down the face of the ridge line looking for any movement. Then I caught a glimpse of movement. The birds had worked around the finger and were now directly below. I slowly pulled up my range finder and confirmed the yardage.

42…42…42. I hooked my release on the string, drew my bow and anchored, THWACK! I put my arrow directly through the vitals of the biggest tom in the group! “DAD!” I shouted. “I Smoked him!!” I heard my dad reply, “Good Job!” a few hundred yards away. I walked down to the bird and soaked in the moment as my dad walked over to me. What a fun hunt! Hill Country turkey hunting is one of the toughest and most exhilarating turkey hunts of them all. And to have my dad along with me on his first turkey hunting experience was the icing on the cake.


Some Takeaways

  • Study your maps intently when Bowhunting Hill Country Gobblers, these birds can be hard to find in the broken up Look for possible strut zones, travel locations, feeding areas, roosting trees, etc. 
  • Use your optics. Glassing can be very effective in this, especially when dealing with call shy birds on public land. Sometimes a spot and stalk approach or setting up in a route back to roost is just what you need to get in close, but you have to find them first. 
  • Split up. This is BIG country and the opportunity to get within bow range can be difficult. The more ground you can cover the better your odds.
  • Use an effective camouflage for the turkey have incredible eyesight and can pick you apart from a mile away. You want to break up the human outline as much as possible. Here are my favorite camouflage pieces for this specific hunt.

The King's gear I use in my turkey kit:


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