On May 10, 2013, I drove four hours from Sidney, Nebraska, to my first-ever turkey hunt. I met Steve—my guide and first Nebraskan friend—in Gibbon, a small town outside Kearney. We set out shortly after I arrived to a plot of land near a creek, hoping to lure a tom from his roost. After waiting an hour for a turkey to take notice of our decoys, the sun began its downward slope just as the silhouette of a tom could be made out in the treeline across from us. Unfortunately, he stayed put and taunted us from above.

We woke up the next morning at 5:30 a.m. and headed back to the same plot of land. Hearing gobbles close by, we readied ourselves for success, only to be bested by a fox who was also stalking our bird. The fox’s kit decided to rub salt in our wound by whining as loudly as it could, spooking every turkey within hearing range to the next county.

Our subsequent spot landed us on public hunting ground, where we scoped out open meadows that were lined by trees. As I followed along behind him, Steve perked up and immediately pulled me aside to a downed tree tucked in the shade.

“Do you see them? This just doesn’t happen!” Three toms were straight ahead of us on the other side of the meadow, and our faith in luring a bird was heightened. In complete disbelief of our fortune, Steve belly-crawled to the edge of our hideout to set up a decoy.

Skrit skrit skriiit rang out against the quiet Nebraska morning. Minutes stretched on, my heart pounding in my ears. Don’t screw this up, I thought. With Steve calling, two toms slowly made their way to the strategically placed lady of their dreams, while the third barreled past them right into my sights.

BAM!

His head thrashed back and forth then he dropped. A perfect head shot. At 8:20 a.m., from 20 yards with a 20 gauge, I bagged a 20-pound Rio tom.

Steve roared with a mixture of shock, excitement, and disbelief over my beginner’s luck. I grinned from ear to ear as he took my picture with the big ol’ bird. That surreal high one feels after a successful hunt danced through my head as I came back down to earth.

Later, we plucked, cleaned and mounted the tom’s fan and 8.5-inch beard. To this day, when I see that mount, I have to pinch myself to remind me that yes, I did kill that bird.

Head to Cabela’s Turkey Roost to get yourself properly equipped for turkey season.

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