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Ron Schmelzer

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Scouting a New Farm for Turkeys

Scouting a New Farm for Turkeys

 

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Great news happened this week.  I got an invitation to check out a farm just north of Council Bluffs located in the Loess Hills that is overrun per the landowner with turkeys.  The farm consists of 60 acres of timber and pasture and a few acres of crop ground.  The Loess soil is not very good for farming, plus if the ground is disturbed it will wash and gully easily.  The landowner lives out of state and so does not hunt the ground and neither does anyone else.  The land is mine and I feel as if I have just struck the mother lode.

 

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The Loess Hills are a formation of wind-deposited loess soil deposited from the last glacier in the westernmost part of Iowa and Missouri along the Missouri River. The dominant features of this landscape are "peak and saddle" topography, "razor ridges" (narrow ridges, often less than 10 feet (3 m) wide, which fall off at near ninety-degree angles on either side for 60 feet (18 m) or more), and "cat-step" terraces (caused by the constant slumping and vertical sheering of the loess soil). The soil has a characteristic yellow hue and is generally broken down into several units based on the period of deposition.  Loess is known locally as "sugar clay" because it can be extremely hard when dry, but when wet, loses all cohesion. The Loess Hills of Iowa are remarkable for the depth of the drift layer, often more than 90 feet (27 m) deep.

 

 

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I grabbed a gun and drove up one morning to meet the landowner's father to check out the ground and pick out some good places to hunt.  The road down into the farm is long with loose gravel.  I could feel the vehicle slip as we drove down to the bottom of the valley.  A gated entry is located there and a key was handed over to me for future use.

 

As we drove into a parking spot, I noticed the grass on either side of the road was almost knee high.  Hens ran ahead of the vehicle and finally took off and flew to some of the standing timber. The tall grass is not good for turkeys as they do not like that type of environment.   It blocks their vision, which is one of their most effective means of survival.

 

 

We climbed up a hill and set up a few decoys to give it a try.  After sitting for about an hour we did not hear or see any birds and there was no response to any calls.  My host said they had continually seen birds in large flocks moving through the ground.

 

We moved off this location and walked into the valley and crossed a small dam holding back rain water.  It had formed a nice pond and ducks and geese were nesting there.  This farm holds it all with plenty of water, cover, and food.

 

 

We moved to another location on the side of a hill and set up for another hour.  Again, we did not hear or see anything.  The plain fact is that they were not on the farm or nearby during the time we were there.

 

We walked to some other locations but had no luck, although we did hear a love sick tom off in the distance making his presence known with plenty of gobbling.   With no luck and the main purpose accomplished, we left.  My plan is to be back and on site at daybreak when the birds come off the roost.  We did see plenty of signs with plenty of droppings and lots of tracks both old and fresh.  Feathers were everywhere, so we knew the birds were working through the area.

 

 

 

Gander Mountain

 

 

 

 

Good fishing, good hunting, Hank.

 

 

 

 

 

More Stories By Hank Huntington

Hank Huntington, Esq., is a native of southwest Iowa, healthcare professional, entrepreneur, accomplished pilot, hunting and fishing enthusiast, connoisseur, father and husband. He developed this web site for people to share their fun and excitement about the great outdoors. The best part of this hobby is, after a successful hunting or fishing trip, you are able to dine on fresh game or fish, after all, “ How do you eat a golf ball?” asks Hank. Hanks father and grandfather were both avid outdoorsmen so Hank learned his hunting and fishing skills from them and has passed the tradition down to the fourth generation. Plus the love of the outdoors, and a craving for exquisite dinning, would round out the package.

As a small boy, he fished a local oxbow lake formed by the Missouri River. The lake is primarily old river bottom mud, is not real clear, and has a lot of vegetation. The southeast corner holds a huge lily pad bed, and it was there Hank learned to drag through the water and across the tops of the pads, a Johnson Silver Minnow, with a pork rind attached. This was the place for big mouth bass, and there were lots of them, and young Hank loved to catch them.

At age of 12 Hank started going with his Dad hunting, and by age 14 he was an accomplished shooter with a 12-gauge pump. Shortly after that he was given his first shotgun a Winchester Model 12 pump; he still has it today. It looks like almost new, but the gun is never to be hunted again. Duck hunting in the late 50’s had little pressure after the first two weeks of the season, and when the north wind blew and it got really damp and cold, the big Canada Mallards came.

After graduation from high school, Hank attended Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he met a fellow outdoorsman, and their friendship developed in the fields and streams of central Nebraska.

Hank had little time for hunting and fishing while attending professional school at Creighton University. After graduation he married his college sweetheart and they settled down to career, family, and as often as possible, hunting and fishing.

Hank and his family frequently flew their plane north to Canada to the legendary Canadian fly in lodges to fish for Northern and Walleye. Here he taught his son all the things his father had taught him about fishing. Most of the time the two went alone to the north woods, but when camping was not involved, his wife Pam went along. She always enjoys the fact that she has caught a bigger Northern Pike than Hank, and he has been fishing for 60 years. Today along the Missouri River valley, the deer population increased to the point that in many areas they are a nuisance. The duck, goose, and turkey has also population have also soared.

Area lakes have been well stocked. Many even have a walleye stocking program that makes outstanding fishing. Several are within easy driving distance of Hank’s lodge-like lakeside home. All packaged together is great dining. By the way, Hank harvests only what he will share at a table with family or friends.

Hank says, “Whenever I am on a lake, in the woods, or in the blind, I am always reminded of God’s great bounty and His constant presence. And whether in the great outdoors or at home with my wife, I strive to be a good steward of nature and all that God has given us.”

Good hunting! Good fishing! Good day!