It's Turkey Season in Nebraska

You're craving turkey and Thanksgiving is still months away. Perhaps you need to take a trip to Nebraska this spring, where wild turkey hunting season is under way. Hear Greg Wagner of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

And now we move due west to the Cornhusker State, where wild turkeys have caused game enthusiasts to adjust their clocks.

Mr. GREG WAGNER (Public Information Officer, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission): First thing we're going to do is probably get up about 4:00 in the morning, and we call that o'dark-thirty here in Nebraska.

ELLIOTT: That's Greg Wagner of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He's here to talk spring turkey hunting. Welcome back, Mr. Wagner.

Mr. WAGNER: Welcome back. I've got the hen turkey call going right there for you.

ELLIOTT: All right. Now, we've talked with you in the past about catfish and carp, and now we're moving from the water to the woods. I understand that if we want to have a conversation about turkey hunting, you have to get me up to speed first on the lingo. So let's start with turkey calls. Tell me about them.

Mr. WAGNER: Yeah. There's a whole series of turkey calls, and different sounds mean different things to turkeys. And what we're basically trying to do in the springtime was we're trying to imitate the calls that a hen would make to lure a gobbler within shooting range. And the predominant call is just - is a yelp like this oneā€¦

(Soundbite of turkey hen call)

Mr. WAGNER: And she just, kind of, making some sounds like that. She might be off on her own, this hen turkey, wandering in the woods; or she may be with other toms. When turkeys come down off of the roost, they're going to be making different sounds and calls as well. Sometimes, that particular hen will be doing some cuts to alert other birds of the flock.

(Soundbite of turkey cut)

Mr. WAGNER: And then she might just be clucking while she's feeding on some grasshoppers in the prairie.

(Soundbite of turkey cluck)

ELLIOTT: So you're pretending to be the hen in order to catch this gobbler during springtime, which is the mating season, I think.

Mr. WAGNER: Yeah. We're in the heart of their breeding cycle right now, and we're trying to imitate their girlfriends to try to draw in one of those love-struck gobblers.

ELLIOTT: Where do turkeys roost? Are they up in the trees?

Mr. WAGNER: Yeah. Turkeys like to roost in trees at nighttime. In Nebraska, they are predominantly roosting in large, burrowed trees, large cotwood trees, that might overlook, kind of, a small, canyon-type area. That way, they have a great breadth to bevel, to see any predators that might come near them. But they love those large, older trees here in Nebraska for roost tree, because generally the whole flock can get into that tree.

ELLIOTT: So if we're lucky enough to bag a turkey when we're out on our hunt, what's the next step? How do I get this ready to take to the table?

Mr. WAGNER: Well, one of the things I like to do is I have, kind of, a roast-wild-turkey-in-a-sack type method. If folks remember one thing from our broadcast here today, it's moisture. I grease a bag inside with melted shortening. I brush that turkey with melted shortening, a little salt and pepper. I'll make a dressing, maybe adding some mushrooms and oysters. I stuff the bird, I fit this turkey into this cooking bag, and when it's done from the oven, I remove everything, but I don't open the sack of that wild turkey for at least 20 minutes because this allows the turkey - there we go - to absorb the steam for a moister meat. And that simple method right there is one of the greatest ways to prepare wild turkeys.

ELLIOTT: Thanks again for talking with us.

Mr. WAGNER: Thank you very much. Come to Nebraska.

ELLIOTT: Greg Wagner is with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

(Soundbite of music)

ELLIOTT: This is NPR News.

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