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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

john with rio turkey

The Not-So-Embellished Ramblings of an Impatient Turkey Hunter in Scottsbluff, Nebraska

For me, it’s not about what you hunt, it’s about where you hunt—and to be truthful, Scottsbluff, Nebraska wasn’t high on my hit list of places to bag a turkey until our final approach. Looking out the coach window of my flight, I gazed out upon endless cornfields and flat land. Quietly, I was hoping they’d offer drink service, but the militant tray table and seatback czar had already been by to ensure that my 2 degrees of recline were upright and that the plane was safe from disaster because of it.  

Then, much to my surprise I spotted something—terrain. And not just terrain, winding canyons, hills, and mountains by the standard of my Texan perception, and something even more curious—Chimney Rock. Having no expectations of this trip beyond the great company of my friends at Winchester Ammunition and hopefully a tom in the bag by the end of it, the sight of my once, didn’t-die-fording-the-river, middle school Oregon Trail in the computer lab landmark immediately had me excited. 

Landing in Scottsbluff, I looked past my growing hunger and their lack of DoorDash options and instead swapped “hangry-ness” for wonder. There it was in living color, not the pixelated green of a DOS-based Macintosh I remembered! I didn’t care if I shot shit, I had made it to Chimney Rock! 

Chimney Rock 

Chimney Rock 
Chimney Rock, Scottsbluff’s world-renowned symbol.

Chimney Rock’s history is intertwined with the westward expansion of the United States, and it continues to stand as a testament to the determination and exploring spirit of early pioneers in America. Long before European settlers arrived in the region, Chimney Rock held cultural and spiritual significance for Native American tribes, including the Lakota Sioux and Pawnee. 

Chimney Rock gained prominence during the mid-19th century as an important landmark along the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and other westward migration routes. Pioneers heading to the Oregon Territory, California, and the western frontier often used Chimney Rock as a guidepost, as its distinctive shape made it easily recognizable on the prairie. The name “Chimney Rock” is believed to have been given by the early fur trappers and explorers due to its chimney-like appearance. It stands approximately 325 feet above the surrounding plains and consists of layers of sedimentary rock, primarily made up of clay and volcanic ash—some of which seem to be permanently encrusted in the lugs of my boots, but I digress. 

Getting Real 

The next morning at about 4:30 a.m., I meandered down from my roost on the second floor of the early 20th-century farmhouse I was staying in just beyond the shadow of Chimney Rock. With a tumbler of Black Rifle Coffee in one hand and a Winchester shotgun in the other, I made my way to the truck. 

The morning went like this: Found turkey in tree. Waited for sunrise. Turkey hit the snooze button. He eventually flew down and soared three counties away in the wrong direction. For the rest of the day, we walked and called. Nada. 

Day two was more of the same, but this time we had a group of turkeys about 150 yards away at one point. We called for about 30 minutes, I took a cedar tree limb to the eye and, eventually, those birds too went to join their friends three counties over at the Merriam Saloon or some other fowl house of ill repute. 

The next day, I’d had enough. For those who have been long-time readers of this fine publication, you may have read my Editor’s Note last year. If not, here’s the CliffsNotes version: I suck at turkey hunting. Why? Because I am impatient, can’t sit still, and have the uncanny ability to gag on mouth calls no matter how much I practice. 

Best Laid Schemes 

glassing for turkey

So, what does any self-respecting outdoorsman who A. sucks at the sport, and B. can’t sit still do when on a mission to kill a turkey in Scottsbluff, Nebraska? He climbs to the top of the nearest Chimney Rock wannabe, glasses for birds on the prairie, and formulates a plan that would make any pronghorn hunter proud. 

The guide (Ross) wasn’t impressed, but I was. 

Breaking out the onX, I found the choke points in the canyon system around us, mapped out our lookout/glassing points, and laid out the plan like General Patton, even going as far as illustrating it in the Nebraska clay with a stick. The plan was to set up at a choke point where we had the high ground, establish a makeshift blind on the edge of said high ground, bump the birds from around one side of an outcropping, double back to the blind as they took the long way around to avoid the two idiots disturbing their day and smoke ’em from above as they passed through. 

Like any great plan, it was solid until the first shot was (not) fired. The birds instead took the “long, long” way around, causing my guide and I to sprint from our perch across 500 yards of open prairie, back around another set of hills or whatever they are called in Nebraska, and thank God Ross was in shape (a rarity for hunting guides) because otherwise we would have never made it. After some to-do about not running with loaded guns and something about having a cramp, we found ourselves pinned against a hillside and a yucca patch (never knew they had yuccas in Nebraska…). 

“Get down!” Ross frantically whispered. There we were, pinned between a rock and a sharp pokey spot with five birds rounding the hill toward us looking to pick a fight with the jake fan he was using to rake them in. “It’s on like Donkey Kong,” I thought as I tried to control my heart rate. 

“When I say, ‘Shoot,’ pop up and smoke him,” Ross said. To which I responded, “Which one, there are several?” “Any one but my decoy,” he quipped. “Now, SHOOT!” 

With one squeeze of the trigger, down went the bird. High fives and elation ensued, and so did a cold beer… or four. 

“You know, that was by far the most unconventional turkey hunt I have ever been on,” Ross said. “That’s how I roll,” I responded as I sipped my beer. “Now, do you think DoorDash delivers here, Ross?” 

john with rio turkey

Toting Semi-Automatic Winchester Shotguns

The author took his Scottsbluff bird at 10 paces with his pump-action Winchester SPX Long Beard. This coming spring he’s looking to step up his game with Winchester’s recently introduced SX4 Long Beard. The new pistol-gripped, semi-auto 12 gauge chambers 3.5-inch loads. The Mossy Oak Obsession-finished stock is equipped with spacers to adjust the length of pull as well as interchangeable comb height pieces. With Winchester XR Long Beard shells, the combo should be deadly from 50-plus yards on birds that refuse to budge. MSRP is $1,220. For more information, visit winchesterguns.com.  

Turkey Hunting Myths
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