F&S Adventure: Cornhusker Turkey Camp

Another gobbler season has come and gone. But this year's was one that I won't soon forget: the year I shot my first turkeys. See, the past few years--since I first started turkey hunting--haven't exactly been successful. I'd come close on a couple of occasions (but never close enough to take a shot), and completely struck out on others. I quickly learned that when it comes to wild turkeys, there's no such thing as a "sure thing." So when I was invited to join a group of other outdoor writers at a Turkey Camp in Arnold, Neb., being put on by Cabela's and Hunter's Specialties back in April, I tried not to let my hopes get too high. Still, knowing we'd have almost four days to hunt unpressured birds on more than 40,000 acres, I couldn't help but be slightly optimistic. Here we are at "Tent City," our home for the next several days.Colin Kearns
After we'd all had a chance to settle in at camp, we sighted in the 11-87's that Remington supplied for the hunt. Photo courtesy of Lisa Metheny
Yep. I'd say this gun is sighted in just fine.Colin Kearns
If you've never been to Nebraska, don't believe what you hear about it being nothing but cornfields. It's some of the most beautiful country I've ever experienced. Here's a glimpse at the type of terrain we were hunting. At times it reminded me of Wyoming. For the first day of hunting, I teamed up with Jim Schlender, of F+W Media, and our guide, Hunter's Specialties Pro Staffer Phillip Vanderpool. The first time I heard Phillip call that morning, I became even more optimistic.Colin Kearns
Turns out, I didn't have to wait very long. Jim, Phillip, and I got into the pop-up blind just before first light, and at 6:57 a.m., this Merriam's slowly came into range--and I had my first-ever gobbler.Colin Kearns
After a few handshakes and high-fives, Vanderpool and I celebrated the successful hunt with a few photos. The bird had a 9-inch beard, 7/8-inch spurs, and weighed 21 pounds. Once we had snapped the last shot, it was Jim's turn to hunt.Colin Kearns
After a couple hours of calling and running and gunning, Schlender bagged his first bird of the trip.Colin Kearns
Schlender and I weren't the only hunters at camp who got off to a good start.Colin Kearns
When we got back to camp, breakfast--pancakes, eggs, and sausage--was warm and ready. Awesome hunt in the morning, followed by a hearty breakfast--I could get used to this…Colin Kearns
As many turkeys as we saw on the property, we must've seen three times as many deer--both whitetails and mule deer.Colin Kearns
There was plenty of great gear for us to test at camp. I particularly fell in love with the Cabela's Tactical Tat'r II Vest. It's smartly designed and has loads of pockets and a very comfortable seat pad. Later on in the trip, when I ventured out on my own one morning, I found a warm spot in the sun, sat down, and took probably the most satisfying nap of my life in this vest. This vest is that comfortable.
Hunter Specialties supplied the calls for the trip, and the Ring Zone Li'l Deuce was my favorite. The day I went out on my own (before my nap), I called in a couple of jakes and a gobbler to within 10 yards with this call. You'll want this tool in your vest next spring.
Later on in the afternoon, Schlender, Vanderpool, and I went out again. And just when I thought the day couldn't have gotten any better, Schlender and I tagged out when we doubled on a pair of gobblers that evening. Here, Vanderpool and I admire my second Merriam's. Photo courtesy of Jim Schlender
Schlender and I with our second birds of the day. Photo courtesy of Phillip Vanderpool
Now, it's time to head back to camp for a warm meal. Photo courtesy of Jim Schlender
For dinner, a couple of the hunters donated the breast meat from the gobblers they shot that day. Joe Arterburn, corporate communications manager for Cabela's, made wild turkey enchiladas and Dutch oven cornbread. Incredible stuff.Colin Kearns
The next morning, the wind was howling up to 40 mph. Having already tagged out, Schlender and I decided to take the morning off and stay at camp. Which meant we got first dibs on breakfast: biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs and potatoes and onions.Colin Kearns
You can always learn a cool tip at a new hunting camp. At this one, the guys from Cabela's rigged a smart hand-washing station. Here's how it worked: Attached to the blue bucket full of water is a tin can with a few holes drilled in the bottom. You soap up your hands, then dip the can in the bucket. Clip the can on the bucket and rinse your hands off under the stream of water pouring out of the drilled holes.Colin Kearns
Here's one of the most delicious things we ate at camp: Cowboy Caviar. You can find the recipe here. Have a couple of bags of Fritos on hand, because this stuff will go fast.Colin Kearns
After the appetizer, Arterburn brought out bowls of French onion soup.Colin Kearns
The third and main course of the night was lasagna and bread sticks. Who knew Italian could taste so good in the middle of a 40,000-acre Angus ranch in Nebraska?Colin Kearns
What would hunting camp be without a prank? I won't name names, but somehow this stuffed rattler found its way into one of the hunter's tents… It wasn't me. I swear.Colin Kearns
The last supper: Pork chops with Cabela's Open Season BBQ Sauce, glazed carrots, and a side of white bean, hominy, and bacon. I tried to savor this meal, knowing I wouldn't eat this good again for a while, but my plate was clean in no time.
After dinner, a few of us stayed up for a few rounds of No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. I didn't do so well in the first two games, but I cleaned up in the last one of the night and walked back to my tent $5 richer. (Luckily, I happen to love my day job.)Colin Kearns
We took a break from poker to dig into Arterburn's blueberry cobbler. It wasn't totally finished cooking yet. But it smelled too good to wait any longer. And, yes, it tasted good as it looks.Colin Kearns
We left camp on high note: ham and cream cheese stuffed French toast with potatoes and fresh fruit. If only I could enjoy food (and hunting) this good every day…Colin Kearns

This spring, F&S senior editor Colin Kearns joined a crew of outdoor writers at a Nebraska Turkey Camp orgazined by Cabela's and Hunter's Specialties. Here are some snapshots of the hunts, the country, and the incredible food from camp.

To book a turkey (or mule deer) hunt where Kearns hunted, contact Table Mountain Outfitters.