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Field report from Moapa Valley turkey opener ends happily

Every now and again I receive an email from a reader that begs to be shared. Such is one this week from a retired National Park Service ranger who spent a portion of his career working at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Though our law enforcement years overlapped by a couple, I had to scan the recesses of my personal memory chip to put him in place. It has been that long since I have seen him.

“I thought you might be interested in some first-hand info (about the) first period of Moapa Valley turkey season,” 82-year-old Larry Hanneman wrote.

And he was correct. I always enjoy a good story.

It seems that after seven years of waiting and gaining expertise as a bonus point collector, Hanneman drew a turkey tag for the first season in the Moapa Valley area. Though he has a bad eye and a stent in one of his heart arteries, Hanneman wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass him by. “I beat the odds,” he noted.

Opening morning found Hanneman and his turkey decoys settled in at his preselected hiding spot on the Overton Wildlife Management Area. Hoping to call a lovesick gobbler into his set, he sent some sweet nothings over the wild turkey airwaves. A half-dozen gobblers heard the call and made their way in his direction, but despite his best efforts Hanneman was unable to close the deal.

“I was not being selective and would gladly settle for a jake,” he wrote. “Couldn’t quite bring one into good range.”

Early on the second morning, Hanneman and his decoys again brought another half-dozen toms into view. Suddenly everything came together.

“At 9:15 I called a single bird in range and pulled the trigger. When it stopped flopping around, I tagged a 19.5-pound Rio with a 10-inch beard,” Hanneman wrote. “Had to make two long hikes back to the truck. One with my gun and 20 pounds of turkey, next with decoys and other equipment.”

Those are the kind of hikes a hunter looks forward to … once they are over.

“Be advised for Southern Nevada this was a quality hunting experience in anyone’s book,” Hanneman added.

Four of Nevada’s top 10 Rio Grande turkeys were harvested right here in Clark County, including the former state record. That bird scored an even 65, had a beard measuring 12.6875 inches and was harvested by Kevin Pratt in 2006. His bird was nudged into second place in 2011 by one taken in Lyon County by Charles Cecil of Ohio. Cecil’s bird scored 65.125.

The other three Clark County turkeys hold third, sixth and seventh place in Nevada’s top 10. Those birds were harvested by James Wilhelm of Virginia in 2014, Gary Pratt in 2008 and Heather Pratt in 2008, respectively. Of the remaining gobblers on the list, two were taken in Humboldt County and one each in Churchill, Douglas and Lyon counties.

While turkey hunting can be excellent in Clark County, tags are limited. There are opportunities elsewhere in the state, as the top-10 list suggests, but you have to be willing to drive a little farther. OK, a lot farther, but it could be worth the effort if you are looking to spend time in the field collecting a turkey rather than another bonus point.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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