I’m sure I’d be hunting wild turkeys the rest of my life if I could only use a camera with a long lens instead of a shotgun or a bow, but luckily there’s a abundance of these beautiful and tasty wild birds across the state. Most of the western part of Texas has the Rio Grande strain, and there are huntable numbers of Oriental turkey in northeastern counties along the Red River.
Red River County where I grew up was the first county in Texas where eastern birds were reintroduced and today is probably the best county in Texas to hunt an eastern turkey. Is. This year I plan to do a lot of camera and shotgun hunting.
A few years ago, the Rio Grande strain of wild turkey was stocked on a large cattle ranch adjacent to land I have hunting license in western Kaufman County. There probably haven’t been wild turkeys in this area since the turn of the last century. At first I was concerned that the high population of predators in our area (lots of coyotes and more bobcats than most people realize) would take a heavy toll on these ground-nesting birds, but it seems they are booming. Over the past year I have seen several hens with poults in the fields near our home and on several occasions lone hens have passed through our property in the spring in search of suitable nesting areas.
A friend who lives closer to the lowlands, where the wild turkeys overwinter, saw a large number of birds hitting his corn feeder throughout the winter. As the temperature continues to warm, I expect to see these birds again in the high meadows and fields where they nest. I plan to have a good time chasing them, with a camera, of course. I hope turkey season will open up again in my area in the years to come, but until then it will be fun to settle in, call the gobblers and shoot videos and stills of them.
Hunting turkeys in the spring, when toms can be lured into shotgun range with decoys and wailing hens, is quite different from shooting them around a feeder in the fall. There’s something magical about hearing a gobbler bump right out of sight and suddenly pop out of the brush full leg within shotgun or bow range. I’ve hunted wild turkeys since the early 1980’s and can truly say that no two turkey hunts are exactly the same. One day, it’s spring turkey hunting: I imitate the sound of a turkey hen with my box call and I hear a gobbler go off in the distance. I wait a few minutes and call again and hear him stop and swallow even closer. So it is until a tall gobbler comes trotting out of the brush, looking for what he thinks is his morning sweetheart. Other days I hear no answer to my call, but I stay hidden, call every three or four minutes, and just bring a gobbler out of the brush.
I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time turkey hunting with my friend, the late Bob Hood, a well-known outdoor writer from Texas. Bob had a saying, “Patience kills more turkeys than anything.” He was referring to the fact that far too many turkey hunters lack the patience to simply sit in one spot, in full camouflage and wait for the turkeys to arrive at their location. Bob could back up against a tree with some brush for cover and sit for hours if he knew he was in a good place to intercept gobblers and look for love.
But sometimes it helps for the turkey hunter to be on the move. Say, for example, you hear a gobbler answer your call across a stream or along a fence and it just won’t close the distance. When this happens, and it happens quite often, I move a hundred yards and start calling again. The gobbler thinks the hen is on the move and often heads straight for where he thinks she is. This is a well-known trick that most turkey hunters use regularly to capture a bird that for some reason is a little reluctant to come close.
It is important to be as comfortable as possible when setting up to call. I carry a folding stool with a backrest and cushion to sit on and have found it much easier to stay quiet and still when sitting in a chair than on the floor. Admittedly, packing the extra gear when running and shooting a turkey hunt is a bit of a hassle, but it’s way better than sitting on the ground.
I love wild turkey meat and enjoy a large pot of turkey soup made with drumsticks and thighs. Some hunters are hesitant to cook drumsticks because of all the little feathery bones, but the meat is excellent and about an hour of slow simmering in a covered pot will make even the oldest gobbler’s drumsticks tender.
A large platter of chicken fried wild turkey breast meat with cream sauce and jasmine rice is enough to spark a springtime turkey hunt. If you are new to turkey hunting, don’t be fooled into thinking that these birds are nearly impossible to capture. They are wary, have excellent eyesight, and pick up movement quickly, but can be successfully captured by the hunter who uses good camouflage and cover and remains as still as possible.
Remember the third annual Spring Ren-De-Voux in Greenville on March 12 at the Top Rail Cowboy Church. A booth is available. Contact Luke Clayton firstname.lastname@example.org or Charlie Nassar at 903-217 3778.