2012 Texas Spring Turkey Trip
First stop on my 2012 "Heads Will Roll" Spring Turkey Tour- Texas Hill Country. Originally I had planned to hunt with my old friend and good buddy, Preston Lawson at the Gumbo Ranch, just south of San Angelo. Earlier that winter, Preston had a scheduling conflict and would not arrive at the ranch until after my flight back home. I was unable to move dates around as I had registered for the Dallas Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon, then planned to spend a week with my daughter, son in-law, and three grandchildren. The power vacation would then finish up with a three day turkey hunt. I was disappointed as I truly enjoy a good hunt with Preston. After a little scrambling, and some quick research, I followed up on a few ideas from Preston.
I whittled down my options, deciding on a semi-guided hunt at Magnum Guide Service, located in Eldorado. I would hunt out of one of their ranches located in Sonora. This would include meals, accommodations at the ranch, transportation to the leases, and coveted known intel on gobbling birds. With the vacation crisis averted, my tour would begin on schedule.
Once in a great while, things do line up properly, and I would enjoy the best of many circumstances. One of which rarely cooperates is the weather. The weeks leading up to my departure were filled with unseasonably warm, bright and sunny days in mid-March. The weather began to return to more seasonable temps the day I left for Texas. The good weather followed me the entire trip. I couldn't ask for a better deal than that.
The vacation went as planned, starting out the first weekend with family, and participating in the race. The race event itself went well, I executing a good race plan, ran my best time in fifteen years, and had my grandchildren there to see me finish. The next few days was spent with family, helping install a wood floor in my daughter's house, and had a night out for a great meal and a movie. The week flew by as expected.
After picking up a rental car in Keller, I headed out to Sonora the following day on Friday. Another sunny day made for a scenic trip across Texas. I made it into camp early that afternoon, and settled right in. After meeting fellow hunters. guides, and cook staff, we had a way too good of a meal. After the huge dinner, we all hung out for a casual evening. There were eleven hunters in camp, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie, as it was a good crew in my humble opinion. The kind of folk you like more and more as you spend time with them.
We were entertained as well that evening by the "house flock" that hung around the ranch house. The flock included some huge gobblers, and that had everyone pumped up for the first morning of the hunt. The guides were well seasoned and very competent in their own right, the hunters in camp were all experience deer and or turkey hunters. This would spell bad news for gobblers the following morning.
No need for alarm clock first morning. Everyone was up early and ready to go. After a huge breakfast, we were off to the drop off points. After getting a rundown on features of the pasture I would start in, and where I could expect to hear gobblers on the roost, I headed out in to the darkness. I would follow an old roadway to listen for the first gobble.
As the first glow of light changed to day break, gobblers sounded off. As it turned out, the birds were in the general direction as described, but another 300-400 yards further back, and in another pasture. It was thought that birds were roosting on both sides of the pasture, but not to be this particular morning. In fact uncustomary to most years, the gobblers were changing roosts almost daily. Although I did not hunt this same pasture again, another hunter went there the following morning, and had birds gobble on both sides, with one being reasonably close. That bird rode back in the truck.
I heard eight different gobblers as well as hens, which were not far from each other. With a fence between us, it proved difficult to make them cover the distance with a girlfriend by their side. Rio's will cover ground, and lots of it. However, unless I got the hens to come, or a gobbler to peel off, I was not going to be in the game. I did manage to get a gobbler, a hen, and likely a jake (judging by the poor attempt at gobbling) to come close to the fence line. After a brief exchange they followed the fence out on a big flat, gobbled one last time about a half mile away, and that was all she wrote.
Gobbling stopped all together around 9AM, and it got hot. Another sunny day, heard gobbling, not a bad start.
Afternoon was uneventful, with the exception of a hen I called in and kept around for fifty minutes. We had some nice conversation, and a little back and forth. No boyfriend in tow or nearby.
Other hunters had some luck first day, and there were seven gobblers tagged. A father and son in-law team doubled on long beards, with the son in-law tagging his first bird ever! Another great meal and I hit the bed early as my allergies kicked in with heavy green up. With the high pollen count my sinuses were in overdrive. Everything was in bloom, and it hit me like it hadn't done in years.
The second morning I started out in another pasture that had birds gobbling there the day prior. I felt a bit better after a few sinus meds, and it was a welcomed relief. With a mile walk to my first listening spot, I headed out along another roadway before first light. Like the day before, only at a different location, the gobblers had moved. Instead of being roosted in the draw or on top of a small hill, they sounded off out past a huge open prairie, in another pasture. I found a small oak hammock off a point to set up. Even though 600-800 yards lay between us, I could not make a move unless they moved down into the draw, or over to the other side of the hill. With so much open space, I set out a motion decoy behind my location about twenty yards or so out in the roadway that wrapped around the point.
After the first gobbles, there was a long pause of way too long type. I issued a short series with my short box, and got cut off by four gobblers. In fact, no more gobbling would occur unless I made a call. I kept stretching out the time, hoping to get them in a seek and find mode. It was quiet enough that I believe I could have heard a hen, if there was one there. Although I did not hear any hens, I suspected there was. All four gobblers would answer the box or a mouth call.
As expected the gobbling changed after fly down. They all sounded further away except for one! It wasn't long that I spotted a gobbler jumping the pasture fence about 400 yards out. He was coming in full strut, only to stop, look, and gobble along the way. Half way across the field I issued the last series of calls, and put the gun up. There was just enough brush to hide minor adjustments in the last 200 yards. The gobbler was cautious as he closed the distance, but most importantly he kept coming. The rising sun lit the gobbler up, making for a most vivid and brilliant memory of him as he approached. As he closed to forty yards, he began to circle, with his body language suggesting he did not like the decoy. I decided right then and there that he should not have an opinion, I did however give him one as I squeezed the trigger! First bird down!
A solid three year old bird sporting 1" spurs, 9" beard. I figured him to go maybe nineteen pounds, not much more than that. After taking some pictures, the birds began to gobble again. Gobbling trailed off around 9:30AM. The rest of the morning would remain uneventful, although very pleasant from my perspective. The walk back to the pickup point and the hearty lunch that followed seemed that much more enjoyable with a successful morning.
The afternoon hunt would be at another pasture, and would be where a pile of gobblers had been heard. I was informed that they were hanging up hard, and just out of range. The afternoon would be hot as well, but cooler than the day prior.
After being set out for the afternoon hunt, I went back in past where the gobblers had been hanging up. I quickly found an open area with a natural funnel and pinch point. Being satisfied with what I came across, I settled into another small cluster of oaks with ample shade. The plan was to spend time there with a low impact approach. Calling would be spread out twenty-thirty minutes at a time, and no loud calling unless the wind picked up.
Several hours had passed, and the wind had picked up enough to require a little more volume from the calls. I had not called for twenty minutes, when a bird gobbled 200+ yards to my right. Being that I was close to being caught asleep while on point, it caught me by surprise. Having plenty of experience of gobblers sneaking in later in the day, I knew full well the importance of staying sharp and focused. Even though it had reached ninety out, I had a shady spot with a cool breeze to aide my comfort. The sleepy type of comfort. Recouping from an "almost buggered it up" moment, I responded with a call. A minute later, came a delayed response. I followed up with another call series, nothing answered back. I decided to hold off after that. Fifteen long minutes go by. The bird sounded off again but had moved off. I oblige with a short series of yelps with a box call, no response. At this point, I was not thinking too much of this, as I had "been there, done that" before. A little while later the bird gobbles again in about the same place he first started, and another bird further back jumps on it and gobbles. I cut and pop on a mouth call, and they both cut me off. Waited five minutes, called again, no response. Switched to the box call and tried another short series plus a couple of cutts, same deal. I shut it down, and wait it out. Each minute that passed felt like an hour.
The bird might just walk off, but I needed to change it up, and make them come looking. Twenty minutes pass, same bird in the same spot, rips out a gobble. I stand my ground, no call, not a peep. The time now passes like molasses on a cold day. Eight-ten minutes pass, he gobbles again, but this time the crucial clue! The gobble had changed, more intense, louder, and longer. I give him three yelps off my Halloran box, gobbler cuts me off before I get to the third yelp. I get the gut feeling he is going to commit, and come in front and center. I gave it a full minute, then started to cutt at him with a mouth call. Never finished as the bird's gobble drowned me out first note in, 100 yards and closing. Gun up! He came straight at me through a cedar thicket. Seconds pass, and I spotted his snowball head fifty yards out. He was wasting no time getting to me. Closing to twenty five yards, he passed behind a cedar bush just before his final steps, allowing one last adjustment of the gun barrel. Once he closed to twenty five yards directly in front, he dropped into full strut for a brief moment, and just as quickly folded up, ready to march onward. I popped a hard cutt on the mouth call, which the gobbler liked well enough to stick his neck out (literally) for. The gobble never came out, or was drowned out by the shotgun blast. I had the holosight in acquisition mode with target lock. At the shot the bird was laid out flat where he had stood. A load of Hevi-13 delivers as advertised.
Second bird down is another three year old gobbler sporting 1" spurs, 8-3/4" beard- although thinner due to partially being broke off near the breast. This gobbler was slightly lighter than the first gobbler in the 18 pound range. Having filled my second tag at 6PM, I had another full hour plus to go before being picked up. I took my time to find nice spots for pictures. When I was all done with that, I sat down along the fence line and enjoyed the remaining daylight, as the air had cooled with a constant breeze. Being a little full of myself over the day's success, I also found myself a little disappointed that my wife was not there to share it with, as she could not get the time off to make the trip. Lee and I have shared many hunts together, and even enjoyed a double now and then. With a little planning and continued good circumstance we may make the trip back down together.
With the second day over, the crew of eleven hunters had seventeen tags filled, all of which were long beards. Despite the odds of it, the father and son in-law team would double again! There was one hunter there from Pennsylvania, that needed a Rio for a grand slam, but had done all but pull the trigger up to this point. He would have his day the following morning on the last day of hunt. The eighteenth bird brought in would be the bad boy of the hunt, sporting 1-1/4" spurs. They spent three days figuring him out and got it done on the last day!
All in all it was a great hunt. The food and hospitality was more than you could ever ask for, thousands of acres to chase long beards, and a great bunch hunters to share turkey camp with. I spent the last morning going for a run along the main ranch road. What a treat it was to listen to birds gobble as I trudged along my route! The ride back to Dallas was just as sunny coming out, and all the more pleasant after a quality hunt with good people coupled with a great harvest!
© 2012 Joyner Outdoor Media