My Spring 2008 turkey season started as usual. I burned some vacation before the season opened to do some scouting and a little shed hunting. On the first afternoon of my arrival, I went out to scout around some feed stations, just to see if the turkey were in the area.
Ten minutes after I started, I let out a series of yelps, and some excited cutting (just for the heck of it). Instantly, a gobbler fired off! He was within sixty yards, and was coming fast. I jumped in a clump of mesquite, and called the big old tom to within ten steps. He was beautiful. I was surprised that I called him in, as I had no decoy, and the truck was in plain sight! What a start to the Spring season.
The next morning, I went out to listen and scout some more. I went out to the bottom wheat field, sat down and listened. I figured toms would use this field to strut and gather hens. This is the first time I saw him — a big old tom I named “Tank.” As I sat with my video camera, and tripod, I filmed this big gobbler for over an hour.
The tom’s beard seemed to disappear into the ankle high wheat, and his fan was the biggest I had ever seen. It was a beautiful white color, not common on Rios. Finally, he gathered roughly a dozen hens, and left the field. For the rest of the day, I located some roost sites and gobblers using a crow call. For the next two days, I filmed the big tom in the field. I had along my two brothers, and my father would join us later, so I was trying to locate as many birds as I could to show them a good hunt.
I sat around that afternoon, and watched the temperature drop. The next morning I awoke to 39 degree temperature. It had dropped 53 degrees since the afternoon before! As a result, the birds talked little that day — one day before the opener — but I was still confident, due to my scouting efforts.
Fast forward to opening morning: I woke up ready to hit the woods! My brother and I headed out, and ended up working several gobblers within 75 yards, but the hens won that battle. About mid-morning, we headed back to get my dad, and my eight-year-old brother Spencer. Dad asked what my plan was, as the turkey had shut up due to the cold temperatures and cloudy weather. I told them we were going to head to a wheat field I had scouted, and set up a strutting tom, and two hen decoys. I would call sparingly, and see what happened.
We set up in the middle of a wheat field, in a clump of live oaks. Trying to hide four hunters, and a video camera, is no easy task. I called for about ten minutes, and brought two jakes into twenty yards. My dad took the larger of the two birds. My little brother was so excited — he had never been turkey hunting — and after a short while, he had two birds at spitting distance!
As I set up the camera to take pictures of my family with the bird I thought to myself, This is why I turkey hunt. I went back to camp, and took Spencers’ bird to the taxidermist. Later that afternoon, I worked another tom to within 50 yards, but he locked up. I took my brother to the field that I had filmed old Tank in the day before, set up the strutter decoy and again began calling.
Suddenly, we heard a loud Garobbbbble! There he stood, still as a statue, looking at the strutter. He came in at a run, and tackled the decoy — beating and pecking the fake tom for at least fifteen minutes. Up close, this gobbler was even bigger than I had thought. His big white fan, and long beard, were larger than life at just twenty paces.
My brother took the shot; and it was his first bird. Spencer jumped up, ran to the tom, and could not quit smiling. And what a tom it was: The bird sported a ten inch beard, with 1 1/2-inch spurs — a true legend of the cactus flats of Brady.
After another picture session with the family, I again thought to myself, This is why I turkey hunt.
The next morning was again cool, cloudy, and very windy. My brother and I worked yet another tom to within shotgun range, but a bad set up proved fatal. It was just too thick to see the old bird.
The following weekend, I took my brother and a mutual friend to put the chase on those longbeards. We were greeted with hot temperatures and very little wind. And the first afternoon of our arrival, we had trouble finding a tom to work.
That evening I crow called, and BAM! He fired off. We all jumped into a pile of bushes, and I began to do some soft calling. There was no response — not a sound. I let out a series of loud yelps and cutting. Instantly, there was a loud Garobbbble! “Here he comes guys!” I said. As if to appear from the pile of cactus I was staring at, there he was, strutting, with the hot Texas sun beating on his fan. It looked as if he had a light bulb behind that fan.
We waited as long as we could, but Andrew could not get a shot. Finally, I told my brother Spencer to take him. Andrew could see him, but had too much brush between him and the bird. That’s when my brother stepped up to the plate and smoked his second bird of the season: He was a dandy three-year-old tom, too, with over a nine inch beard and 1 1/4-inch spurs.
After giving me a big hug, the two boys ran up to the tom. Andrew was just as excited as if he had taken the tom himself. “Scotty, this is the best experience of my life,” said Andrew, as they both thanked me. Earlier that year, I took Andrew out, and helped him shoot his first deer. He is now hooked on hunting.
After an hour of picture-taking, admiring the bird, and retelling the story a thousand times, I realized again, This is why I turkey hunt. We had to leave the next morning, but what a trip, and what a memory!
But we weren’t done yet. The following weekend.my brother Steven and I arrived at the ranch late Friday night. The next morning, we instantly got a tom to respond to our calling. I knew where he was, and we had to circle around about two hundred yards, to get to where we could work him. As we arrived near the set up, I let out a soft series of yelps and, like clockwork, Garobbbbbbble! He was fifty yards and closing fast.
But we had a problem: There we stood, in the wide open, with no time to find a better set up. I handed Steven the strutter, instructing him to lay down and hold the decoy up. I got down next to him in the field, and yelped twice.
Garrrrrooooobbbbble!40 yards, just around the bend.
First two hens appeared. They walked to within five yards of us. And then the gobbler showed up, walking straight toward us. Thirty-five yards…then thirty yards…then fifteen yards and BOOM! The tom fell to the 3 1/2 inch magnum turkey load as if hit by a truck. Steven jumped up, gave me a high five and could not believe we had pulled this off. Another amazing memory.
Later that evening, we set up on a turkey, that gobbled only slightly. However, just before dark the gobbler flew into the field and lit in our decoys. The tom was probably a two year old turkey. As I contemplated shooting him, I looked up and a group of huge hogs had entered the field. I knew Steven had wanted to take a hog, so I waited for the tom to walk off, and told Steven to go ahead and do a sneak.
I video taped him closing the distance on the hog. And he was able to whack that young hog with a magnum turkey load. Result: Another great hunt, and another wonderful memory.
As I sit writing this story, there is two weeks left in the season. I believe I am through for the season, but what a season it has been. I was able to help fulfill the dream of taking a spring bird for three people very close to me — to show them a successful hunt. For me, this is the greatest thrill of all. I learned I would rather call a turkey in for someone else, than actually take a bird myself.
I helped get a young man — and my eight-year-old brother — hooked on the sport. In a world of soaring gas prices, crime, and sadness, it is amazing how just getting out and chasing turkeys can make you forget about all of the problems of the world, at least for a little while. As I sat there at camp after that last hunt with my brother, I thanked the Lord for all He has given, and for helping me see the real reasons why I hunt turkey.
I would like to thank my Dad for always taking the time to take me hunting and my mother for allowing us to hunt while putting up with our crazy addiction. I would like to thank Mr. Richard Saunders for helping instill the love of hunting in me, and for putting up with all my questions when I was younger, plus Denver Hall and Jerry Hancock for all of the great hunting memories, and the Almighty for allowing it all to happen.