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Earning My First Rio

Trapper & Predator Caller Managing Editor Jared Blohm shot this Rio Grande gobbler in western Oklahoma.

By Jared Blohm

It was beginning to feel like it was going to be one of “those” hunts. The gobblers were henned up and hard to pin down, and things just didn’t seem to be falling our way. On the first day of the hunt alone, we battled fog and an angry bull and had a farmer and a nearby gun shot spook approaching longbeards.

On the second morning of my western Oklahoma hunt, Rick White, of Hunter’s Specialties, and I were set up a couple hundred yards from a row of cottonwoods. The longbeards shook the limbs with gobbles as soon as the sun began to peak over the hill. Soon, the gobblers flew down and followed hens straight up the hill, just like Rick said they had been doing all week. Only this time they turned and walked up a second hill, tantalizingly close, but just outside of range from our Hunter’s Specialties Primetime Ground Blind. Efforts to woo the gobblers back into range were futile. They followed the hens away and we didn’t see them again.

That afternoon, my last in Oklahoma, called for a switch in tactics. It was time to run-and-gun.

We called from hilltops and listened for a response. When we heard one, we’d make up ground in the open, hilly country by using the terrain to conceal our movement. It was a bit of a hail mary, and a lot of work, but I was running out of time to tag my first Rio.

Almost immediately, we spotted a gobbler across a field and made a move, but somehow the bird caught on to us before we were close enough for a shot. Later, a pair of longbeards we thought we had cut in front of undetected never showed themselves again.

We were about ready to find a place to sit for an evening hunt when Rick heard a gobble in the distance. We covered ground as quickly as possible, stopping on top of higher knobs to call and listen. The gobblers responded every time. The last time, they were right below us.

We climbed down the hill and got as close as possible. Soon, we saw two longbeards strutting among a group of hens. We watched helplessly as the hens pulled them in the opposite direction. We had to make one more move.

Rick and I cut around to the edge of a dried-up pond bed, expecting to see the birds cutting through the open ground. But they weren’t there.

“When I got up there, I could see 80 percent of the pond and there were no turkeys anywhere near it,” Rick said. “It’s a pretty big pond so I figured the turkeys had probably just gotten away from us, eluded us. I slipped up a little bit farther and there they were just beyond the pond dam, I mean within 10 or 15 yards.”

Rick backed off and signaled where the birds were to me. I quietly army-crawled into position and found the longbeard's head in my Burris FastFire III site. I pulled the trigger. My Stoeger M3000 delivered a lethal load of Federal Premium Mag Shok Heavyweight Turkey, and my first Rio longbeard dropped like a rock.

As I high-fived Rick, I thanked him for a bird and a hunt I'll never forget. It wasn't a traditional call-and-response turkey hunt, but we couldn't have been happier with how it transpired.

“Quite honestly, we earned that turkey,” Rick said. “There’s no doubt about it. We put in a lot of time and a lot of effort, and 10 pounds later, we were able to get close to them. I always tell people, turkey hunting is turkey hunting. You do whatever it takes to be successful. It’s probably harder to do what we did than to sit down on a gobbling turkey and just have him come into a decoy and shoot him, which is a great way to do it and a lot of fun, but when you earn turkeys like what we did in this situation, you’ve got to feel good about it.”

And I felt great as I lugged that longbeard over my shoulder back up the hills toward the truck. What a hunt!

Jared Blohm is the managing editor of Trapper & Predator Caller.

 

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