Posted by Jim Schlender, Editor
Just got back from a hunt with Rut-N-Strut Guide Service in Sayre, Oklahoma. Rut-N-Strut owner Todd Rogers has access to thousands of acres, and it is crawling with birds. Rick White and Phillip Vanderpool of Hunter's Specialties have filmed hunts at Todd's place for years, so they served as guides and "chief information officers" for our group of writers, along with H.S. p.r. guy Mike Capps and Benelli product manager Jason Evans.
The first evening White and I sat atop a hill and watched nearly 200 turkeys stream out of the hills and into a creek bottom where they went to roost in the huge cottonwoods. We knew where we would be the next morning.
Little did we know that several forces would work against us. First, there must have been some sort of mega-hatch last spring, because everywhere we went we encountered jakes by the dozen ... or two dozen ... or even three dozen. A couple times we were working a gobbler only to have a gang of jakes get between us and the tom, effectively cutting him off. One rainy afternoon I watched four jakes harass a gobbler in a wheat field. They chased him around and took turns pummeling him for several minutes. Finally the gobbler lay down as if to say he'd had enough, and the jakes wandered off. (A couple minutes later the tom got up and ran to catch up with the jakes, so maybe he got what he deserved.)
Did I mention rain? We got 5 to 8 inches, depending on which meterologist you believed, and most of it fell sideways. And when it wasn't raining, the wind blew, often gusting to 40 mph. There was plenty of thunder, lightning and hail, too.
I managed to win ugly at mid-morning the first day. A big thunderstorm had just passed when Rick and I were driving down a gravel road and spotted several birds -- sex and size undetermined -- in a cow pasture along a sparsely wooded creek. They looked like jakes, but Rick dropped me off so I could get a closer look. I had only crept about 100 yards down the deep creek bottom when a gobble rang out from the pasture. I got next to the biggest tree I could find and yelped. Another gobble! And then I waited ... and waited ... and waited. I was getting wetter by the minute and because this was my first hunt of the year I had zero patience. I decided to sneak up the bank and peek over to see what was going on. The clay bank had turned into a slip-n-slide from all the rain, and about halfway up it my feet shot out behind me and I slammed to the ground ... sort of. I cleverly used my shotgun to cushion my fall, being sure to smack the rib against my lower lip so my face wouldn't get muddy. I came up spitting blood and in the process blew my diaphragm call into a cowpie.
Now it was pouring and I was thoroughly disgusted. I slowly crawled the last 15 feet and peeked into the pasture. Jake, jake, jake, jake, jake ... tom! They were only 30 yards away and headed straight at me, the gobbler in the lead. I raised my head a couple inches and he stopped with that "What the ... ?" look, so I vented my frustration on him.
The 3-year-old was as soaked as I was, and the weather never even gave me a chance to take a few pictures. The photo at the top of the page is of the Benelli Super Black Eagle II with Steady Grip stock and Federal Heavyweight Mag Shock No. 7 loads I was using. The turkey is courtesy of writer Bob Humphrey, who graciously allowed me to borrow it so I could snap a few pictures during a rare appearance of sunshine.
At left is the kind of terrain you encounter in western Oklahoma. As you can see, it's all about finding wooded creek bottoms. At least that's a good place to start hunting if you're unfamiliar with the area. I have a lot more to say about the gun-and-load combinations we were using on this trip. Our sighting-in sessions revealed some impressive patterns. I will have to get out to the range and shoot a few more shells to give you a complete report.
As for Rut-N-Strut, this year's jake population should virtually guarantee a bumper crop of 2-year-olds for next season. For more information, contact Todd Rogers at 580.799.1920.