When you see a turkey hunting article with the word "Texas" in it, you immediately expect action. Just hang on a minute.
I'd actually been to Texas twice previously. The first time, I should have killed two turkeys but missed one and blew my chance at another. Oh, and I'd also stepped right over a coiled rattler. The second trip was painfully slow for Texas, but again, I should have killed two birds. Instead, I spooked one and passed on what I thought was an iffy shot — but was not — at the other. And we probably encountered 20 rattlesnakes while hunting. I was so nervous by the end of the trip that I jumped every time a covey of quail flushed.
So when trip No. 3 came around, I was ready for blood. I wouldn't have to wait long. We were at the Ford Ranch near Brady, and my hosts were Dick and Chris Kirby, Ernie Calandrelli and Mark Scroggins.
The first morning, I joined Dick Kirby and watched as he played a masterpiece on his legendary boat-paddle box call. Within a half-hour of flydown, he'd yelped a big Rio strutter to within 20 steps of our setup. I sat ready, watching the show, trying to help the videographer milk the footage. Finally, however, Dick couldn't take any more and yelled, "Shoot him!" I obliged, and my first Rio Grande hit the dirt.
After doing interviews and cutaways, we moved up a few hundred yards, and Dick went to work. I sat and watched as he called a somewhat hesitant longbeard to within easy gun range and then finished the deal. It was a great chance to watch a master ply his trade.
The next day, I joined Calandrelli and Scroggins at another pasture, where fellow outdoors writer Bill Vaznis had shot two gobblers the previous day. We sat up and vowed to camp out, and within minutes, the champion callers had birds gobbling around us.
One gobbled behind our setup, so I quickly crawled behind Calandrelli and set up on that bird. For the next 30 minutes, I listened as the gobbler drummed his way into range. At the same time, however, Scroggins and Calandrelli had two other longbeards approaching them.
My turkey won the race, and when he popped into view at 18 steps, I shot him. I looked back to see Calandrelli and Scroggins laughing and shaking their heads. I learned later that they'd had two gobblers in their decoys and were filming the action when I shot. No matter. They were pretty confident there would be another turkey.
The fantastic hunting almost made up for the sting of my first two Texas trips. Better yet, we hadn't seen a rattlesnake. I felt like I could finally say, "God bless Texas."