South Texas Spring Hunting: Chasing the Rio Grande Turkey

I recently found myself en route from my home state of Alabama to the Chaparrosa Ranch in La Pryor Texas. What was worth the 800+ mile trip? The chance to bag a Rio Grande turkey. I’ve killed plenty of eastern toms, but as an avid bird hunter, this was a hunt I’d dreamed of for years. I’d logged lots of YouTube time, seeing the birds others had bagged and knew this was one I had to get under my belt.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly staff including guides who explained the strategies of the upcoming hunt as we talked before before dinner. For this trip I’d brought along a Remington 870 DM Predator that was kitted out perfectly for  turkey and predator hunting. I also brought along my favorite mouth call from Sweet Home Custom Calls, which proved brought many a tom into shooting range for me.

The next morning, I was jerked out of a sounds sleep at 5:00 a.m. to a the sound of a screeching alarm clock, scrambled down for some breakfast before heading out int the early morning darkness. My hunting partner Jessica and I were placed in a ground blind in hopes of taking down a double. As the sun began to rise, we quickly began to realize the abundance of toms close by.

They plentiful birds gobbled consistently, about every 5-10 minutes without prompting all through the morning. It wasn’t long before the birds hit the ground, feeding throughout the field in front of us on grubs, insects, and seeds.

Jessica whispered, “Here come some from our left,” which sent me into an adrenaline rush as I watched several toms strut around. At almost the same time, another group began moving our way from the right side of the blind. We slowly positioned our guns to take aim, but I couldn’t seem to get them to stop long enough for a clear shot.

Once they passed the blind we repositioned and each took aim on two beautiful toms in full strut. The plan was to count down from three and shoot simultaneously. Three, two, one, BOOM! The shots rang out across the field…without cutting a single feather. We looked at our guns, then each other in disbelief. Neither of us should have missed at that kind of distance.

After spending some time at the range we quickly discovered the problem. Our guns had been knocked around during shipment and weren’t close to zero. We both knew that we should have shot them before the hunt, but with our late arrival, we didn’t have enough daylight to get to the range.

After just a few shots, both guns were dialed in for the afternoon hunt. While traveling out to the blind we noticed a tom walking around in one of the fields. We slowly walked down the path and slipped into position without being detected. I decided to use the mouth call to entice him.

With ever cluck or yelp the bird answered back, moving closer and closer as he did. That’s when he apparently decided that any hen in the area should naturally want to come to him and ambled away into the brush. The rest of the afternoon went about the same, seeing only two hens. With the stench of defeat clinging to us, we headed back to the lodge to rest up for the next morning’s hunt.

As daylight approached Alex Holzmeier, Chaparrosa’s ranch manager, and I found ourselves set up in a blind in the same field I had previously worked a tom. It was a quiet morning with only sporadic breaking the silence. One bird constantly drummed close by, though.

Around 7:30 the birds began making their way out for breakfast. They fed around just out of range for several hours without responding to our calls. When they began to move out of sight, we decided to move, crawling through rattle snake country in hopes of fooling one of the wily old toms. For some reason, the hens in the area intrigued the toms more than our calls did. Time to move on.

We drove to the highest point on the ranch that had an opening below with hopes of finding some strutting toms. As we scanned the opening, five toms walked out in full strut, gobbling every minute or so. Alex said, “Let’s walk down the road that leads to the field and see if we can call them to us.” I was all for a stalking mission.

We found a short mesquite tree surrounded with vegetation just off the path that made for perfect cover. Alex placed a hen decoy in the road so the birds could see what was calling at them. We each used different mouth calls to imitate the sound of different hens to arouse their attention.

With every call we got an answer from the toms. After sitting there for only five minutes we caught a glimpse of the birds strutting out of the woods. I was amazed that all of the toms had decided to check us out. They strutted for a few seconds then began running towards the decoy, completely disregarding our presence. Until, that is, they were just out of shooting range.

I wondered if they’d somehow seen us coming. Then, as the last turkey disappeared in the brush, the first stepped back out twenty steps to my left. I had no option but to slowly swing my gun his way, which spooked the lead bird. However the second tom stopped long enough to gobble and I delivered a volley of Nitro No. 5 shot to its head shot to punch the tag on my first Rio.

All I can remember was jumping up with joy as I bolted towards my prize. Even with my hooping and hollering we could still hear the birds gobbling as I broke out into my little turkey shuffle dane. The best part was that Alex was just as excited as I was about the whole experience.

There’s something to be said about a guide who’s genuinely excited for you when you get your quarry. Alex is hands down one of the best guides I’ve hunted with. Hunting in Texas for the Rio Grande turkey is a memory I’ll always have. I cherish every moment the Lord allows me out in the field and this trip was more than satisfying.

 

 

comments

  1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Is the turkey going to be okay?

    1. avatar Amfivena says:

      He’ll be just fine after a good feather plucking session, some nip/tuck with a sharp knife and two hours in a 325 degree sauna.

    2. avatar Bloving says:

      “Yelp. Yelpyelpyelp. Scratch. Chirp.”
      “Boggleoggleoggle…”
      🦃🦃🦃
      🤠

    3. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Yes, how’d you get him to hold still for the photos like that? Amazing.

      1. avatar Moltar says:

        the power of the beard compelled him. As the bird gazed into his majestic beard young Benjamin hypnotized the animal into standing still for the photographs. He is now Benjamin Cole, Turkey Whisperer I think he already has a deal with National Geographic and will be following the Dog Whisperer on Tuesday night.

  2. avatar Ralph says:

    When I read “Chasing the Rio Grande Turkey,” I thought the author had been after Beto O’Rourke.

    Silly me.

    1. avatar LKB says:

      Ralph wins the Internet today!

  3. avatar Moltar says:

    good lookin bird. He’ll look even better once he’s plucked, cleaned, rubbed, and deep fried.

  4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Damn good reading.
    April 15th is the opening of spring turkey here in Oregon. I’ll be cruising over to my nephews house in The Dalles to try my hand at a big tom.
    I’ve got my flechette dart rounds ready…

    1. avatar Ben says:

      Thank you sir! Good luck in all of your adventures!

  5. avatar The Rookie says:

    I’ve always wanted to try wild turkey (other than the kind that comes in a bottle – I’m plenty familiar with that : ) . Do you have to lard it/wrap it in bacon or brine it to keep it moist, or does it do okay being roasted like a domestic bird?

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Baste, baste, baste. And then baste it again.

      Brining also works. Williams Sonoma Autumn Fruit and Spice is my favorite. Expensive, but worth it. It also turns a store-bought fresh (not frozen) turkey into a masterpiece.

    2. avatar Ben says:

      Generally, I will cut strips to deep fry or I will smoke it for 6-8 hours. I have to say smoked turkey is outstanding.

    3. avatar Jjimmyjonga says:

      Med-light brine is the secret (to most all game meat really). Poke holes in meat to let brine in.

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