I’ve been turkey hunting for many years. I’ve chased them across the hills of Kansas all the way through the cactus and brush of Junction, Texas. More than a few times I’ve been outsmarted by these clever yet goofy birds.
Turkeys have keen eyesight and bionic hearing. It’s often said they’d be impossible to hunt if they could smell. The tricky little fools can leave you feeling like an idiot at the end of the day. It doesn’t help that you can hear turkeys from far away; you can easily find yourself chasing them in the wrong direction.
For the last two years I’ve been hunting turkeys with Tek Outdoors at a ranch in Del Rio, Texas (less than five miles from the Mexican border). The turkey population on this 6,000 acre ranch is . . . promising.
Thanks to the extremely dry and hot weather in Texas in recent years, turkeys have become harder to find. Last season I went home empty-handed. There were a large number of Jakes and hens but gobblers were scarce. This year, the gobblers were everywhere.
I arrived at camp late Thursday night. Matt and I tried out his new truck-mounted predator call. In that seemingly endless open space, Matt’s truck looked like a spaceship that had landed in the dry desert in Rio Grande.
Right before dusk we scouted the roosting area from afar. With a purple sky as a backdrop we admired turkeys on top of the tree as the birds got ready to roost for the night. The gobblers had been unusually quiet for so early in the season, no doubt affected by the unusually hot spring weather.
The next morning we set up and waited. And waited. For two hours. Although we could hear active gobbling we saw nothing. We gave infrequent calls, using clucks mixed with yelping.
Finally, a couple of hens appeared. Still no Tom, even though we could hear them gobbling in the area. We got up and moved, walking towards the gobbling.
After a few more yelps we ducked down behind some cacti. Within minutes I spotted three males on the other side of the bushes coming towards us. A hen in the area was answering our yelping, drawing in the gobblers.
As I sat there, starting to feel the cactus on my butt, Tom came right around the corner looking for a hot hen.
[The effects of adrenaline never ceases to amaze me when I’m sitting with my gun so close, so very close, to my prey. I was literally shaking with excitement.]
As soon as Tom cleared the corner, I checked to make sure I was looking at a mature bird. I took my shot.
Tom fell, breaking my dry streak. I was elated. Hunting success is a beautiful thing — even more so when shared with a good friend.
I know that various outdoor pursuits — hiking, rock climbing, skiing, camping, etc. — give participants a direct connection to the natural world. For me, hunting ties me to something vast and eternal in a way that nothing else has or can.
I always give thanks after a kill. I thank God for his bounty. For this hunt, I thanked Him for creating a world where turkeys defy hunters — providing a lesson in patience, perseverance and humility that everyone can and should experience, one way or another.