The final day to hunt turkeys in Bell County is May 11.
“Hunting turkeys has been really good lately,” said Donnie Mathes, a 28-year game warden on Fort Hood. “Actually it’s been good since the start of the season (March 29). We’ve had 93 toms on Fort Hood, and that’s pretty darn good.
“We’ve had two really good hatches in a row. A lot of the young have survived, so subsequently we’ve got a lot of turkeys out there right now.”
The legal limit is four toms per season.
“Experience helps a lot in hunting turkeys,” Mathes said. “A person needs to go out once or twice with someone with turkey-hunting experience, then they’ll pick it up a lot faster.
“The most common mistake new turkey hunters make is they call too much. Once the turkey hears you and answers you, you’re fine. The biggest rookie mistake is calling too much.”
Master Sgt. Tim Rake, 1st Cavalry Division, is an avid outdoorsman.
“Successful turkey hunting starts with preseason scouting,” Rake said. “Knowing the habits of the turkeys is critical. The toms have their strut zones, they pump themselves all up and try to act attractive to the hens. You look for the strut zones, the roosting areas and where they’re feeding.
“Then, once you’re all set up, the tom will gobble early, so you make a few soft calls to that turkey — just so he knows where you’re at. Then, stop calling. Wait for the turkey to come off the roost. He’ll gobble a few times for you. In a perfect world, in the first 15 minutes, that turkey will come right to you and you’re hunting is done.”
But, said Rake, with a laugh, this is not a perfect world.
“Sometimes the tom will see real hens and he’ll follow them. He sees them, they’re real. He doesn’t want to go to your call, because he’s got the real deal.”
If you haven’t done any preseason scouting, Rake recommends a change of mindset and some research.
“If you’re starting midseason, you need to be thinking that instead of scouting without a gun, you’re scouting with a gun,” he said. “Plus, you should do some valuable research by looking at a map that shows terrain features. Look for water sources, creek bottoms because, in the spring, they like hanging out in fields.”