• December 26, 2014

Best kept secret in Texas

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Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:00 pm

Most Texas hunters have packed away their camo gear in the attic or garage, cleaned their rifles and shotguns and settled in to wait out another long hot summer until the beginning of dove season next September.

A few diehards may continue hog hunting or varmint hunting sporadically through the Spring and Summer months, but most hunters either get out their fishing tackle or simply tackle the "honey do" list around the house during the months following the end of whitetail deer season.

Many hunters completely forget about the spring turkey season which runs from March 31-May 13 for Bell County and other counties in the North Rio Grande Turkey Zone.

Wild turkey seasons, bag limits and regulations are specific by county so be sure to check the Texas Parks and Wildlife website or the Outdoor Annual regarding specific regulations for your hunting area.

Wild turkey populations in Texas continue to grow due to the conservation efforts of hunters, landowners and organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The 2010 hatch was especially good and turkeys are adept at surviving the drought conditions that plagued the state during most of 2011. The 2010 hatchlings are beginning to mature and conditions are ideal again in 2012 for another record hatch of both Eastern and Rio Grande Turkeys.

I enjoy turkey hunting because it's truly and exciting blend of skill and luck. Skillful planning is required to study and understand the habits and routines of turkeys in your hunting area. Often they will roost in the same location night after night and many times they will follow a daily feeding and courting pattern which can be observed and incorporated into your stalking plans.

Many factors can influence and change these daily routines such as weather, wind direction, availability of forage and presence of predators in the wild turkey's range. I've learned that just when you think you can predict their behavior, they throw you a curveball that makes all planning obsolete.

Skill is also required to call a gobbler close enough for a shot with a bow or shotgun. Several types of calls are common including box calls, slate calls, and mouth calls. All require skill and practice in order to fool a big Tom turkey into thinking that you are a hen he might want to court.

Excellent concealment skills are also necessary to locate a likely spot and set up an ambush that won't be detected by the sharp eyes or keen hearing of wild turkeys.

Actually, getting a shot at one of these wily birds is an added bonus. There's something about hearing a gobbler respond to your hen call that causes your heart to race and your adrenaline to pump.

I've hunted in the open country of West Texas before and had to belly crawl over half a mile in a dry wash creek to try and get ahead of a flock of foraging turkeys.

Once we had crawled ahead of the birds and set up our ambush, the turkeys sped up and several hens and jakes (young males) ran by us after we started calling.

They were acting like something had spooked them - we were thinking maybe they had spotted us.

While we were trying to decide what to do, my hunting buddy pointed behind me and I turned to see a huge old Tom that had snuck up the dry creek bed just like we had and was about to peck me on the ear.

Just like that, I whirled and got my shotgun up for a good 20-yard shot. It was over so quickly that I didn't even have time to get nervous or for the adrenaline to kick in.

That Tom never responded to our call, he just came running in to see what was going on.

Well, the secret is out and if you're like me and let turkey slip up on you this year, you'll have to move quickly to get in a hunt this spring and try your hand at pursuing one of the most challenging game species in Central Texas.

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