CONCHO COUNTY — Apparently there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
For two years the country around San Angelo pulled off good turkey hatches. That is evident by the number of jakes and 2-year-old gobblers wandering around the 5,000-acre lease west of Eden. They were everywhere, and all running together with the occasional toms, the ones with the true baritone voice.
That is not the way it is supposed to be four weeks into a six-week season. The mature toms, those 2 and up, should be off on their own courting hens while the youngsters run around, well, like chickens with their heads cut off, basically just getting in the way.
But on an afternoon scouting trip there they all were, chummy as fraternity boys at a smoker, if there is still such a thing.
The next morning, still on the roost, it was easy to distinguish the cutoff gobbles of the jakes alongside the more robust gobbling of the old guys. There wasn’t, however, a lot of either.
And once the birds were on the ground the silence was deafening.
My hunting companion, Mike Leggett, and I hunkered down just off a road, backs resting on a mesquite tree. That was another oddity. Driving to the ranch from different directions, we noticed mile after mile of mesquites that were as brown as trees that had been poisoned alongside others that were seasonably green. Everyone is blaming a late freeze.
So there we sat at what should be the waning days of prime breeding activity. Bred hens should have gone to solitary nests leaving the toms anxious to find the remaining few that hadn’t been bred. Calling the birds should have been have been prime. It wasn’t.
Trying to bring the birds straight from the roost to within shotgun range wasn’t working. You couldn’t even get them to shock call.
After about a half hour one tom finally gobbled, but instead of coming from the main roost he was walking in from behind. I turned around to get in a shooting position, but the bird never showed.
Before I could get turned around four mature birds came walking up the road. One would strut from time to time, but none gobbled.
Because I had moved, Leggett didn’t have a shot when they came into range.
Before we left that morning we did see another group of four mature birds and jakes. They would gobble, but didn’t come anywhere near us possibly because of hens moving back and forth. They also intercepted two other mature gobblers that came out of the woods, chasing them away from our position.
The next morning was just as odd. A cool front had moved across the area and there was more gobbling. I actually could tell I was getting a response to my call.
The first four birds I saw were jakes that came on a run shortly after daylight. They showed no interest in the call and turned into the woods before getting to me.
Eventually I called a group of five in my direction. They slowly moved up from their roost. At the same time four other toms came from another direction, veering off at the last minute probably because of the others that gobbled off and on as they neared.
When the five finally came into view, they stopped at 35 to 40 yards out and stood in a tight formation as the boss bird strutted. They were various aged and while I thought about taking a shot, I was concerned about collateral damage as the big bird never broke out of the pack.
If the breeding season is over in the area it probably has more to do with dry conditions than hens being bred. That part of the state is still extremely parched.
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