I admit I probably like turkey hunting more than most.
Finally, I don’t hunt turkeys with a rifle. I probably couldn’t hit one with a rifle at any distance if I tried, but the real reason is that just isn’t where the excitement is to me.
My interest in calling turkeys goes back to one of my first spring hunts. It was in McCulloch County and while I would eventually take a gobbler it was another bird that got me going.
I was new to the game and it was a year much like this one with a lot of jakes on the ground. Leaning back against a cedar that was open on the bottom, I started calling at daylight and got a response. It began as the typical game of calling followed by a gobble. I continued to play along until I was certain the bird was making a beeline from its roost site to my ground blind.
Eventually the bird made it past a row of trees, turned the corner and headed right to me. It was only then I noticed the bird’s lack of beard. He was a year old. I lowered my gun and watched as the curious jake just kept coming. His radar honed in on the location where he was certain a hen was waiting.
I watched him walk closer and closer until he finally lowered his head and started scratching through the leaves for something to eat just inches from my outstretched legs.
It was at the same time amazing to have a wild animal that close and humorous that I had fooled him that well.
It was the last time I would hunt that ranch for more than a decade. When I did hunt it again I hunted with my sons. On the first morning out I called up a double for them, took them back to the lodge and had my gobbler within 30 minutes. All were called in to within 20 yards and taken with a shotgun.
It hasn’t always been successes. In fact there have been a lot more unsuccessful hunts. I have one eastern wild turkey for probably 15 or 20 tries.
There is no telling how many times I have heard gobblers on the roost, but end up with nothing in the hand after they hit the ground.
Spring turkey hunting is as much about timing as it is skill at calling. The best caller in the world isn’t going to bring in a gobbler that is surrounded by hens. However, the worst can call in a lonesome tom.
And for that reason I wish all spring turkey hunting in Texas was shotgun- or bow-only and away from feeders like it is in the counties with an Eastern turkey season. That may sound elitist to some, but that’s not the case. I really believe hunters would enjoy the thrill of turkey hunting more.
It is not hard to pick up calling. While some hunters are great with a mouth call, I have always used a box or a slate and stick with just a couple of simple yelps that seem to do the job.
Any 20- or 12-gauge shotgun with a tight choke and No. 5 shot will work for shots 25 yards or less.
For the most part the season openings come when calling should be working at its best, but it isn’t perfect. In the North Zone the season starts a little early for the more northern counties, but it continues long enough for them.
That beats Kerr County, that for some inexplicable reason was moved to the South Zone which closes just when gobbling activity in the Hill Country is peaking.
In reality there isn’t much chance of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department tightening up the hunting styles. Its goal is to provide as much opportunity as possible, and that includes rifles.
The spring season opened today in the South Zone. The North Zone will open March 30 and hunting in East Texas begins April 15.
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