South Texas Turkey Hunt

I went down to south Texas on opening weekend of the Rio Grande turkey season. This was my first encounter with this kind of hunt and hopefully will not be my last. We arrived at camp around 1:30 Sunday afternoon Looking from the road, it seems mesquite is all that can be seen. But looks again proved to be misleading. As we drove into the ranch, we past very large and old oaks and drove through a pecan grove that was over 100 years old. The small wood frame house sat atop a small hill looking down to a creek the bends toward the back and has an incredible small waterfall. A few hunters were leaving as we arrived and gave mixed reviews. Half had gotten their turkey.Though past years have been excellent on this ranch, this year was not as good. Though there has been ample rain and conditions were at best good, hunting was slow. Neighboring ranches were high fencing and feeding before doing so and turkey as well as deer might have been lost to this. Plus the vegetation was dense due to above normal rainfall. This gave great cover to the turkeys. That afternoon, I was in my stand ready to see turkeys, and did I ever. After a long wait, I had 4 hens come in from my left, then 7 more from the front. Within minutes, 2 gobblers came in from my right. before long, I counted 21 birds that included 5 gobblers. After taking aim on 2 different gobblers, I decided to wait. I really didn't want to take a turkey on my first day and not hunt again for the remainder of the trip. Once I was brought back to camp and told my story, I learned not everyone was as lucky. Well, no one was. One hunter had seen 2 hens, another had seen 30 sheep , and another watched a field mouse. I was chastised for not taking my shot. Live and learn I guess, though I was hoping I wouldn't learn the hard way.
Monday morning we up and in our stands before daybreak. Unlike the day before when I was in an elevated blind, today I was placed in a small pop up tent type of blind. After placing my chair and gear into it, there was little room left. I sat and listened to the vast array of sounds not found near any city. There were no cars, no sirens, no talking, no honking. I listened to silence for a short time, then as daylight neared, the area came alive. A few hundred yards to my left was an Oak thicket where turkeys were roosting. Once the gobblers woke, they went to work. I was elated to hear all the gobbling. I was thinking within minutes I would be covered with Rio Grandes. After an hour of thinking this, I begin to wonder. Then 4 hens moved in from the left. As I was just getting a good glimpse of them, a stiff wind blew and shook the tent blind. There they went into the brush. I sat for a few more hours watching dove, cardinals, cow birds and various other small birds. I was figuring I was in for a long day as the hunters had had the day before. Around 9:15 though, I heard a gobbler just off to my left. I watched through the side window intently, trying to pick out some movement through thick brush. Finally turning back to the front, I was amazed and elated to see a lone gobbler standing not 20 yards before me. "Now what?" I thought to myself. I wasn't prepared to shoot. My shotgun next to me. "Do I grab it and try to kill the tom?" . Slowly I reached for my shotgun, and seemily taking forever to raise it and aim out of the window, I took a deep breath....and noticed my shot was slightly blocked. Holding the shotgun up, I waited, though only 20 seconds or so at most, what seemed to be forever. The gobbler took a few more steps to the left and raised his head to look around. The Winchester 2 3/4' #5 shot did the job just as I had patterned it to do. I radioed to camp and whispered I had gotten my bird. Though I relized later that I had just fired a shotgun and whispering was a mute point.I do not remember ejecting the empty shell, but after retrieving the turkey, the action was open and the shell lie on the ground.
As I reflect back on my hunt, it was an awesome experience that I will never forget. However, the best hunt was yet to come. One of the hunters I rode down with, Mike, had yet to get a turkey come Tuesday and it was nearing time for us to leave. I had been fishing from the creek most of the morning along with Duke Walton, our guide for this trip. Once we arrived back at the house, I glanced up toward the top of the shooting lane where the deer hunters site in their rifles. Right at the 200 yard target, a tom was trying to impress the ladies. Soon, he was joined by another. All together, within an hour, I had seen what I believe to be 5 different gobblers working. Duke radioed Mike and asked if he was having any action. The reply was a dry and solem no. Asked if he wanted to come in and try these toms, he readily agreed. After we got back to camp, Duke put on his camo, grabbed his box call, and he and Mike were off up the hill. Within minutes, Duke had called back in the toms. He said the shooter tom was between them so Mike passed on his first shot. As duke called to get the gobbler moving, two more gobblers walked up next to Duke from behind. Duke froze solid as the new arrivals stood within arms length. As they came in, the first gobbler decided it was time to leave. Not wanting this, Duke made a short yelp with the call and the shooter went into full strut. An awesome site close up as he and Mike told the story. After hearing the shot, I proceded up the hill to snap some pictures and heard the yell of an excited hunter. But found out it was not Mike, but Duke that was elated and had yelled. Though he had called in birds before, never had it been like this and he was as excited or more so than Mike at not the outcome, but the events leading up to it.
A great time was had and we packed and started the long drive back from Del Rio to home. I am looking forward to my next hunt. Hopefully soon I will have more stories to add to my site. Until then, good hunting, good fishing, and be safe doing it all.
Another amazing aspect of the hunt was Duke Walton (our host) and his dad, Pop. At 88 years old, Pop still has his love for hunting and desire to be outdoors. This was Pop's 10th year in a row to harvest a Rio Grande turkey on this ranch.
Click here for pictures of my hunt..

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