Remember when you were a kid and you thought Christmas would never get here? That’s not unlike my situation waiting anxiously for the opening of turkey season this spring.
Last year about this time, I was recovering from heart bypass surgery, which knocked out the entire season. I’ve been in the kid-anticipating-Christmas mode for months and when it finally got here, it would be an understatement to say I was excited.
Last week, I joined a group of friends, Keith Moore, Jodie Williams, James Anderson and Donny Parkman, to make our annual 600 mile trek to the Texas hill country to ring in the season; I was out of town for Louisiana’s opening day so the Texas adventure would be my first crack at trying to fool an old turkey gobbler.
Moore and I traveled together and arrived at the Russell Ranch just west of Menard Monday afternoon in time to stow our gear, pull on camo, grab our shotguns and make a quick afternoon hunt under sunny 85 degree conditions. We heard a few distant gobbles but no turkeys responded to our calls. No problem; we had until Thursday to put the pop on a gobbler.
Something happened that night that suggested it that Mother Nature must have had a burr under her saddle as she was in a foul mood the entire time we were there. From Monday night until we left for home Thursday, the temperature never climbed past 45 degrees with strong winds and a full-blown thunderstorm thrown in for good measure.
Despite the worse possible weather conditions, we came to Texas to turkey hunt and by golly, we were going to hunt.
Tuesday morning, I sat in my portable blind that I had to stake down to keep it from blowing across the rugged landscape. That afternoon was a repeat of the frustrating morning.
That night the storm hit, bringing much needed rain to that parched landscape that has received a half-inch of rain in a year. Hunting, to be honest, was a challenge, although Moore did manage to take a bird that morning.
Thursday morning arrived with the same wind and cold conditions. We were scheduled to head for home around mid-morning and frankly, I was starting to get depressed. I missed all last turkey season and this is how this year is going to turn out?
I decided to leave my portable blind back at camp and hunt turkeys the way I was taught to hunt. Sneaking into an area where I suspected turkeys were likely to roost, I took a seat against a tree and behind some dead mesquite branches to provide cover.
As was the case each morning I hunted, gobbling was virtually non-existent. I heard one distant gobble at daybreak but nothing from the area I suspected turkeys were roosting. Since the gobblers were quiet, I elected to call softly and hopefully entice one to saunter over to check me out.
I scratched out a barely audible yelp followed by a soft cluck and purr on my 1Up Red Dawg slate call. A couple of minutes later, I repeated the sequence, then laid the call aside. Five minutes after making the last call, I saw a black lump 150 yards away moving slowly but steadily in my direction. It was a gobbler, one that never gobbled, never strutted but apparently had some interest in the little “hen” he’d heard waking up. He stopped at 35 yards, I put the bead on him and squeezed the trigger and just like that, all my frustration and disappointment melted away.
Even though Mother Nature can be unpleasant, she has a soft side. As I walked back to the truck with my gobbler over my shoulder, the wind died down and the temperature rose a couple of degrees. I think it was her way of nodding her approval and giving me a pat on the back and saying, “You done good!”