I’ve been trying to find something to use as a comparison experience for turkey hunting. It doesn’t work.
You have the thrill and accomplishment of calling a mature bird into close shotgun range. That’s similar to calling bull elk in the mountains in the fall. Bugling elk bulls and fighting bighorn sheep come to mind.
And there’s the spine-tingling sound of a gobbler or gobblers on the roost, sounding off for the morning sun, a distant train whistle or rolling thunder.
Of course, there’s the adrenaline rush from encountering a pair of gobblers squaring off in a heavyweight bout of spurring, purring and flapping wings. It seems a fight to the death, as do many whitetail fights when the rut is going during deer season.
But the plain fact of the matter is that those are individual events in separate seasons. Turkey hunting is all those things, and more, wrapped up in one short spring season, all occurring amid a sea of wildflowers, migrating songbirds and waterfowl, and ticks and chiggers.
Turkey hunting is an experience all its own, and until you’ve tried it with a call and a shotgun, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. You could be missing things such as:
• Shooting a single gobbler out of a group of three or four and then watching as the remaining birds, blinded by testosterone, begin attacking the dead on as he’s flopping on the ground. I once had this happen with a gobbler I’d shot out of a group of seven that came to the call just after daylight one morning on the Stowers Ranch near Ingram.
• Seeing a Cooper’s hawk swoop down on a cardinal that was flitting around in a giant live oak on the Ford Ranch outside Brady. I had my back against another tree and was watching the cardinal fly up and down as he fed around a small tank nearby. Then the lights went out on him when the hawk zoomed in and caught him in the air.
• Stepping on a pile of cedar cuttings and hearing the unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake coming from beneath the stuff on the ground. Or seeing one swimming across a lake, raising up every so often to scan his surroundings. Or having one crawl out of a hole in the ground a few inches behind your back pocket, as you sit on a little knoll. Or … well, let’s just say you remember the rattlers.
• Or getting into a tornado of turkeys coming off a roost in South Texas and calling up a gobbler when it was still so dark that all we could see was his white and blue head as he strutted down a sender. Former Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Chuck Nash killed that turkey before 7 a.m. one year.
• Calling a coyote to within a foot or so while trying to sound like a winsome hen for a gobbler on the Nail Ranch. I was hiding in a clump of cedars when the dog, attracted by what sounded like a nice meal, stuck his head right through the limbs and almost into my ear. We both decided to leave for other places at the exact same moment.
• Letting my first eastern turkey escape by shooting a pine tree that got between us as he moved along a fire line on a place near Jefferson in East Texas. I swung with the turkey and pounded that tree with a 3-inch load of number 6 shot. Embarrassing.
Turkey season is out there for the fun and the memories for Texans, especially in the Rio Grande turkey-rich Hill Country and South Texas. The South Zone season opened March 18 and will run through April 30. The North Zone season is April 1-May 14. Eastern turkey season is April 15-May 14.