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2010-04-08 digital edition

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2010-04-08 / Community News

Spring Turkey Hunting

Everything is lush and green with abundant wildflowers wherever you look; there is no better time to be hunting. That’s right, hunting. Spring turkey hunting in Texas began in Kerr County in the early 1970’s. Interest in spring turkey hunting continues to grow but Texas still lags behind states such as Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama with longer traditions of turkey hunting. That is odd since we are one of the only states with three of the four North American subspecies. The most common, the Rio Grande (Rio’s) is what is found in most of Central Texas.

While it is legal to hunt Rio’s in the spring with a rifle over a feeder, many hunters find a greater challenge in trying to call the toms within shotgun range by mimicking the sounds of a seductive hen. Like rattling up a trophy buck, or calling in that ever-circling flock of pintail ducks, calling turkeys makes the hunter not just an observer but a participant.

Rio’s inhabit bottoms around major rivers and creeks and can be found in upland areas as well. Turkeys are found in wooded or brushy areas with a somewhat open understory and prefer to roost in mature trees over water. If you are unsure if your property holds turkeys, during early spring spend some time out in the woods at last light and listen for gobbles. Sometimes toms can be induced to “shock-gobble” by a barred owl call, crow call or even a car door slamming. Remember, only male turkeys (“gobblers” or “toms”) are legal to hunt in the spring.

Once you have determined that your property has turkeys try to determine where they are roosting. You want to be close, but not too close, to the gobbler’s roost tree the next morning. Just a reminder, it is illegal to shoot turkeys off the roost at any time. Full camouflage (including face and hands) is a must and a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with a stout load of # 4, 5, or 6 lead shot makes good turkey medicine. Well before first light, move in to position within 100 to 200 yards of the roosted gobbler and set up, preferably with your back against a tree or other brush to break up your outline. We could have an entire book devoted to turkey calls, but for the beginning turkey caller, a box call is as fool proof as you can get.

Now, it’s still dark out, your back is against a big oak tree and you didn’t make any noise getting in the woods. A few soft yelps before the gobbler flies down may help him to know there is a receptive hen around. You will hear when the gobbler flies down. Twenty pound birds coming down out of trees make a lot of noise. There is almost a dictionary of turkey vocalizations, but yelps should be the primary call at first. A good rule of thumb is if the gobbler is answering your calls aggressively, keep up the calling. If he tends to shut up when you call, call much more sparingly. He may wonder where that hen went and come looking. There are no hard and fast rules for turkey calling. In theory, when the gobbler flies down and hears the lonely hen he will head in your direction and come out in the open 20 yards from the end of your shotgun barrel. Keep your head down on your stock, put the bead halfway down the neck and pull the trigger. That is the way a turkey hunt is supposed to go, but it rarely works this way. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work at first, after you have heard the thundering gobble of a long bearded gobbler up close you won’t need any more encouragement. Turkey hunting can be both exciting and frustrating, but that is why it is called turkey hunting instead of turkey shooting.

If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.

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