Gobblers On The Prowl

NAH Staff Writer Luke Clayton heads after turkey in Palo Pinto County

Whether it’s a couple days of warming weather, the moon phase or alignment of the stars or, probably something we mere mortals will never understand, there is sometime a period of a few days to a week when turkey gobblers are “red hot” and are gobbling their heads off in efforts to lure in a receptive hen. That’s the way it works in nature, the gobbler does the sounding off and the hens come to him but we turkey hunters figured out eons ago that the plaintive yelps of a hen turkey will often bring a boss gobbler in on the run!

 Such was the case last week up in Palo Pinto County while hunting with my friend Deryl Markgraf;  turkeys were plentiful on his lease and every gobbler on the place within hearing distance of my box call seemed to sound off and head toward my single hen decoy.

My goal was to harvest a couple of gobblers, one with my 12 gauge, loaded with what I now consider to be the best turkey load on the market, Hornady’s nickel plated 3 inch shells packing 1.5 ounces shot and then, one with my trusty Darton 3800 bow.

The “hunting” portion of this week’s column is really pretty short. Twice in my 35 year career of hunting spring gobblers have I seen gobblers respond to the call as well as they did on these hunts. The hunt was textbook easy!  To sum it up, I killed two gobblers the first day, one in the morning and one in early afternoon, both from the same little blind I set up in a cedar bush that afforded a good line of sight to a couple of lanes that offered incoming gobblers the opportunity to spot my lone hen decoy from a great distance. And spot the decoy they did!

The first bird that I killed with my shotgun spotted the decoy from about 150 yards out and came in on the run. For reasons known only to the gobbler, he hung up at what later measured 61 yards from my blind. He simply would not close the distance. I didn’t have a range finder but miscalculated the distance to close to 50 yards. By his body language he told he was about to vacate the premises and I sent a charge of the nickel plated #6 shot his way. The heavy load anchored the bird on the spot. After a lunch back at camp and a little rest, Deryl dropped me off at my blind again and I did a bit of limb trimming to facilitate a bow shot.

 This time another gobbler, probably a 3 year old exactly the same size as the first I shot came within easy range and a well placed shot insured we would have plenty of fresh turkey meat for upcoming camp meals! Through the years, I have taken several gobblers with my Darton bows and a few hens during the fall hunting seasons. Killing a turkey with a bow is really not all that difficult if you take the time to insure you are well concealed and that you can draw the bow behind cover before making the shot. 

It’s not my desire to fool a newcomer to turkey hunting into thinking hunting spring gobblers is always this easy, it definitely is not. Even when hunting a ranch with a heavy population of wild turkeys, the birds sometime will simply not respond to the call and decoys. But, as mentioned previously, this hunt coincided perfectly with the peak of breeding activity. It’s easy to look like a pro turkey hunter when the birds are this hot. I can truly say that I love the sport even on the days when I have to “work” for my gobblers!

Although killing a gobbler is always my prime objective on a spring turkey hunt, I enjoy the cooking and time spent around camp just as much as the actual hunting. I have known Deryl only a short time but I’ve said many times that you can learn more about a person on a hunting or fishing trip in two days than in a year in most of life’s situations. We’ve become great friends.

It didn’t take long to discover Deryl and I were birds of a feather, no pun intended! We have a passion for all types of hunting and fishing and are bonified hog hunting “nuts”. Deryl is an expert night hunter and brought along several of the rifles and thermal imaging scopes he uses for hunting hogs and predators at night. I brought my Airforce Airgun’s .45 caliber Texan and a good supply of 350 grain Hunters Supply bullets. I believe Deryl was as impressed with the power of the Texan as I was with the rigs he used for night hunting.

Our evening meal consisted of some hand cut and marinated wild hog fajitas made from very lean and tender back strap. We relaxed around the campfire for a few hours and talked about everything from an upcoming fishing trip in Saskatchewan this summer to the best way to prepare pulled pork from the wild hogs we harvest. Every spring turkey hunt should be this special!

Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or online anytime at www.catfishradio.com

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