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Texas' 2005 Spring Turkey Forecast
Hunters eager to get out and challenge our eastern and Rio Grande gobblers will surely want to bone up on this information before hitting the woods this season.
It was still too dark to make out the contrast of sandy red soil against harsh green cedars as Steve Lightfoot and I dropped off the Caprock and into the creek bottom below us.
We knew that this Rolling Plains river bottom spread before us, a half-mile wide. It would've been an impressive sight -- had we cared about the view.
But now we were headed for a flat among the cedars and a couple of hundred yards above the creek bottom. That creek was a tributary of the South Pease River and a roosting spot for a tremendous population of Rio Grande turkeys.
Dropping down off the hill and onto the edge of the flat, Steve picked one cedar tree as his hiding spot while I found a second one 10 yards to his right. Steve was the shooter this morning; I was strictly calling and taking photos.
As we settled into the soft, fragrant cedar boughs, a soft gobble rolled across the graying hills. The old tom was clearly in one of the huge old trees, standing sentinel amid the scrub brush and cedars.
I scratched a few yelps on my faithful slate call, and the old tom gobbled right back. Normally I'd wait for a second call, but this tom seemed eager to come see us, so I scratched out another yelp, which instantly received a louder reply.
There are few experiences in hunting to match calling aggressively to a hot gobbler -- and I couldn't resist laying it on thick to this eager bird. As I picked up the tempo, each series of yelps more raspy and plaintive, the tom gobbled in answer, each response louder and longer than the previous one. Obviously, this old bird was hungry for company.
Steve had his 12-gauge Remington up and aimed at the edge of the clearing long before I saw the tom. My first glimpse was a huge white head above a brilliant red neck and iridescent fan of black and bronze that was strutting out of the cedars at 30 yards. Then he dropped out of his strut to wander farther into the clearing.
I knew Steve had the old bird dead to rights and the shotgun blast a moment later slammed the old bird to the sandy turf.
"Sweet!" we hollered in unison as we walked the short 25 yards to the deceased monarch.
"You didn't see him?" Steve asked, laughing. "I watched him strutting across that flat for 200 yards! I didn't even have to move -- he walked right into my sights."
"Guess we'll have to wait for sunrise to take pictures," I replied.
It was 6:55: the beginning of another spring day in turkey paradise.
That glorious spring turkey hunt on the Rolling Plains was hardly a unique experience. The day before, there on the South Pease River Ranch, Steve had shot another longbeard within 100 yards of where we now admired his second gobbler. And that afternoon, I'd pulled a rare left-and-right double on two longbeards strutting amid a dozen hens in almost this exact spot.
As noted, it was turkey paradise.
And the spring of 2005 offers us Texans unlimited chances to repeat our experiences, with more gobblers in more places throughout the Lone Star State than ever before.
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