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Decoy Tactics For April Gobblers
Adjusting the way you use decoys to increase your odds of fooling a late-season tom this year. These tips should make the process easier. (April 2008) ... [+] Full Article
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Hunting Hill Country Houdinis
In the turkey-hunting hotspot that is Central Texas, the gobblers are plenty savvy. Here’s what the author has learned about taking on the longbeards that may be the Lone Star State’s wiliest. (April 2008)

Lee Leschper, the author’s father, with a Central Texas spring gobbler that didn’t make good on its vanishing act. When it comes to turkey hunting, a tough win is sweeter than an easy one.
Photo by Will Leschper.

It’s amazing how much you can learn about Texas turkey hunting when things don’t go as planned. Take, for example, what happened to my father and me recently.

The late-spring morning was awash with cacophony, a slew of bullfrogs plopping into the babbling stream, a pair of coyotes moaning in the distance. The slight squish of wet vegetation beneath our feet added to the ambience as we sought out the ancient cottonwood that had long since ceased drawing in nutrients from the water source.

In the dim light, the thick tree was visible on the horizon as it loomed over some smaller oaks. Also visible were its snaking members, atop which black blobs appeared to perch.

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“You set up right here,” my father whispered, pointing to a small oak. “I’m going to go down a little farther and stick out a decoy. They should fly down pretty quick.”

As I hunkered down and got comfortable, the horizon grew brighter and brighter. After we’d sat for only about 10 minutes, the blobs that had seemed to be extensions of the tree suddenly sprang to life, and an echoing flutter of yelps and purrs filled the air. It was obvious that the Rio Grande turkeys had woken on their roost and were ready to get their day started.

The birds flopped out of the tree one by one, hitting the ground like so many sacks of marbles. They continued cutting up as they milled around in an adjacent clearing, and as the sun finally peeked above the horizon, they began to fan out.

My father and I each gave slight yelps from a slate call. From my vantage point less than a football field away from the cottonwood, I could see at least two toms puffed up in full strut. The one that seemed to be a dominant male repeatedly drummed in an attempt to keep the subordinate tom from infringing on his harem of hens.

Despite our emitting some discreet bursts of imitation yelps and cackles, the toms and hens seemed to stay just past the edge of effective shotgun range, almost as if they were toying with us. After a half-hour of tantalizing feathered movements that no doubt made my father and me anxious at the thought of finally getting a shot, the birds slowly worked their way past an oak motte in the opposite direction and into another field.

If only we had set up in that motte, I thought to myself as I got up to approach my father.

“We should have been over there,” he said, pointing to the same cluster of oaks. “They went that way instead of this way.”

I could only smile in response, knowing that another flock of the wily game birds had proved why they are so tough, but so much fun, to chase after.

At its core, spring turkey hunting is easy in our state. Hunters need only locate roosting birds and then set up in the most logical place that the birds will fly down and head toward. Using calls and decoys, they then bring the bird within shotgun range and snap off a well-placed shot. The concept seems easy enough -- but the best-laid plans often get kicked to the curb by our winged quarry.

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