There are few things more rewarding to me than sitting hidden in a prime spring turkey hunting area and awaiting a response from a gobbler to my call. If a tom turkey answers from far away, thats great because I know I may be able to coax him in, but if his startling gobble-gobble-gobble comes from just around the corner, I shift into the panic mode.
I suppose thats natural with most spring turkey hunters. The more critical a hunters ability is to remain hidden, avoid excessive movement and to use his call sparingly, the better chances he or she has to bag even the smartest gobbler. But having a gobbler slip in close without you realizing it and then being shaken almost out of your boots by his thunderous gobble will make you start talking to yourself.
Indeed, spring turkey hunting is one of the most thrilling types of hunting in which we have the privilege of participating. It also is one of the easiest for even a novice hunter to learn the tricks. It is all about setting up well hidden, remaining still and using one of a variety of types of turkey calls. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes novice turkey hunters make is over-calling.
Basically, its a lot like calling ducks. You dont need to sound like an orchestra of ducks to draw a flight of them into shotgun range. You only need to sound like a duck. Its the same for calling turkeys. Can you imagine two or more turkey hunters calling at the same time, purring, clucking, putting, gobbling, and making all the other turkey sounds? A simple sound of a hen will do the job most of the time.
The 2013 spring turkey season is just around the corner, and I think it is important for young hunters and others who will be making their first spring gobbler hunts this year to know about its history.
I feel fortunate, like other hunters my age, to have been there when the first Texas spring turkey season was held in the 1969. It began as an experimental spring season in only one Kerr County and only 12 gobblers were taken that season.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials quickly realized this new sport of hunters calling turkeys to them rather than ambushing them with their rifles while hunting deer during the fall. They opened the spring season in five counties the following year, and later as its popularity boomed, eventually opened it in all counties with a huntable population of Rio Grande turkeys.
Eastern turkeys had been virtually removed from East Texas by the 1920s due to market hunting, habitat losses and other factors. Efforts to re-establish easterns in their former range in counties east of the Trinity River were begun in the 1930s with poor overall results.
In fact, the jury still is out on those efforts in all but Red River County and a few others where landowners are making strides to provide adequate habitat for the birds. The first spring eastern turkey seasons were established in the mid-1990s, starting with Red River County and spreading to 42 other counties before being reduced to only 28 counties last spring due to poor reproduction efforts.
When the first spring Rio Grande turkey seasons were established in 1969, law enforcement officials saw no reason to place a weapons restriction on taking the magnificent birds. And that is how it remains today with hunters allowed to use firearms including rifles, handguns and shotguns as well as archery equipment during both fall and spring seasons.
The majority of todays spring Rio Grande hunters use shotguns only. Most hunters who use rifles do not use calls to get the birds in close as required for clean kills for shotgunners .
Eastern turkey hunters, on the other hand, may not use rifles or handguns. They are required by law to use shotguns or archery equipment only. Why the difference? Why cant eastern turkey hunters use rifles or handguns?
It all is about how spring turkey hunting has grown as a sport in the minds of the majority of hunters ever since that first spring season was held for Rio Grande in 1969.
With the exception of a smaller but seemingly growing number of hunters who prefer archery equipment, the majority of spring hunters prefer to call a gobbler to within 15 to 25 yards and make a good head shot rather than ambushing them at longer ranges with a rifle or handgun and taking a chance of ruining a large portion of the bird. And it is because of that preference why rifles and hand guns were outlawed for spring eastern turkeys 25 years later.
Spring Rio Grande turkey hunters still have a choice of weapons, as it should be. That has resulted in more hunting opportunities for all.
It all boils down to how the sport of spring turkey hunting has become to be perceived. There are some hunters who take the spring season lightly, like a man I once heard describe it as "dressing up like a bush, making noise like a rusty gate, feeding herds of ticks, and not shooting a turkey."
And then there are some of us who look at it with a passion. And I look forward to each spring of almost being shaken out of my boots by a sneaky, loud-mouthed gobbler trying to outwit me.