A Word for the Beginning Dove Huntress

woman shooting over and under dove hunting

I hope this article gets you in the spirit for dove hunting, with the season right around the corner. For those of you new to the sport, I wanted to share a few tidbits of advice before you head afield!

This is part of my Girl’s’ Guide to Dove Hunting series.

Though I’ve hunted many other game animals, I always come back to my first love: dove hunting. Dove have long been my favorite animals to pursue and I bet you will enjoy it as well.

Advantages of Dove Hunting (over Deer or Turkey Hunting)

Dove Hunting has a lot going for it, hence my love for it!

  • There are more chances to shoot. (ie. you can bag 15 dove in one day, whereas you can only bag a couple deer.)
  • Hitting moving targets (dove) is a lot more fun and challenging than hitting a deer that is standing still.
  • You don’t have to worry about being silent.
  • It’s a social activity–you can do it with other people and make it an evening out.
  • You don’t have to wake up early. (Can I get an amen?)
  • Cleaning a dove is pretty easy.
  • Weather during dove season is much more pleasant than deer season.
  • You don’t have to cover yourself in camo — though natural, neutral colors like brown and olive are recommended.

Disadvantages of Dove Hunting

  • The meat isn’t as plentiful as with deer or turkey. Dove are small little suckers!
  • Dove can be hard to hit. They fly at a steady pace but you have to be good at judging distance.
  • Some evenings you won’t see many dove flying. Weather, your location, and availability of water are a few factors–and who knows, the cosmos and feng shui might also play a role (some nights I have wondered…) But in those cases just try to focus on the pleasant evening.

Dove Hunting Styles

I like to say there are two types of dove hunters: those who like to sit peacefully in one spot, soak in the scenery, and chat with their hunting partners (ME), and those who like to walk around in pursuit of the birds, not stopping until the sun goes down or they get their bag limit. (MY HUSBAND.)

How to Be a Good Hunting Buddy

The best people to hunt with are those who don’t give up, who stay optimistic even when no birds are flying, and who chip in on the cleaning.

Having a good shot around doesn’t hurt, either, but don’t worry about that on your first trip out.

Don’t be Afraid to Shoot at a Lot!

Key word: at. Shoot at.

“Big shots are little shots who keep shooting.” – Christopher Morley

This is one of my favorite quotes, but it especially is perfect for dove hunting. You will need to take a lot of shots when you are first starting out so you can figure out what birds are in range, which angles you are better at, and so you can get comfortable with your gun. You might just miss a few–or a lot–and that is okay. But if one thing is true, you will NOT get any better by being timid and only taking a few shots. Use an entire box of shotgun shells before taking a rest.

Of course, always stay within your bag limit.

Hunting with the Guys

There are a few things you need to know about dove hunting with guys. Disclaimer — a) this has just been my experience and b) not every guy is like this. Thank you to my husband for not being like this!

They love to brag about how many birds they bagged. Don’t let that intimidate you.

They shoot a lot, so if you want to keep up with them you need to keep shooting.

Nearly every hunter has a set way they like to do things when hunting. “THIS is how you aim your gun,” or “THIS is how you clean a bird” etc. I suggest listening to their advice, because it may be great, but also keep in mind it’s not always the voice of God and you should trust your own training and knowledge too.

 

One Final Word on Being a New Dove Hunter!

You don’t have to grow up in a hunting family or be the world’s most avid dove hunter in order to appreciate a good hunt and be a part of the fun evening. Anyone, young or old, male or female, new hunter or seasoned veteran, can pick up the sport easily and appreciate the beauty of a soaring dove and the hope of good meal.

Happy hunting, ladies!

Here are some other dove hunting posts you might like:

Indian Lodge: a Must See in West Texas

Have you ever been to Indian Lodge? It is a charming, historic, and scenic lodge set amid the arid mountains of West Texas. A must-see on your next trip to this part of the state!

It even has a pool!

Indian Lodge has 39 guest rooms, but even if you don’t get a reservation (they book far in advance) you are welcome to check out the property.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it is steeped in history. Everything is handmade, from the chairs and tables to the mirror frames and bedside lamps.

I love how the CCC’s work so many decades ago has enriched our national and state parks with history.

Where to Stay Nearby

If you can’t stay at Indian Lodge itself, look into one of these neat options nearby:

Where to Eat

Black Bear Restaurant is known to be delicious! Expect hearty meals.

What to Do

Give me a good book and I could definitely sit here a while!

Scoop from a Whit’s Wilderness Reader

My friend Lindsey stayed here two summers ago, and you can read more about her trip here!

Atmosphere

Very quiet, serene, relaxing. Not a hopping place, but hey–that’s kind of the point of going out in the middle of nowhere, right?

Important things to know

  • Indian Lodge is closed for a major repair project through June 1, 2018 but the restaurant remains open.
  • Book far in advance (up to a year)

I hope you get to visit soon! Safe and happy travels, and be sure to tag me in your pics so I know if you were there!

12 Tips for Camping in Davis Mountains State Park

Even though it is so dry and the conditions are so tough, the desert in the American West somehow manages to be incredibly abundant and beautiful—especially in an area called the Chihuahuan Desert. This is where several parks you’ve probably heard of, like Big Bend National Park, are found, and its beauty is definitely worth seeing.

If you want to experience this unique landscape and escape to a place truly remote, Davis Mountains State Park is a great home base. From here you can see West Texas’ most famous landmarks within an hour and a half drive (think Marfa, Big Bend, Alpine, Balmorhea Springs), and you can camp while having the comforts of the small, quaint town of Fort Davis just minutes away.

More guidance for planning your trip to West Texas can be found here: A Girl’s Guide to West Texas.

1. Book 6-8 months in advance.

This is one of Texas’ more popular parks. See my guidance post, How to Make a Reservation at a State Park to see instructions for booking online or just visit http://texas.reserveworld.com/.

2. Get a campsite with shade.

I left my flip flops in the sun one afternoon and by the end of the day the soles had melted off. Even though Fort Davis is “the coolest place in Texas in July”, it can still get pretty hot in summer.

Request a camp site in the shade if you can, and still, plan to bring your own shade structure — like this one for $20 on Amazon. You will thank me later!

3. Beware of bees.

We made the tragic mistake of eating SYRUP outside (quelle horreur!) and were completely swarmed within minutes. The bees know where the camp sites are and aren’t shy about getting after anything sweet on your table. Here are my tips for keeping bees away from your campsite.

  • Keep your trash bag/can closed.
  • Keep the trash away from your picnic table and tents.
  • Do not eat maple syrup or honey outside.

4. Bring a hammer.

The soil is rocky and dry, and you will need a hammer to get your tent stakes in the ground.

5. Prepare for wind.

The wind in West Texas can be dramatic, so make sure your rain fly is clipped down and your tent stakes are secure in the ground.

6. Hike The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park.

My personal favorite trail in this park is the Skyline Drive Trail, it has incredible views all around and varied terrain so you never get bored.

On that note…

7. Be sure to watch the sun rise from the scenic overlook.

This is impossible to miss — just ask the ranger when you check in about the scenic overlook by Skyline Drive Trail and they will tell you. It is on the eastern end of the park.

8. Plan to have a meal at the Black Bear Restaurant.

This is at Indian Lodge, the iconic historic hotel on the property which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression. It is worth a stop.

There is a buffet but you can also order off the menu.

9. Bring a yard game.

This is a fun way to pass the time before dinner.

10. Allow several days for this trip.

The drive out to Fort Davis is so long that it’s not worth the effort if you have to turn around and come home two days later! Give yourself three to four solid days in the area (not including driving time), because there is SO much to see and do! (See my Girl’s Guide to West Texas for other recommendations.)

11. Plan to make a trip into town.

The town of Fort Davis is just ten minutes away, and has several cute stores and caboose turned ice cream shop that is pretty hard to beat!

12. Check out the interpretive center and attend a ranger show.

This is a cool spot. Literally–it has air conditioning! There are also games, hula hoops, and learning exhibits to entertain kids. AND a bird watching station where kids can see the wildlife of West Texas up close. The calendar at the visitors center and here online will show what ranger shows are taking place while you are there.

 

PS. The bathrooms are decent!

The bathrooms at Davis Mountains State Park are pretty decent, actually. There are two large family size restrooms or there are men and women’s restrooms with stalls and showers. There is not ample counter space but there is a little ledge under the mirror where you can put your toiletries. There are hooks for your towels. The restrooms are kept very clean too, thank goodness!

Hope you have a happy trip out west and be sure to tag #whitswilderness in your adventures.

The Hills Are Alive in Madera Canyon, West Texas

If you want to have a Sound of Music moment in Texas, this is your place! It is located in West Texas near Fort Davis in a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and the panoramic views of the Davis mountains are stunning!

Trail

The trail is 2.5 miles, easy, and only partly uphill. The best part is that it forms a loop so you never see the same thing twice. It starts out flat and crosses a creek, then heads uphill. You can hike the entire thing in a couple hours.

Picnic Area

The tables are huge and its a very low trafficked area so plan to bring a picnic and relax after your hike.

Location

Just past the McDonald Observatory on Highway 118, about 24 miles northwest of Fort Davis. You may feel a little lost, but just be on the lookout for the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area signs and a string of picnic tables visible on the side of the road.

Kids

Carry little ones in a child carrier like this one on Amazon, or plan to only go to the first overlook. A 7 year old or above could do the whole loop.

What to Wear

You will need a hat, hiking shorts, low top hiking shoes, and an equipped day pack (<– click here to see my recommended packing list). Here’s my recommendation:

Favorite Part

The views. Nearly every overlook was spectacular, and the mountainsides were covered in pines.

Least Favorite Part

The pond we hiked to was a little underwhelming. Don’t expect some glacial lake here!

Things to Know and Important Links

More pics

Fun times! Hope y’all get to enjoy it soon. Happy hiking!

The Perfect Girls Weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains

This weekend I went to visit my friend Ha in the little hillside town she calls home of Black Mountain, North Carolina. It’s a burg on the outskirts of Asheville in the heart of Appalachian mountain territory. Ha kept telling me, “Whitney, you have got to come see the hiking here, it’s amazing!”

Well, if I must!

If you’re curious about the Appalachian mountains and want a weekend away in a peaceful pocket of our country then this is a great spot to go, especially with your girlfriends!

Wait, a hiking and outdoorsy vacay with my girlfriends?? But they aren’t outdoorsy.

This is enjoyable by even those who aren’t super outdoorsy. The ease of the hiking trails and accessibility by car is a huge point in its favor, and then the exquisiteness of the Biltmore Estate adds that refined element that makes for a perfect girls weekend. Trust me!

Blue Ridge Parkway

First thing in the morning, we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an iconic roadway built during the Great Depression as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

It winds through the mountains, taking you around gorgeous scenic overlooks and sun dappled forests.

The road heads northeast for several hundred miles and covers some of the best terrain Appalachia has to offer. You could spend a week exploring it all.

The mist and cloud cover made the views even more dramatic and I was completely in awe.

(PS. I love it when scenic destinations are accessible by car!!)

One good place to get out and hike is Craggy Gardens Visitor Center and Craggy Pinnacle Trail, which is just my cup of tea–easy, short, scenic, and lined with flowers.

The overlooks are fantastic.

The Appalachian mountains are much older than the Rockies and are softer, lower, and more undulating than the rough crags and sheer exposed rock you might be used to seeing in other parts of our country. Appalachian scenery is so much greener too.

A hum of bumble bees accompanied us up the mountain. They were loving all of the flowering plants!

The Biltmore

After Craggy Gardens, we hit the Biltmore, a beautiful estate built back in the late 1800’s by the Vanderbilt family. If you are wanting your fairy tale moment, here it is.

The Biltmore is one beautiful swirl of Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast, the Great Gatsby, and Versailles–all set to the stunning backdrop of the wild Blue Ridge mountains.

Today the estate consists of 8,000 acres of rolling hills, meadows, pine forest, and creeks and rivers. The landscape was designed by the same man who designed Central Park, so even in places where mother nature’s handiwork wasn’t great on its own, the scenery was adjusted to be perfect.

There is a resort on the grounds and plenty of outdoor activities, from biking trails to an equestrian center and sporting clay shooting.

The view from the veranda is the part worth waiting for–over 87,000 acres of pristine Blue Ridge mountains stretch out before you and the blue hue of their slopes explains immediately how the mountains got their name.

And the land is protected in perpetuity. Early in the 1900’s, Edith Vanderbilt sold 87,000 acres of their land to the government to form what is now the Pisgah National Forest.

I LOVED the gun room in the Biltmore and am definitely saving this photo for inspiration…

Here’s just a few more snaps from the inside of this gorgeous manse…

Black Mountain, NC

The next day we drowned our sorrows in the world’s largest cinnamon roll and a chicken biscuit from Blue Ridge Biscuit Company.

Also loved the charming little coffee shop, the Dripolator.

The town of Black Mountain is charming. The storefronts are brick, the homes are all perfectly maintained with darling wraparound porches and hydrangea bushes out front, and it’s one of the few places left where you feel like time actually slows down. I got the sense I could leave my car unlocked and be just fine. Ha put it well when she said she felt like she has relaxed ever since leaving Austin and moving here. Even though I only spent 36 hours in the place, I felt recharged and reset!

I would recommend two to four full days for this vacation, not including travel time. There are a lot of stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway I have yet to see.

Thanks Ha for the fantastic visit. You’re the best friend a girl could ask for!

More deets on the Blue Ridge Mountains coming up soon, stay tuned.

The Best Place to Stargaze in West Texas: McDonald Observatory

If you consider yourself a Texan who knows all the greatest places in our state, and you haven’t been to McDonald Observatory yet, then you need to plan a West Texas vacation immediately. (And on the plus side, that’s pretty affordable!) This destination is a staple of most people’s agendas for West Texas.

The Location

(One of the best parts!)

McDonald Observatory is out in some of the most stunning landscape our state has to offer. Rugged, rocky mountains seem endless and with no sign of human footprint for miles, your eyes and soul are given a rest from the pandemonium of daily life.

Granted, it’s a solid 6 hours from Austin and even farther from Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, but this place, as part of a whole West Texas vacation, is worth it at least once in your life.

Detailed Directions – Click Here

The Temps

As you wind your way up the two lane highway en route to the Observatory and approach 6,800 foot elevation where the Observatory sits, the temperatures drop.

The Sky

The night sky out here is dark. D-A-R-K dark. Red light instead of white flashlights are recommended so your eyes can stay adjusted to the dark for better star viewing.

Why come? For a STAR PARTY

*Tickets required*

The #1 thing to do there is attend a Star Party. McDonald Observatory is a hub of anticipation as a huge crowd gathers every night to have astronomers lead them through a tour of the night sky. A concrete path winds up a hill to two domed rooms, where fancy telescopes and their attendants await your visit. Look through the telescopes and learn about how grand our universe is, it is really quite amazing!

Other cool events to attend:

  • Twilight Program – Sign up for this before your star party (this starts at 8pm and star parties start at 9pm). Definitely worth the $5 entry fee!!
  • Solar viewings at 11am and 2pm
  • See the many events on their main webpage

If you get hungry…

You should try Star Date Cafe.

And There’s Shopping!

You may be in the middle of nowhere but don’t worry, you don’t have to give up shopping! McDonald Observatory’s gift shop has some unique treasures, from blown glass paperweights that contain miniature galaxies (not sure how they did that) to astronaut ice cream to games that will stir up the astronomer in you or your child.

What if it gets rained out?

Happened to me! I’ve done it both ways, and it’s just as good when it rains.

You still get to see the telescopes, but instead of heading there first, they take you into a theatre where experts lead through a computerized display of the night sky. It is like watching the football game on the jumbotron even though you’re in the stadium–we all do it, let’s be honest, and the show is just as good if not better.

With the click of a button they can overlay constellation diagrams on a night sky image, and drag the sky around with their mouse, allowing you to see so much. Then, they show you incredible Hubble telescope photos and tell you stunning facts about the immensity of the universe. By the end, you are left pondering your minute existence–a wonderful state of affairs to be in.

Do kids like it?

YES! Though the star parties are a little past their bedtime, it’s worth it for an educational experience once in a blue moon. No pun intended! This is the perfect place to spark your child’s curiosity about the world around them, and who knows what kind of interests might be inspired by looking up at the night sky through a telescope. There are plenty of exhibits to entertain them and best of all, there is a small SLIDE inside.

What to Wear

As it does get chilly, most times of year you will wish for a jacket–it is at 6,800′ above sea level, after all so think “Colorado weather.” A flashlight or headlamp is a must, and ideally you want to get one with a red light setting.

My partner in stargazing crime.

Fun fact for my female readers

It was a woman who donated the ranch where this observatory now sits! The U Up U Down ranch, and kind of a perfect name for a ranch in the mountains.

Fun fact for my Longhorn readers

Money for the Observatory was donated to the University of Texas a long time ago, when UT didn’t have much of an astronomy program to speak of, and now this is a leading hub of research and UT is a player in much more astronomy work around the world thanks to what happened here.

Oh by the way, Saw Em Off. 🙂

All in all, this place gets the Whit’s Wilderness Seal of Approval!

Good Links

 

A Must-See in West Texas: the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

A place called “research institute” couldn’t be that fun, could it? “Research” while on vacation? No thank you! Yet, despite the name, the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute is actually a fun place designed for visitors like you and me, the recreational “researchers” of pretty things and pretty places, in West Texas. If you are looking for a nice nature walk and scenic views of the mountains, this is your place!

So why care about the Chihuahan Desert? The Chihuahuan Desert is special because it is an ecological region more diverse than most parts of the world–enough to be a bragging point about Texas. And the beautiful succulents and scenery make this one of the most gorgeous parts of our state.

One of the reasons I like the CDRI so much is that inside its grounds there are all of the unique cacti and succulents you would see out in the wilds of West Texas, and in a short walk you can see a good sampling of everything you might see if you trekked across the whole of the desert.

I LOVED their wraparound porch. It is the perfect respite after a hike!

I loved their coffee and tea station. They know what weary travelers need!

The winding path through the boulder studded gardens and the incredible view of the mountains are pretty hard to beat!

Things to Know

  • Flat, stroller-friendly around building and in gardens
  • Plenty of hiking trails for agile hikers (ages 6+)
  • Fabulous porch and rockers!!
  • Pay attention to the thorny plants in the gardens if you are with small kids. Our two and three year old nieces were fine as long as we held their hands and kept them from running into cacti.
  • There is plenty to see other than thorny plants though so don’t let that hold you back.

What to See

  • Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail: (0.33 mile loop) Inside the Botanical Garden, among the outcropping of rocks just beyond the Pollinator Garden, is this easy hike providing pretty vistas and interesting rock formations. — CDRI.org
  • Cactus & Succulent Greenhouse: One of the largest Chihuahuan Desert cactus collections in the world, with over 160 species and varieties of cacti and succulents.
  • Clayton’s Overlook: (1.5 mile loop) A moderate hike that ascends 220 feet to the hilltop where you can take in a 360 degree view of the area.  An interpretative geology exhibit at the top of the hill provides a detailed description of the formation of each of the mountains in view, including excellent illustrations of the formations. — More info on CDRI.org

When to Go

  • Morning or late afternoon in summer
  • How is it in winter?? Has anyone been?

Location

The CDRI is located SE of Fort Davis, Texas in West Texas, 20 minutes from Alpine, 30 minutes from Marfa, 1.5 hours from Fort Stockton. About 6 hours west of Austin!

43869 St. Hwy 118 (4 miles SE of Fort Davis)
Fort Davis, TX 79734

More Pics

If you want to see my friend Lindsey’s amazing macro pics of the cacti at this place, check out my blog post here! The Amazing and Strange Cactus of West Texas

Have fun ladies!

www.cdri.org

The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park

This is my favorite hike in Davis Mountains State Park, by a long shot. Lots of great panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and the trail is wide and flat at many places. Not to mention, the reward at the end is definitely worth it!

If you’ve hiked it before, let me know in the comments!

Skyline Drive Trail

  • Maps at end of this post
  • Distance: 2.6 miles but with shortcut options
  • Perks: Excellent panoramic views, with Indian Lodge and McDonald Observatory in the distance, scenic picnic tables. mostly flat or downill terrain (so much better than hiking uphill, am I right?!)
  • Challenges: The terrain is mostly flat or downhill, but the surface of the trail is rocky in some areas. It proved difficult for our 3 year old and 1.5 year old nieces.
  • Rock “fortress” at CCC overlook that is wildly popular with kids
  • Recommended for kids 5+ or that you can carry on your back

Best Part of the Trail

The best part of the trail is the segment between the two scenic overlooks. It has varied terrain, panoramic views, and great rewards at each end of the trail with the scenic vistas!

 

Route Option 1: Recommended Option

The best scenario is to have two cars or someone willing to drop you off at the easternmost parking area on the top of the mountain, so you can hike down to the campsites. This is great because it is all downhill!

There is plenty to look at for miles around.

 

Route Option 2: Shorter, Good with kids 5+

Drive to the first parking area you come to at the top of the mountain and hike to the CCC overlook at the easternmost parking area. Have a picnic or break here, and then hike back. This is about 1 mile round trip.

Route Option 3: Slightly more challenging version

Only because it involves going uphill to the top and then retracing your steps back downhill.

That said, if you get up early in the morning when the weather is nice and cool I could see this being a great work out with a very rewarding ending of easy hiking downhill!

Round Trip: 5.4 mi

You will start at the trailhead near the Interpretive Center (shown on map) and follow Skyline Drive up to the scenic overlooks for 2.6 miles.

 

What You Will Love

The ample photo opportunities.

The picnic areas by the scenic overlooks.

The breeze at the top of the hill and being up there with your loved ones!

What Kids Will Love

The tower at the end of the trail.

I don’t know what the CCC thought this would be used for when they built it back in the 1930’s, but let me tell you — today it is the prime place for little kids with imaginations to play princess, house, or cowboys and Indians. If Rapunzel didn’t let down her hair from a place like this, then I don’t know what she did. It did not surprise me that by the time my husband and I arrived after our hike, my nieces had already taken command of the “castle” and we had to gain admission by pretending to be magical visitors from a distant land.

We thoroughly enjoyed our hike on Skyline Drive Trail and bet you will too! Happy hiking, ladies.

 

What to Wear Turkey Hunting

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Turkey Hunting. Find out all you need to know, from what gun to use to how to pick a hunting spot.

A Girl’s Guide on Whit’s Wilderness wouldn’t be complete without a post about what to wear! I’m a huge believer that you don’t have to sacrifice style just because you’re going hunting, and am sharing my favorite clothing and gear below.

Happy hunting, ladies!

A few things to know…

  • Turkeys have impeccable eyesight so unless you’re sitting in a pop up blind, you’ll need to be decked out in full camo.
  • Wear bug spray and tuck your pants into your boots to avoid chigger bites
  • Comfort is key, you will be sitting for long hours!

Camo Top

I recommend this Wild Rose Apparel camo top for turkey hunting in Texas. The fabric is so light and breezy, you won’t feel like you’re wearing anything.

Photo credit: @wildroseapparel

The pattern is made of roses, and looks so feminine in person.

Where to buy: 

Pants

I have two recommendations here: one is camo and the other is olive green. If you read this blog, you will hear me talk about prAna a LOT!

I have both of these, and I LOVE the prAna pants. They are incredibly comfortable and stretchy, but with enough structure to make them flattering. I like the Prois pants as well, though they are not as great for tucking into boots. They have a slight flare at the ankle and are best suited for hunting in colder weather.

You will want pants that tuck into your boots to keep the chiggers out!

Prana Meme Pants
Prois Pro-edition pants

 

Snake boots

Ordinary cowboy boots would be fine, but ideally if you’re tromping around in brush you should be in snake boots. That said, don’t let not having snake boots keep you from hunting! Just watch for snakes.

These Chippewa boots are really comfortable. I have a wide foot so had to order the men’s to be comfortable, so note they are a little narrow!

Bug Spray

I can’t emphasize this enough, wear bug spray. If you’re sitting on the ground for a while, the creepy crawly critters will make their way into your pants!

Face Paint

I like to do an upside-down antler design.

Hunting Bag

Baseball Hat

I also like to wear a baseball cap for extra camoflage, and think this one is super cute!! Texas Camo Hat from TexasHumor.com

I hope you feel super equipped for your next turkey hunting adventure! Be sure to check out my other posts on the topic of turkey hunting:

 

Affiliate links used (in other words, if you buy something on a few of the aforementioned sites, I may make a small commission. It covers a small fraction of the cost of running this blog!)

Turkey Hunting Basics You Need to Know

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Turkey Hunting. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series! PS. Thanks to Kristin with Anxious Hunter blog for consulting on this post and for teaching me so much!

I never thought turkey hunting would be my cup of tea. Decking myself out in face paint and camo and sitting under a tree just didn’t seem appealing. But like with most things, once I tried it, I found out why others rave about it. Now, I would say it’s one of my favorite animals to hunt–it’s challenging, it tastes great, and it forces me to slow down from my normal fast paced life and sit still for a moment in nature. (Kumbaya.)

I hope this informal guide helps you feel capable of going turkey hunting for the first time. Happy hunting, ladies!

When to Go

I definitely recommend hunting in the Spring season. (There is a Fall season as well.) The wildflowers are out, the weather is cool, and the males are strutting around with their feathers on display for females. Season” defines when it is legal to shoot turkeys, and in Texas the two seasons usually run November – January and April – May. For specific date, look at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rule book online or pick one up when you get your license.

How Many You Can Take

Also known as the “bag limit”, this refers to how many animals you are allowed to shoot. The annual bag limit in Texas is typically 4 gobblers (males) or bearded hens (female with a long beard hanging down) and one of those can be an eastern turkey. However, bag limits can change from year to year and county to county, so always be sure to check in the rule book I mentioned above before going afield.

What Kind of Gun to Use

I recommend 12 or 20 gauge shotgun. Some people hunt turkeys with rifles but a shotgun will preserve as much meat as possible. Shotgun shells are packed with small bb’s that disperse when you pull the trigger, whereas rifles shoot bullets that are much more impactful on a single point. If you shoot it with bb’s, you will only be picking a few bb’s out of the meat versus having half the meat blown up by the rifle. And, you have larger chance of hitting it in the head because of the dispersed bb’s, versus the single point of a bullet. It’s like drawing a dot with spray paint versus a marker. Comprende?

How to Get a Hunting License

Get your hunting license and take Hunter Education course (required in Texas) in August or September, before the season starts. See post linked above for how to purchase a hunting license.

Where to Shoot the Turkey

Aim for the head.

Time of Day to Hunt

As a rule of thumb, animals are more active in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, and you want to be outside when they are active so that you see them. Turkeys are no different. Choose your hunting location the night before, and get there before the sun has risen. You want it to be dark when you arrive in the morning so you have time to get in position before the turkeys come. In the evenings, head out around 4:30. I enjoy hunting in the morning because the birds are more lively and curious at that time, and in the evenings they are not as easy to attract. But that has just been my experience so far.

How to Attract a Turkey

With decoys and calls!

  • Calls: The idea is to replicate the sound of a turkeys clucking and gobbling. (Which are very comical sounds! Check it out on YouTube.) A male turkey, also known as a tom, is going to be motivated by two things: mating or territory. The sound of female turkeys is attractive to him, and the sound of another gobbler is going to make him very curious about who is around. Complete set here.
  • Decoys: These are lightweight, plastic turkeys that you set out about 30 yards from where you are sitting. I watched a big tom strut around our decoys trying to prove his worth to the hens, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

Terminology to Know

Tom – Adult male turkey

Hen – female turkey

Jake – young male turkey

Gobbler – a male turkey of any age, either a tom or a jake

How Far Away to Shoot

If you are using a 12 gauge shotgun, you’ll want to shoot within 40 yards. This is one of the things that makes turkey hunting challenging and therefore a lot of fun–you have to call the turkey in to within 40 yards, and to do so you have to be very quiet and camouflaged. An easy way to measure distance is to set your decoys 30 paces (1 pace is about a yard) from where you’ll be sitting, and that will give you a good guideline. Don’t shoot anything farther than 10 yards from your decoys.

Scout the Evening Before

The evening before you go hunting, go outside and find out where the turkeys are roosting and what their patterns are–if any, because you’ll want to hunt in that area. Typically they like to roost in tall, old trees near water. You can use a predator call (like a coyote, which you can buy here on Amazon) to get them to gobble and tell you where they are. Or you can use your turkey call and they will gobble back if they hear you.

How to Pick Where to Hunt

Set up either under where they are roosting or just a short ways away (around 200 yards) so you can draw them in with your calls and decoys.

The idea is to blend into the landscape, so find a tree and sit with your back to it. You don’t want to be sticking out like a sore thumb! Even better if you can find a tree with some foliage to camouflage you. Make sure your line of sight for where you plan to shoot is clear, and there aren’t any branches or brush in the way of your shot. Not that you can always predict which way a turkey is coming, but in general try not to have brush blocking anywhere you may want to shoot.

BTW, what is a beard and why does it matter?

This was one of those questions I was too scared to ask when I was still learning about turkey hunting! Just as deer trophies are measured by the size of their antlers, turkeys are measured by the length of their beard. Why? I don’t know. The beard grows out of their chest and is a clump of black course hair that hangs down about four or so inches, or more depending on how old the turkey is.

People also measure turkey’s spurs, which are the little hooked talon you see kind of like a thumb in this picture. The longer the spur, the older the turkey.

Tag Your Bird

Once you shoot a game animal in Texas, it is imperative that you tag it with the tags that come with your hunting license. As you can see in the above picture, this turkey was tagged using a zip tie. Duct tape also works great. You will get fined if a Game Warden encounters you with wild game and no tag!

Good luck out there, y’all! Fellow turkey hunters feel free to chime in with good advice.

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