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Hunting the Rascally Turkey

Our turkey saga continues. As you may have read here, Brandon and I have been hunting down the wascally turkeys on our property since last fall, when we decided that 30 turkeys was enough for one ranch and we wanted to see how they tasted. Chapter 2 of the turkey hunt continues today.

A couple of weekends ago, I invited my friend Kristin (not a native Texan, but we’ll forgive her)—an expert turkey hunter, and lady of many talents—and her husband Adam down to the ranch for a little wild turkey hunting. As total newbies to this whole turkey hunting thing, Brandon and I needed advice and they were the people who could help.

I realize not everyone who wants to go turkey hunting has a Kristin or an Adam to turn to, so I tell this story and share their wisdom in hopes it serves you well.

Before Kristin and Adam intervened, here is the advice we had received from friends:

  1. Shoot the turkey in the hind quarters
  2. Shoot the turkey at the base of the neck
  3. Shoot it with a rifle
  4. Shoot it with a shotgun
  5. Be very quiet and still because they have very good eyesight and are highly skittish
  6. Don’t worry about being quiet, you can shoot it from a truck
  7. Wear camo
  8. Don’t bother wearing camo, it’s more important to be still
  9. If it doesn’t die right away you’ll need a machete to cut its head off.

Obviously, we were confused.

Adam and Kristin brought their guns, calls, dog, decoys, and even a frozen turkey for dinner in case we didn’t shoot one. Basically, we provided the land–they provided the party! As any good hostess knows, guests like that are always invited back.

Now, I have to say a word about Adam.

Adam is the quintessential outdoorsman. First of all, he looks the part.

Secondly, after hunting with him all weekend, I am convinced that if he were dropped off in a wilderness and forced to survive on berries, he would be the kind of man who could fashion a fish hook out of a twig and be completely fine. He does love his heavy artillery but if forced to live without it, I think he could manage.

In essence, he was the perfect turkey hunting guide.

(And they’ll be handy friends come the zombie apocalypse.)

Kristin and Adam also brought their very regal, very dashing collie Jane. Jane doesn’t walk—she parades. (She does have 7 AKC titles in agility and obedience to her credit.) She is a big sweetie. Trooper and she made for a very photogenic pair, but Trooper can be a snob so as to whether they will be best friends remains to be seen.

The night before our hunt, we scouted the turkeys—where they were roosting and where they were grazing, so the following morning we would be in position to intercept them.

That is, possibly intercept them. Turkeys are very rascally this way—one day they do one thing, and the next, they do something else. I’m inclined to think this isn’t so much survival instinct as it is forgetfulness. They remind me of a loud party in a restaurant. In a world where nearly all wildlife has evolved to blend into their environment for survival, turkeys don’t just stick out, they seem to delight in a lack of camouflage.

The following morning, we sat under a tree and Adam set decoys about 25 yards out in front of us. Our objective was to call the turkeys in to within 40 yards, and shoot one of the male turkeys (also known as toms.)(Hunting the females in Spring is illegal.)

Why would we want to shoot a tom? We wanted to eat it for dinner, and we have a healthy population to pull from.

We were completely decked out in camo—face paint and all. In case I didn’t already feel legit following Adam the Outdoorsman through the woods, with face paint and a weapon I felt like the Jason Bourne of turkey hunting.

That morning started off slowly—fun fact: turkey hunting involves a lot of silence, patience, and sore buns.  You pick a spot, sit down, and you do not move, no matter how much your derriere aches. If turkeys have one defensive asset, it is their eyesight.

Adam called the turkeys using calls like this periodically, starting once the sun had risen and doing one call every 20-30 minutes. He was keen to not seem too eager. Turkey hunting is a lot like dating: you put yourself out in the field, make yourself available for the right chap, play hard to get, and then the best display of feathers wins.

Around 8:30 the action started happening, and despite the fact I had barely been turkey hunting before, I knew this was a scene out of a turkey hunter’s dream. We had been hearing the turkeys cluck near us, but because of the brush all around, we could only see one to two turkeys at a time. Adam’s calls were working though because they started coming around the brush to check out our decoys.

A young male turkey strutted out into the open. Kristin was the closest and had her gun up. BOOM! She took the shot and the sky turned black as a dozen turkeys took flight. They had been all around us but we couldn’t see them due to the brush. She hit the turkey square in the head and he died instantaneously.

Adam advised we stay put, and within a few minutes a big male tom, emboldened by the site of our decoys and feeling very proud of his feathers glided around the side of a cactus just thirty yards from us. He was beautiful, and he walked as if he knew it. It’s funny how these birds can be gangly and awkward one moment, but once they splay their feathers they walk majestically.

Brandon took a shot, missed, and the turkeys flew off again—this time officially done with our decoys.

We moved locations a few times after that, trying to call in more turkeys, but to no avail. But we had our bird—and we had the experience of calling in a big gorgeous tom.

Adam and Kristin made turkey piccata for dinner that night and it was delicious. I had heard wild turkey wasn’t as good as the kind you buy in the grocery store, but whoever told me that was wrong!

We hunted that evening and the following morning, and saw a few more turkeys but nothing in range. Mostly the hunt consisted of sitting in the wildflowers and enjoying the rare cool weather.

We split the meat, and Kristin and I both saved a bunch of feathers for art projects. I can’t wait to have a chance to make these gorgeous feathers into something pretty.

We learned a lot about turkey hunting, and feel so much less confused than we did when we started. Lessons coming soon in another blog post. Hope you feel inspired to go afield and hunt a turkey next season! Happy hunting!

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