Save the Wild Turkey — Hunt one

By Russell Graves

Spring of 2004 found my brother and I walking through the ash trees in a broad and muddy bottomland in Fannin County, Texas. Just off a deployment to Afghanistan, his time on leave from the United States Army was brief. Luckily, however, it coincided with the new spring turkey season in Fannin County.

Only the second year in existence at the time, the season was short: a five-day work week bookended by weekends gave us only nine days to hunt eastern wild turkeys.

For years, we have seen small flocks and single birds on the Caddo National Grasslands in the northern part of the county, but until the second year of the county’s newly created spring turkey season, we have never seen many turkeys in the mid county area where we hunted most of our lives.

Just a year before this hunt, I saw a few turkeys slipping through the dark timber and heard several gobbles in response to a distant barred owl’s iconic call. This was the first time I could conclude that turkeys were indeed on the property.

On opening morning, we stood and waited and listened in the dark in a thick grove of red cedars that creates a boundary between the upland oaks and the bottomland hardwoods. As the sun burnished the eastern sky, we heard a couple of toms gobble about two hundred yards away. Moving in their direction, we eventually set up in the timber to call the birds the rest of the way to us. Vernally fresh, the trees were adorned with Virginia creeper while the air was filled with the pungent smell of wild onions.

We sat, called, and five minutes later a trio of toms slinked in from the east. With a single trigger pull from my pump shotgun, my turkey fell 22 yards from my feet and 10 minutes after sunrise. As we talked, we heard another solitary tom calling to the north. My brother was scheduled to leave again in just a few days so we exchanged gear. He took the shotgun while I handled the calling. We slowly hiked for ten minutes and made a stand on the south side of a small creek. Just minutes after I first made the slate call purr, a huge, mature gobbler stood 10 yards across the creek from us and strutted. Bubba sealed the deal.

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