The annual springtime wild turkey seasons are getting close. In fact, the Rio Grande youth’s only seasons are March 26-27 and May 21-22 for the north zone. The south zone youth hunts are March 12-13 and May 7-8. The regular north zone season for 101 counties is April 2 through May 15. For the 54 south zone counties, the season goes from March 19 through May 1.
There is also an eastern turkey season in 43 East Texas counties that runs from April 1 through April 30. Keep in mind that the regulations for hunting the Rio Grande and the eastern varieties are not the same. Methods and bag limits are vastly different. I’d recommend checking Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Outdoor Annual to learn the complete story. The booklets are free and available at the TPWD Office on U.S. 69 in Beaumont as well as where hunting licenses are sold. Most of the East Texas deer hunters with whom I’ve spoken did see a good number of the eastern turkeys during the deer season.
Wild turkeys are traditionally hunted with shotguns. It is legal, however, to go after the Rio Grandes with a rifle. It is not legal to hunt the eastern variety with a rifle. Shotguns only for them. With this in mind, it is important to learn to call the birds. For this, I’m convinced you do not need to be an expert. Wild turkeys of both species make a number of sounds. By learning a few basic sounds, it is likely that you will do fine.
The first thing when going after the big birds is to know that there are some of them around. A little preseason scouting and listening will be a benefit for this. When possible, serious turkey hunters will be in the woods the evening before the next day’s hunt. By making sounds of predator birds such as owls, crows or hawks after the gobblers have gone to roost, it is possible to know the gobbler’s location. He will sound off at the sounds you make. Then if you are in that area first before dawn the next morning, it is possible to set up an ambush point for taking him. Is that a foolproof scenario? Not in the least. The wild turkey is highly unpredictable, but being in a good position will be a help most of the time.
No matter how you plan to hunt, it is super important to camouflage from head to toe. It is also necessary to be in a comfortable spot so that you may remain motionless for long periods of time. These birds are, in my opinion, the most wary of all game animals. Even the blink of your eye will spook them at times.
I recommend locating a tree that’s wide enough at the trunk to not allow the bird to see your silhouette. Use a comfortable seat pad, move the leaves from around you and be still. It’s then time to begin the calling. Should there be some low brush between you and the expected turkey approach area, so much the better. Should a big tree not be available, then logs and brush are also good places for concealment.
The use of decoys has become very popular. There are many manufacturers making turkey decoys. If you are hunting in an area that no other hunters will be, then the decoy is great. If there is a possibility that another hunter who is not with you may be in the area, then I don’t recommend the decoy for safety reasons.I had mentioned learning at least some turkey calling sounds before heading afield. The idea for a really exciting hunt is to call a long-bearded gobbler into scattergun range.
There are some shotgun choke tubes that are offered just for turkey hunting. These chokes hold a very tight pattern when using the turkey loads. No. 4 shot, in my opinion, is the smallest that should be used. I would recommend larger shot size using the new heavy alloy material. The target should be the turkey’s head and neck. His body is very thick and covered with protective feathers that make for difficult penetration by the shot. Rio Grande turkey hunters who use rifles do better with body shots, as do archers. Guns smaller than 12 gauge are legal, but I highly recommend at least a 12 gauge or even a 10 gauge.
Hunting wild turkeys is very exciting and may be addictive. Besides, a big gobbler’s breast meat is all white and very rich in flavor. The thighs are great also, but the legs are very tough and contain lots of bones. My favorite turkey feast is filleted breast that is chicken fried and smothered with sour cream gravy. A little bit of that goes a long way. The thighs make super gumbo. So get ready. It is only a short time before it is turkey time.
Tune in to KSET 1300 at 6 p.m. on Thursdays for Billy Halfin Outdoors and listen to the daily updates at 7:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.