It was revenge of the Rio`s for me this past weekend at Bill Carter's extraordinary Apache Springs Ranch. Scores of Bill`s old devious gobblers did their level best to frustrate me during my 48 hour visit to this gobbler hunter`s utopia. After last year's hunt, when it seemed I could do no wrong, the tables turned 180 degrees for most of my weekend. Rio`s aren’t easy. I blew one opportunity after the other, running off multiple mature Rio's that are likely still laughing. I think most of my problems stemmed from over estimating the distance to gobbling birds, moving in too close, and inadvertently bumping them. To me, gobblers in fairly open cover, like the hill country, often sound farther away than they really are. It's a different sound than gobblers in the timbered area where I am most used to hunting them, in the southeast and Florida. Yeah, I know, it's a personal problem.
I heard gobblers every time out, each morning and afternoon, lots of them. But bringing them in, within 30 yards for sure shot, proved to be problematic. Friday afternoon began in a familiar pasture that holds lots of gobblers. I called and was immediately answered. Then, after 45 minutes of silence I got caught shifting positions by a huge gobbler that was sneaking in silent. Next, just minutes later, I proceeded to bump a whole group of responding gobblers by trying to move in and get set up at what I thought was a safe distance - wrong, too close. They saw me and scattered.
The weather this past weekend in the Texas Hill Country was mild and skies were mostly overcast. Temperatures all day were comfortable. An occasional light drizzle passed each day while I hunted. Wind was not a problem. Bright sunshine was only sporadic. Gobblers were heard at all hours during both hunting days. Gobbling was strongest at daylight as expected. Then gobbling frequency slacked off shortly after fly down. Gobbling action was also good from mid-afternoon until just prior to sun down.
The following was my drill during most of the weekend. Gobblers consistently answered and then simply threw out the anchor, or they shut down communication and vanished without explanation. I don't think a mule could have dragged an old bird into shotgun range. But they did answer my calls on a regular basis. I worked one gobbler from multiple angles on Saturday morning from first light until well after noon. He must have been tied to a tree. I moved on him three times, making wide loops to be sure he did not see me relocating. I doubt that he moved 50 yards in any direction during our nearly 6 hour conversation. I eventually conceded in frustration and moved on. As far as I know he may still be standing there gobbling his head off.
This Texas hunt was peculiar, only for me, in that I did not observe a strutting gobbler in the two days that I hunted. I heard and saw dozens of gobblers, but no strutting was observed on my watch, not while hunting, and not while traveling about around the ranch. Nor did I see any gobblers with hens the entire time I was there. I'm confident lots of birds were strutting, and lots of gobblers were with hens as well. I simply did not see either. That is unusual. All the old gobblers brought in to camp over the weekend had lots of wear on their wing feathers. There is obviously plenty of strutting going on.
Mike Ditlinger of Houston held the hot hand this past weekend at Apache Springs Ranch as he led his 15 year young stepson, Zak Sparks, to his first spring gobbler. Mike and Zak doubled up the first morning out at Apache Springs, with Zak taking his bird first. On Saturday afternoon Mike also brought in a great old gobbler that he took with his crossbow. Mike pulled off a perfect 18 yard shot on a big Rio that came in silent to his set-up late in the day. Pat Crane and his wife Darlene, both also from the Houston area, were in camp. They had a working plan for big Rio gobbler success. Pat took a great trophy gobbler on Friday, and Darlene got her opportunity on Saturday.
Rio Grande Gobblers were present in great numbers. And yes, the Apache Springs gobblers did frustrate me. That's turkey hunting. Good for the birds! I enjoyed every minute. Then finally, after a lengthy day and a half of turkey humiliation, two great Rio's came gobbling their way in on the last morning about 45 minutes after they sounded off on the roost. I was able take one of the old long-beards at 28 steps, a hefty 26 pounder, just before having to pack up and head for the airport.
If you are going to Texas to hunt Rio's in the hill country, take your full bag of tricks along. You may need them all! Plan on plenty of action. It’s happening now! They are gobbling up a storm.
Good luck and hunt safe!
Posted by David Shashy