"EASTERN TURKEY" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton A visit with Luke Luke Clayton While sitting in a turkey blind up in Red River County a couple days ago with my bow, I contemplated this weeks article. There is so much going on right now in the outdoors that I have several ideas I wish to share with you. Lets begin with the turkey hunt! I know of no better success story in the outdoors than the restocking of the eastern species of turkey in eastern Texas. I was born and spent my formative hunting and fishing years in Red River County, the first county to receive seed birds from Virginia and other states well over two decades ago. My friends Mike and Lori Ford own the Rio Rojo Rancho, situated in the northern part of the county, not far from the Red River. Mike had been telling me for the past few years how well the turkeys were doing and how plentiful they had become. During bow hunts for deer on his ranch the past couple years, Id watched flocks of eastern birds feeding through the woods. My friend outdoors writer Bob Hood and I just returned from a short hunt on the Rio Rojo Rancho and we both were amazed at the number of birds. The first afternoon of the hunt coincided perfectly with the passage of a spring front with 25 plus mph. winds and a sharp dip in the temperature. Even with these less than perfect conditions, I watched 4 jakes and several hens work their way out of the woods and feed along the edge of a 100 acre clear cut. Just before the birds went to roost, I watched my first ever mature eastern gobbler strutting his stuff on the edge of a little stand of oaks about 300 yards from the ground blind I was hunting from. There is a marked difference in size between the Rio Grande species that I have hunted for years and the eastern bird. Easterns have a lot more white on their wing feathers and they get a good bit bigger than their Rio Grande cousins. The boss gobbler I watched strutting had a beard at least 11 inches long and was by far the biggest gobbler Ive ever seen. I hit the box call, hard, in efforts to lure the big bird across the clear cut and within bow range. Each time he heard my call, he would stop, strut, then extend his head and look my direction but it was approaching bed time for the big bird and he soon headed along the edge of the clearing to some tall timber, where I am sure he roosted. Bob Hood has, without question, harvested more wild turkeys than anyone I know. Hes spent his life as a full time outdoors writer for the past 40 years and was hunting turkeys during the spring since the first seasons opened back in the sixties. Hes killed several eastern turkeys in Kentucky and other states but this was his first hunt for an eastern bird in his home state. On the first afternoon hunt, he called in a Jake with a 2 inch beard that strutted within 20 yards of his blind. Around the dinner table that evening, I kidded him that had that young gobbler came that close to my bow blind, wed be having turkey fajitas for dinner! Bob was hunting for a longbeard. I was in quest of any legal gobbler, the boss gobbler would have worked well into my plans but that was not to be. The next morning, I was back in the same blind and hopes were high that the big gobbler would work his way across the field and within bow range. I did hear him sound off as he flew off the roost but he must have been with hens and never responded to the plaintive hen yelps from my box call. Later in the morning, I did have a flock of hens, accompanied by 3 Jakes, work through the middle of the clear cut. Gobblers, even young ones, with hens are tough to call. The clear cut I was hunting has wind rows of brush that the birds would disappear behind as they fed on the newly emerging grasses and weeds. After watching the flock for thirty minutes, it became evident the Jakes were not leaving their hens. It was getting late in the morning and I decided to try a stalk. Stalking within bow range of one turkey is challenging but attempting to do so with a flock of birds with telescope vision is next to impossible, even with plenty of cover. I used the differences in elevation and brush as I approached the flock that had just disappeared behind a ten foot pile of brush. There was a good stand of broom sage along my side of the brush and I hoped to use the thick weeds for cover and choose a position that would, hopefully, afford a good bow shot as the birds fed their way around the opposite side. As luck would have it, the flock decided to backtrack and after waiting a good ten minutes without seeing them come around my side of the brush pile, I moved to the other side and set up position. Several hens walked past my position about 40 yards out then, I watched a Jake with a stubby 2 inch beard round the corner of the brush. He was 50 yards out, a LONG bow shot but I had a pin on my bow sight for that distance and contemplated attempting the shot, one Id made on targets at home many times. I drew the bow but the young gobbler was walking slowly and I decided to wait for a closer shot at one of the other gobblers. The hens picked up on my movement as I drew and the entire flock trotted to the wood line. Its next to impossible to put a stalk on a flock of turkeys! Hood had called in a total of 4 Jakes that morning but didnt see the longbeard he was looking for. Were both heading up to Palo Pinto County this week for a crack at the Rio Grande birds with our friend John Bryan on the Holt River Ranch near Graford. Then, round two with the eastern birds back in Red River County the next week. GROUND BLINDS FROM HAY RINGS - Mike Ford builds a very comfortable, roomy ground blind, using a hay ring (used for storing round bales of hay), a hog panel (fencing) and a plastic camo tarp. The fencing is bent to fit the hay ring and wired in place, then the blind is covered in camo. Ford lines the inside of these blinds with black plastic and hunters wearing a black shirt or jacket become almost invisible. Its a great blind and relatively inexpensive to build. OUTDOOR COOKING - While Hood and I were hunting turkeys, Mike Ford decided to spend a few hours attempting to remove a few of the very plentiful wild hogs on his ranch. He succeeded in downing a couple of young sows that weighed about 125 pounds apiece. Upon arriving home yesterday, I placed one of the little 6 pound hams and a front shoulder on my Smokin Tex electric smoker. I let it cook overnight and checked it early this morning, the meat is falling off the bone. Heres how I prepare larger pieces of meat, and how I use the meat once its slow smoked: Slow cooking at low temperatures is key to tender and flavorful meats. I first placed these pieces of pork on 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil, seasoned them well with Country Bobs dry seasoning, doused them with BBQ sauce, and allowed them to smoke a couple hours, uncovered. Then, I wrapped the foil tightly around the ham and shoulder, set the thermostat on the electric smoker at 200 degrees and let them cook, unattended, overnight, about 11 hours. The result is some very tasty pork. I will reserve some of it for pork fajitas; marinate the meat with fajita seasoning and a little lime juice, then place it in a cast iron skillet with fresh garlic, onion, jalapenos and bell peppers. The remainder of the pork will be turned into pulled pork sandwiches! Photo by Luke Clayton OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK - Black bass are on nests now and one of the most effective ways to catch them when they are shallow is with a plastic lizard. Make long casts with the soft plastic baits and work them back along bottom slowly, pausing them occasionally. Give the rod tip a series of quick jerks occasionally, this jerking motion often triggers instant strikes. Remember, not all bass are on nest, some are already post spawn. Fish lay down logs and brush in water 3-6 feet and you will catch more fish than concentrating on the bass locked down on nests in very shallow water. Want some new hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes and so much more? Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton for a new show each week at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com Contact Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!