Texas Panhandle Home To Big Gobblers

Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Whistler, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. Whistler

    Whistler Well-Known Member


    Luke Clayton

    Memphis, Texas- I’ve been hunting turkeys during the spring season since the mid eighties and every hunt has been different. Sometimes, when timing is perfect and the gobblers are hot, killing a big bird can be as simple as making a few yelps on a box call and waiting until the testosterone supercharged bird struts within shotgun range. Other times, gobblers simply will not “sound off” by gobbling in response to calls and they will sneak in unannounced, IF you’re lucky. Sometimes they simply will not come in at all.

    A recent hunt in the Texas Panhandle near Memphis in Hall County with my friend Bob Hood was “text book turkey” hunting. We were hunting on some great land owned by outfitter Robert Hodges who offers trophy buck, turkey and hog hunts. During our 2 day hunt, Bob and I enjoyed hunting turkeys that were almost too easy and some that seemed to have x ray vision that could detect an ant crawling at 100 yards.

    Photo by Luke Clayton

    It would be doing this region and the outfitter a terrible injustice to talk only about the turkey hunting. Hall County is home of the largest bodies whitetail bucks in the state, very possibly the entire country. Hodges clients regularly harvest bucks with body weights of 250-300 pounds that score between 140 and 180 BC. Michael Kennedy killed a big ton typical here last season that measured just over 180 inches and tipped the scales at 300 pounds. Mule deer have also filtered down from the Palo Duro Canyon in recent years and the excellent nutrition provided by acres of agriculture crops produces mule deer with gigantic racks and big bodies. As Bob and I discovered on our turkey hunt, these “farm land” turkeys also get big eating peanuts and wheat.

    Hodges provides a very comfortable camp house situated in a remote area for his hunters. Most hunters enjoy doing their own cooking, which suited Bob and I perfectly. Within ten minutes of arriving at the camp house, we had our “vittles” unloaded. We packed Chorizo sausage and smoked venison and wild pork for fajitas. A look in the refrigerator revealed a dozen or so fresh “yard eggs”, we weren’t sure how well the turkeys would respond to our calls but we KNEW we would be eating well!

    Hodges met us at the camp and showed us several areas where we could hunt. We had the run of several thousand acres of prime turkey country, much more territory than we could possibly cover on our short two day hunt. Bob opted to hunt that afternoon on a big section of open fields and mesquites within easy walking distance from the camp house. I drove about 5 miles to hunt a big draw that, with adjacent CRP fields and knee deep wheat, was perfect turkey habitat.

    Hood is a seasoned turkey hunter and sometimes makes the task of calling up a mature tom seem almost too easy. Back at the camp house after dark that first evening, he described his hunt. “I walked about a quarter-mile back into the mesquites, found a little opening and set up my decoys. I backed up into the brush, make a makeshift blind from my camo netting and settled in to call. I immediately got a response from what sounded like two gobblers. I would hit the box call and they would stop and gobble. With each calling sequence, the birds closed the distance. They were obviously “hot” and coming in fast. Within ten minutes, three big gobblers strutted into view and I took the lead bird. Turkey hunting is not always this easy but it’s nice when it is.” said Hood.

    My first afternoon hunt was much fun but not as successful. I had a Jake and a couple hens come to the decoys and calling but no longbeard. I did hear turkeys gobbling from their roost in a draw about a quarter-mile away. The next morning, I got into the area before sunup and began calling. I heard some gobbling in response to my calling but the toms were with hens that they were not willing to leave. Through the years, I’ve found this to be the case many times when hunting turkeys at first light. I marked the spot and planned to return and set up later that day a hundred yards or so from the big cottonwoods where the turkeys were roosting.

    Later that afternoon, I built a little blind from my camo mesh, placed a hen and Jake decoy 20 yards in front of the blind and settled in to call. After about an hour, I was beginning to wonder if I had chosen the wrong location. I had hear no gobbling nor seen any birds. As is often the case when turkey hunting, I picked up movement out of the corner of my eye; it was a big gobbler sneaking in unannounced! It’s important to remain very still when turkey hunting. Gobblers don’t always tip off their location by gobbling. Some birds, usually the older mature toms, will sometime sneak in. Once the gobbler spotted the Jake decoy, he make a beeline for him. Mature gobblers don’t take kindly to a young whipper-snapper stealing their girl friends this time of year! A heavy load of #4 shot anchored the gobbler in his tracks at about 25 yards.

    Photo by Luke Clayton

    Hood and I experienced turkeys that seemed almost too anxious to come to our calls and decoys and some that were more challenging to get within shotgun range. This is what makes hunting turkeys in the spring so much fun, you really never know what mood you will find them in!

    Robert Hodges still has openings for this seasons turkey hunts and he’s booking deer hunts for this fall. For more information, call 806-867-3121.

    Listen to LUKE CLAYTON”S OUTDOORS RADIO at www.catfishradio.com