Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Luke Clayton, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member


    Luke Clayton

    I’ve been hunting turkeys for almost a quarter century and no two hunts have ever unfolded the same. I just returned from a hunt on the Holt River Ranch in Palo Pinto County with my friends Bob Hood and ranch manager John Bryan where I experienced a sensory overload of beautiful scenery and plentiful turkeys.

    The ranch is currently under the 5th generation stewardship of Dr. Glenn Rogers. This beautiful, rugged land has been owned by the same family since 1906. Situated on the Post Oak Bend of the Brazos and mentioned in several books, including John Graves, “Goodbye To A River”, one can ‘feel’ the history steeped into the rock outcroppings, streams and hidden valleys on the place.

    This was my first visit to the ranch and I arrived just before dark, too late to see much of the country. I was thankful that my buddies had scouted a place for me to hunt the next morning. “Luke, we’re going to put you on a ridge overlooking the Brazos River, there are turkeys all over the ranch but we’ve seen lots of birds in this area recently. They feed along the trail up on the ridge that parallels the river and gobblers like to use the more open valley along the river to display during the breeding season. Earlier today, we spotted a big Tom with a beard that almost dragged the ground. You should have a good hunt in the morning.” says Bryan as we enjoyed a camp meal of BBQ and beans.

    The next morning well before daylight, Bryan and I had our gear loaded into the ATV and were soon winding our way along the 4 mile serpentine route that led to the ridge along the river where I would be hunting. In the distance, I could see the silhouette of the Palo Pinto Mountains in the distance. This is going to be a great morning, but to my way of thinking, ANY morning spent hunting turkeys during the spring is a great morning!

    I placed my hen decoy about 25 yards out in front of a little brush blind Bryan had built and settled in. Daylight was a good thirty minutes away and I waited to hear birds sounding off from their roost. We had entered the area quietly and I knew there could be turkeys roosting nearby. Just before sunup, I heard a couple of hens making those sleepy little “roost clucks’ as I call them. These quiet little murmurings made by roosting turkeys can best be likened to a couple of sleepy hunters setting around camp, sipping their first cup of coffee, talking in subdued tones and thinking about what the day might hold in store. Then, a couple of minutes before shooting light, I broke the silence with a series of soft yelps of my box call. No response. I cranked up the volume for another round of yelps. I heard what appeared to be three different gobblers sound off, two were on the ridge on the opposite side of the river and one was downriver several hundred yards.

    I decided to stay put in the little brush blind along the trail and see if I could call a bird within shooting range. Visibility was good and an approaching gobbler should be able to spot my decoy. My ambush spot looked good and, coupled with the fact that my buddies has actually sighted a big longbeard here the day before, I had no intentions of moving. I watched a couple of hens walk up to inspect the decoy, then they quietly fed along the trail and disappeared into the heavy cover. The gobblers went completely silent. I guessed they were with hens. Two hours later, I opened with a series of loud yelps and was answered instantly with the response of a gobbler coming from across the river; probably a bird that had bred the hens he roosted with and was looking for more companionship. I’ve killed a lot of gobblers between the hours of 10 am. to 3 pm.

    This old boy was obviously ready to rumble. I would call aggressively and he would respond with enthusiasm, hammering the quiet morning silence with deep gobbling that I was sure was shaking the leaves on the bushes around him. I decided to leave my little blind and head down the ridge to the water’s edge and try to call him across the river, a task that I had little confidence in but from the sounds, this was a big bird and worthy of me breaking the silence and leaving my hiding place in the brush.

    I found a spot of shoreline reeds to hide in and began calling. I remember thinking that this was a bit like duck hunting, but with every series of loud yelps, the gobbler made it crystal clear he was no pintail or gadwall, his booming gobble informed me that I had his full attention. After several minutes of calling and listening to his answering gobbling, I decided to take the hunt to the bird. He was not crossing the river and was reluctant to come out of the heavy cover that, thankfully, helped to conceal my presence.

    I found a little riffle in the river with knee deep water and crossed. At water’s edge, I hid behind a big pile of debris created by the last flood and began calling. Now, I heard TWO gobblers and they were RIGHT behind the shoreline grasses and reeds, 40 yards or less away. I would call aggressively and they would answer but the cover was too thick for them to take the most direct route to what they perceived to be a receptive hen. Then, from the direction of their gobbles, I could tell they were on the move. Like all wild creatures, they knew their habitat well. In a couple of minutes, two very nice gobblers popped their heads above cover on the edge of the water and I was very thankful for my new auto 12 gauge camo shotgun by Tri Star Arms. The second I centered the bead on the closest turkey’s head and pulled the trigger, he lowered his head and I shot over him. The follow up shot of # four shot anchored the bird in his tracks.

    Photo by Luke Clayton

    As I waded the Brazos with the bird over my shoulder, I was very happy to once again enjoy a spring ritual that I hope goes on forever. There’s nothing quite like hunting turkeys in the spring, even if you do occasionally have to get your feet wet!

    FOR INFORMATION ON THE HOLT RIVER RANCH. Go online to www.holtriverranch.com or call John Bryan at 940-452-3415. Bryan has a few openings for spring turkey hunts and dove and deer hunts this fall.

    Don't miss The Outdoor's With Luke Clayton weekly radio show on www.catfishradio.com
  2. Whistler

    Whistler Well-Known Member

    Great article Luke. Felt like I was right there with you.