With the sand beginning to run out of the hour glass that is the 2018 spring turkey season, the temptation is there to push the snooze button on the alarm clock this weekend and call it good.
After all, following weeks of early morning wake-up calls, this has been a gobbler getting hunting campaign that has seen plenty of turkeys that are henned up, hung up, and hushed up.
As he stifles back a yawn, North Texas Outfitters head man Dakota Stowers says that he understands such turkey hunting pain, particularly in a year that has seen such crazy weather conditions.
Conditions like snow flurries and Arctic air in Oklahoma at the beginning of April when the turkey season opener seemed more winter like than spring. Then two or three rare April freezes south of the Red River here in North Texas. Plenty of paint peeling high winds and some wildfires after that. And then finally warmth, severe thunderstorms, and heavy rain as this story is being written.
In fact, just after writing that last sentence, a nearby lightning strike knocked the power out briefly. Thank goodness for Automatic Document Recovery, I guess.
So it isn’t much of a surprise that Stowers and other hunters are describing the 2018 spring turkey season, in both Oklahoma and North Texas, as a bit on the unusual side with gobblers quietly going about their breeding season business.
In other words, the longbeards aren’t following the usual springtime script of being loudmouthed and obnoxious. Instead, they are playing the Rio Grande turkey version of the quiet game.
“Yeah, it’s been a year where there hasn’t been much gobbling other than the first 30 minutes of the morning and the last hour of the evening,” Stowers indicated a few days ago. “After that, it’s been crickets on many days.”
That being said, the young outfitter from Denison indicates that despite the limited gobbling action, he and his guides have led clients to a surprisingly good season given the silent woods.
In fact, it’s the best that Stowers has seen in his growing career of outfitting hunts for deer, turkey, doves, hogs, and ducks in the western reaches of North Texas and in southwestern Oklahoma. So good of a season, in fact, that NTO (www.northtexasoutfitters.com; 903-815-9842) is already quickly filling up their turkey hunting slots for next spring.
“Yes sir, the season has been going good,” said Stowers. “We have taken 44 turkeys this season including six so far this week. And we’ve still got a few hunts left over the final few days of the season.”
Mind you, most of these birds aren’t young jakes that come rolling in to any type of turkey noise.
“Most of these gobblers have been big, mature birds on the various properties that we are hunting,” indicated Stowers. “Our longest beard has measured at 11 1/4-inches while the longest spur taped out at 1 5/16-inches. And our heaviest tom has weighed in at 21 1/2-pounds, which is pretty good for a Rio Grande.”
Stowers admits that despite an A+ kind of year, things are going to be challenging in the final few days of the season on both sides of the Red River as tight-lipped longbeards continue to grow tougher to hunt as the breeding season wanes, the changeable weather continues, and hunting pressure mounts.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope for bagging a big, mature longbeard. In fact, one of the biggest toms of the season fell just the other day.
“Yeah, it may be a little bit harder since it’s the end of the season and the birds aren’t talking too much,” said Stowers. ” But it’s not impossible either.”
If you’d like to give the season another try, Stowers has some last gasp turkey hunting advice.
“Know where the birds are roosting, putting them to bed the evening before if at all possible,” he said. “Then you want to get 100-yards or so from the roost site the next morning, being careful to move in under the cover of darkness so that the birds don’t see you.
“Then, as it starts to get light and shooting time approaches, call lightly a time or two. That’s it, you just want to let them know that you’re there. After that, let them come to you. A lot of our birds this season have been coming in silent.”
While Stowers is always ready to praise the superb calls made by Zink Calls and their championship turkey calling team of Matt Morrett and Josh Grossenbacher, the local guide admits that as the 2018 season wanes here in the Red River Valley, less is more.
That means that he’s not using the Zink Wicked Series box call much if at all, opting for a mouth diaphragm call or the Zink Wicked Series Brazilian Cherry slate call to throw out one or two soft yelps, a few soft clucks, and some seductive purrs.
And while the various Rio Grande decoys made by Avian-X are as good as any in the business, in the last gasp of the current season, Stowers has put the dekes away for the year, relying on the turkey’s urge to breed coupled with some soft, enticing calls to be the siren song for a locked-lip longbeard.
“So the main thing is staying patient and waiting them out,” said Stowers. “You may or may not hear a gobble, but more than likely, they will come.”
As long as you’re out in the woods, that is, as the 2018 spring turkey season heads towards the finish line.
Because as one of hunting and fishing’s most tried and true sayings goes, you can’t fill an unused tag while you’re sitting on the couch, now can you?
“Yes sir, you got that right,” said Stowers with a grin.
Along with a weary yawn, the kind that only late season turkey hunters know.