Numbers are down but spring turkey hunting good for now

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat
North Texas Outfitters owner and head guide Dakota Stowers (far right) saw success first hand this past week as 27-time turkey calling champion Preston Pittman (center) took a double-bearded longbeard while a MOJO Outdoors television cameraman recorded the action.

As the 2021 spring turkey season continues, it’s a mix of good news and not so good news for gobbler getters on both sides of the Red River.

In fact, the longbeard news so far this season is something akin to Charles Dickens oft-quoted line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

But while Dickens was talking about revolutionary times in his famed novel A Tale of Two Cities, North Texas Outfitters owner and lead guide Dakota Stowers isn’t thinking about classical literature as he offers up his latest report on the spring turkey campaigns underway in North Texas and most of Oklahoma.

On the good side of the ledger, Stowers is thinking about some great hunting action on spring longbeards. In fact, a number of mature toms have followed the script with lots of gobbling, heavy bodyweights, long beards, and sharp spurs as NTO clients have tagged several turkeys this week.

“It’s been great so far,” said Stowers with a chuckle on Thursday. “It would have been even better though, if we hadn’t had several misses.”

But due to the amount of prairie terrain that Stowers and his NTO guides hunt, they’ve been able to consistently put hunters on birds — and back on them, if necessary — as the spring waltz continues with camo clad hunters calling at birds coming into a decoy dancing ever so slightly in the April breeze.

“Yes sir, we are staying on birds, but that’s primarily due to the tons of land that we are hunting,” he said.

Unfortunately, that’s the good news so far this spring since Stowers says that from his perspective, gobbler numbers are down as the 2021 season runs its course.

“Bird numbers are down pretty bad,” he admitted. “I think it’s a mix of the heavy rainfall a couple of years ago. That probably washed away a lot of eggs that were laid anywhere near the creek bottoms. And then, of course, there was the big freeze earlier this year and that may have done some damage to turkey numbers too.”

While turkey numbers near NTO’s Waurika, Okla. base may be down from the outfitter’s perspective, gobbling activity is moving into the season’s sweet spot as the spring hunting action continues in North Texas and Oklahoma. That’s also good news next week as the April 22-May 14 spring Eastern turkey season finally opens in Grayson, Fannin, and Lamar counties too.

“The birds in this part of the world are just starting to get right,” said Stowers. “The start of the season in Oklahoma and North Texas a couple of weeks ago was pretty tough since the gobblers were still grouped up and henned up. But now, the last few days, they’ve been gobbling their heads off!”

Stowers’ outfitting group has seen multiple birds get tagged so far this week, including one that’s going to be made famous on a Sportsman Channel television show. That gobbler, which featured two beards measuring a total of 17-inches, fell as MOJO Outdoors TV cameras were recording the action as one of the most recognizable names in spring turkey hunting history sat behind the shotgun.

“Yes sir, we had 27-time world champion Preston Pittman in camp with us a few days ago to film a MOJO TV show,” said Stowers. “He put on a show calling the bird and the double-bearded turkey put on his own show gobbling and strutting his way in. It was fun to watch for sure!”

Which goes to prove that when it comes to spring turkey hunting anywhere in the Red River Valley region, it only takes one moment in the spring sunlight for a not so good season to become great.

All it takes is a little timely gobbling, a straight shot from a scattergun, and a big smile as another longbeard hits the ground and heads for the dinner table.

Because when all of that happens, the worst of times become the best of times in only the blink of an eye as the timeless springtime dance unfolds on the woodsy dance floor once again.