Sunday, 9 April 2017

JAKES AND HENS, PART THREE

JAKES AND HENS

PART THREE

 
When we reached camp after I had shot my first turkey, Clay disappeared for a minute and came back with a pair of women’s stockings, there not going to fit me I thought!  In fact they were for the turkey, even stranger I hear you say, but by sliding him head first into one of the stockings you protect his feathers from damage, that way the taxidermist end up with a better quality bird and you end up with a better quality mount.  As soon as the turkey was on ice we packed our gear and headed for our second hunting area, about a four-hour drive away, not far from Uvalde, here Clay hoped we might get an older bird, as all we were seeing here were Jakes and hens.

 

The accommodation at the second ranch was in a beautiful log cabin set among tall Cyprus trees on the banks of a river.  On arrival we dropped our bags and went out hunting, the first signs looked good as we spotted turkeys almost straight away, they were moving from the fields to the security of the trees to roost.  Clay drove me to an area where he thought I might have a chance of a Tom, and gave me instructions on how to get back to the ranch.  I called for a while at this spot but saw nothing, then slowly I walked back to the ranch stopping and calling as I went, I did see a couple of turkeys but only as they crossed my path on the way to roost.  That evening I met Chris the ranch owner, who had prepared a Tex Mex meal for us while we had been away, after the events of the day it was very welcome.
 

 

The next morning we were up early and I was in position before dawn, I was sat with my back to a hedge looking over a grass field towards a patch of woodland.  About an hour after first light I saw a group of turkeys, they had come out of the wood and were headed my way, I raised my right knee slowly and rested the shotgun on it to avoid too much movement when they were closer.  I kept calling and when they got close I could see the group consisted of three jakes and two hens, I stopped calling not wanting to give my exact position away and remained motionless, they came to with in a few feet of me before drifting off to my right and through the hedge.  I wanted a Tom and nothing else would do, later that day I had a similar encounter.  That evening we watched some footage shot by a trail camera over looking a game feeder on Chris’s ranch; there were hogs, deer and turkeys, but no Toms just Jakes and hens.  Clay decided we should move to another area, so after hunting the next morning with out success we again hit the road.

 

Another four plus hour drive took us over the Pecos River to a ranch the other side of the town of Sanderson.  Here the accommodation was an old shack used by the ranch hands and hunters for many years.  We immediately set out hunting, and after glassing from several locations spotted a flock of turkeys, they were close to an old barn and a leaking water tank that were situated amongst the thick brush of the area.  I quietly and carefully got as close as I could before I started to call, an hour later and with no sight or sound of the turkeys I decided to try and get a bit closer, this was a mistake, as I stood up several turkeys that I hadn’t seen spooked and flew, blowing my chances.  The next morning we were up even earlier, we drove for about one and a half hours before turning off onto dirt roads, this was Texas canyon country, and it took us another hour to get to a flat area on the banks of the Rio Grande.  There amongst the mesquite trees and the prickly pear cactus I did my best to call in a turkey, but again all I could tempt were Jakes and hens.  In the afternoon we set up two decoy hens, I sat under a thorn bush twenty yards from them and called quietly, the heat was almost intolerable and after a couple of hours the pain in my legs and backside was agonising.  One turkey eventually showed up, but you guessed it, a Jake.  The following day was my last hunting day in Texas, again it started early but my first hunt before breakfast turned up another blank, by 11AM I was out again, this time the plan was to walk and call, making my way to the barn and leaking water tank.  As I approached the barn this time from the opposite side I came across lots of turkey sign, they had obviously been roosting in these trees, as there were droppings and feathers all over the ground.  I sat here and called but to no avail, it was almost 3PM when Clay arrived in the pickup to move me to my last location.
 

 

We drove to an area where Clay had spotted what looked like a good Tom the previous day, as I got out of the truck I realised this was my last chance.  I quickly got into position loaded the shotgun and arranged my calls to minimise movement.  I had just started calling when I heard heavy foot falls, then a small heard of cattle gathered right in front of me, this was all I needed, as there was no way of shooing with them only ten yards away.  I decided not to call for a few minutes, and hoped they might drift away, which after a time most of them did, leaving just two stubborn individuals.  It was now I spotted a turkey, he was moving slowly, and I could see with out binoculars that his beard reached the ground when he bent forward to peck at some small food item.  I started to call very quietly while he crossed diagonally in front of me, a hundred yards out, then he stopped and started to dust bath, after what seemed like hours he got up and crossed back diagonally from left to right getting a little closer all the time.  It was now his disappeared into some thick bushes, unable to see him I dare not move, in case he was looking my way, the pain started to build in my legs and sitting motionless was self inflicted torture, as time went by I was beginning to think he had gone, but he reappeared from the bushes and again crossed diagonally from right to left, he was now about fifty yards away and moving a little quicker.  He was coming straight down a line of bushes to my left, I picked out a small bush twenty yards away and said to my self, when he gets here I’m going to shoot, I raised the gun very slowly and waited.  As he got to the bush I blew gently on my mouth call, he stopped and raised his head, I squeezed the trigger and click, I couldn’t believe it, the gun had failed to pick up a cartridge from the magazine.

 

The turkey heard the click and quickly disappeared into the bushes, I was distraught, all the time, money and effort to get this far, not to mention the pain I was in should have amounted to something, or so I thought, it seemed like the hunting gods was against me.  I eased back the fore end of the gun as quietly as I could and watched this time as I chambered a cartridge.  I moved my aching legs a little and tried to get comfortable, sliding involuntarily a couple of feet down the bank I was sitting on.  It was to late to go anywhere else, and Clay wasn’t coming back until dark, so I sat tight and continued to call, cursing my bad luck.  Half an hour had passed since I had last seen the turkey, the shadows were lengthening and my mind turned to my journey home which would start all to soon.  It was then as I looked to my left and spotted a turkey through the over hanging branches of the bushes I was sitting under, I could only see it’s silhouette, as it stood erect and facing me, it didn’t look very big and for a moment I thought it might be a hen, but as it lowered its head and turned slightly I saw the long beard of a Tom, I slowly raised the gun.  There were far to many branches in the way to shoot, I would have to wait, I called quietly with a mouth call and slowly he started to come my way, then after what had seemed like an age he cleared the bushes and I shot, I tried to jump to my feet but my legs were so stiff I couldn’t, but I had no need to rush, I had shot for the neck and several pellets had hit his head and neck area killing the Tom instantly.
 
 
 

I laid the turkey out in the last rays of the setting sun and admired my trophy; it had been very hard won, and it was all the more special for that reason.  This was an old bird; his claws were worn almost completely off from scratching in the hard ground, his spurs were 1 5/8 inches long and his beard was just over 10 inches.  Clay showed up at the allotted time and shook my hand and congratulated me, it had been one of the toughest hunts I had ever been on, but one I’d never forget.  I packed my case that night and at 4.30 AM we set off on a 500-mile drive back to San Antonio airport and home.  What a hunt it had been, turkeys really are a challenge of all your hunting skills, you can hunt them using a rifle or a pistol or even a bow and arrow, my weapon of choice was a 12 gauge, as you then have to get your bird up close and personal before you can shoot, making for a very exciting hunt.  There are four other sub species of turkey available to hunt in the USA, the Eastern, the Merriams, the Osceola and the Goulds so I’ll defiantly be going back for another crack at this more than challenging game bird.  

No comments:

Post a comment