When you’re taping a hunting television show sometimes things go all wrong … until they go all right! That was the case last week on Lone Hollow Ranch near Vanderpool, Texas out in the western Hill Country. I was chasing Rio Grande turkeys with freelance producer Tyge Floyd at the invitation of the great folks at Lone Hollow Camp.
A little history. We hooked up with Lone Hollow earlier in the year when we tried to tape a late, late season Texas whitetail hunt on their operation in Big Wells. We weren’t successful in getting me close enough to any critters to take with my bow so the Lone Hollow folks took pity on me and invited us back to hunt their other properties for turkey.
We arrived on Sunday to do some scouting and enjoy an unbelievable chuck wagon welcome dinner prepared by Butch (C. Dub) and Penny Welch. They are full-time employees of the Lone Hollow Adventure Camp. Butch is retired from a long career as an Idaho game warden and is renowned as a chuck wagon and cast iron cook and a pretty fair hunting guide.
Next morning we loaded up early and headed to Lone Hollows newest property about an hour north of the main camp. We worked two birds between sun up and noon. Usual turkey hunting stuff; bird is all fired up, then hangs up just out of sight for no good reason – at least apparent to the relatively gigantic brain of a human hunter. The first tom was gobbling great. He’d come up to the edge of a dry creek bed, then turn around and drift off. I’d call him back, he’d hang up, then drift off again. He did this seven different times before he decided if that stubborn hen wouldn’t make the final move, to heck with her!
We moved into run and gun mode from there and shortly got another tom fired up. We jogged down the trail to get ahead of him and cut him off in a network of clearings among the oaks and cedars. It looked like the perfect spot to kill a gobbler.
We eased toward him and I made a soft call. He hollered back just around a point of brush. We set up right were we were. For 20 minutes that tom and I screamed at each other, but he wouldn’t budge. Finally, I decided to back off to see if he’d get interested if he thought the hen was leaving. Nope. He just stayed where he was. So I snuck through the brush as close as I dared to where he was. I pulled a hen decoy from my vest and plumped it up on the stake. Asking myself once again, “What would Mark Kayser do?” I bellied out into the grass with the decoy in front of me. (I only did it because I was absolutely certain I was the only hunter on this 2200 acre property.) I went as far as I dared into the open, planted the stake and slithered back to the brush. I set up to call.
Just as I hoped the turkey came far enough around the point to spy the decoy. When he did … he dropped out of strut, spun around and lit out in the opposite direction as fast as he could go! By then the temperature had pushed well into the 90s. For this yankee, it was just too hot to even think about hunting turkeys.
We were back at the same location the next morning and heard… absolutely nothing. We hiked and called and hiked and called and couldn’t get anything fired up. So we hooked up with Butch who chauffered us around in the Mule. We’d run a quarter mile, stop, call, load up and run another quarter mile. Finally, just after 11:00 we got a response. The bird was on the front part of the ranch, not far from where work crews are building new sheds, lodges and deer breeding facilities. As it turned out we, the gobbler and a work crew all ended up in the same place at the same time. He shut up and took off. We walked up to the work crew, each of whom was listening to an iPod, and startled them a bit when we asked, “Did you see a turkey come by here?” That ended the morning hunt.
We came up with a new plan over lunch. Back at the main Lone Hollow Camp we stayed in air conditioned comfort as the afternoon temp pushed toward 100. Then about 6:15 p.m. we eased out into a narrow finger of the property we hoped birds would cross on the way to their habitual roost near the river.
Action was only minutes in coming. First a hen yelped back in the brush to our right. I was fixated on calling her in to see what she might bring with her, when Tyge looked back to the left and saw six jakes and 2-year-old toms already in the decoys. We couldn’t do a thing about it. After 5 minutes or so they drifted off in the direction of the yelping hen.
After another 15 minutes they’d looped back to the far end of the clearing from where they eyed the decoys cautiously. I moved just enough to work the box call, but they spotted it and ran in the opposite direction.
So another half hour passed. I called softly every ten minutes or so. I heard some squirrels in the leaves to my left and turned to see them. Not squirrels. Two long beards were running toward the decoys. We’d set them up to look like a jake was breeding a hen. They didn’t like that at all and were coming in to kick some butt.
When the moved behind some sparse brush I took the chance to raise the butt of my shotgun to my shoulder. They saw it, but weren’t completely spooked. Instead of bolting they putted and walked nervously away down the edge of the clearing. I could see them clearing in the scope.
I asked Tyge, “Which one?”
He replied, “Either one. I’ve got them both.”
A split second later the two read heads lined up perfectly in the special turkey reticle of the Nikon scope. Remembering I was in Texas with four turkey tags on my license, I squeezed the trigger. At the blast both toms went sprawling and kicked their last.
As I walked out to claim the big ol’ birds (the larger was 11 1/8” beard with 1 ¼” spurs and smaller wasn’t far behind) I had two thoughts:
1) It’s always amazing how fast a hunt can go from s-l-o-w to success!
2) I LOVE Texas!!!
Tyge Floyd and Bill Miller at Lone Hollow Camp