Having conquered an Osceola longbeard, the second leg in my pursuit of a single-season Grand Slam found me at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas. The breathtaking property is nestled in the heart of Hill Country—an unforgettable rolling landscape covered with thick blankets of bluebonnets. It's the ultimate place to kill a Rio Grande gobbler.
I was joined by Shannon Tompkins and Susan Ebert, well-known outdoor writers from Texas, and Josh Grosenbacher, turkey products manager for Zink Calls. Brent Lawrence, public relations director for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), was also there to coordinate the adventure.
As representatives of the outdoor industry and guests of the NWTF, our primary goal was to examine the wild turkey population at Reveille. Of course, we did so dressed in full camo with pocketfuls of turkey calls and shotguns in hand. The birds were there—in healthy numbers, especially considering last year's catastrophic drought—but it proved to be a challenging hunt.
We split into groups to cover the expansive 1,300-acre ranch. I teamed with Josh, and shortly after flydown on the first morning we were on a hot gobbler. He wouldn’t commit after hammering our every beckoning call, so we picked up and headed toward another vocal bird. No cigar.
After hours of scaling the demanding Hill Country terrain, our stomachs begged for sustenance. We headed back to join our fellow hunters for a midmorning report and a delicious lunch. While finishing my sandwich, I struck a conversation with another special guest—Kellogg’s bass pro Jim Tutt. Tucked behind the main pavilion at Reveille is a private lake that’s loaded with piles of trophy-class largemouth bass. After minimal arm twisting, Josh and I boarded Jim’s decked-out Ranger bass boat and started throwing plastic baits. On his second cast, Josh landed an 8.2-pound monster. Two hours and more than 50 catch-and-release largemouths later, it was time to get back to the turkey woods.
We screamed into every potential honey-hole with a variety of Zink turkey-talkers, hoping to strike the interest of a lonely longbeard. Finally, shortly before sunset, the silence was broken as Josh pleaded with his mouth call at the bottom of a hill. A gobbler hammered back from the other end of a not-too-dense woodlot. “Let’s kill this bird,” Josh said.
Hurriedly, we found two perfect trees and I settled into position as Josh placed an Avian-X breeder hen decoy 15 yards in front of us. Josh—a competitive turkey caller with an extensive hen vocabulary—started in with some yelps and cutting. No response. Within minutes, Josh slowly rotated his head toward me with a dead-serious look in his eyes. “I can hear him drumming," he said. "I swear, man.” My heart crawled up my throat as my ears recognized the familiar low tones coming from an otherwise silent tom closing in.
Two heads appeared, bobbing through the brush. Hens. They saw the Avian-X and began jogging in for a territorial squabble. Suddenly, I heard a loud spit—a sure sign that the drumming Rio was dangerously close. Then, the last remaining beams of sunlight drew my attention to a glowing copper tail fan, 20 yards behind the hens. The gobbler closed in, but wouldn’t present himself in my sights. The hens hit their brakes, spooked by the unfamiliar sound of my safety clicking off. The strutter courteously stuck his head out in an open shooting lane, presenting a split-second shot opportunity before bugging out with the hens.
A successful hunt at Reveille Peak Ranch leaves me with only two subspecies remaining in my Grand Slam Pursuit. The white-tipped Merriam’s of northwest Nebraska now await me at One Lazy J Ranch, where I’ll head next week. Then, it’s onward to my yearly stomping grounds in southwest Wisconsin for ultra-tough Easterns.