March/April 2013

TSJ Feature: Texas Turkey Two Step

Story by Mike Leggett

THE PINEYWOODS – I could see the gobbler’s head begin to disappear behind the trunk of a giant pine. I knew the shot was a mistake, and yet I could do nothing to stop it. My trigger finger was ahead of my brain, as was the turkey, and his brain is the size of a pea.

There was an explosion of pine bark punctuated by tiny holes punched through by my load of #6’s, and I watched the startled tom sprint off up the hill and out of sight. At least I had the good sense not to take the fool’s shot at the fleeing eastern turkey, thus risking a wounded and dying bird on my very first Eastern hunt in Texas.

I learned a little from that turkey in the early days of Eastern hunting in Texas – to get a good seat with my butt on the ground and to believe my ears when they tell me a turkey is coming – and wound up killing an Eastern at a place with the whimsical name of Clabberhead Road near Nacogdoches the following season. I blew the next several chances, usually by outsmarting myself, and it took me 10 years to kill my second Eastern turkey in Texas. Now that habitat and Eastern populations have begun to level out and even decline in some areas, I may never kill another. But I’ll still have our old friend the Rio Grande – the most numerous wild turkey in the state – to keep me glued to the mat in frustration.

Turkey hunting – Eastern turkey hunting, Rio Grande turkey hunting – is really just a series of failures eventually leading to success. Or to more failure if we’re talking about Texas’ resident ghost: the Eastern wild turkey. We get better at it, but mostly we have brief moments of ego-boosting happiness surrounded by days of humiliation at the hands of a bird that most of the time doesn’t remember that he can fly.

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