Our 2013 spring turkey season was a challenge for a couple of reasons.
First of all, as we had been telling all interested hunters, the 2013 turkey population would have a multitude of jakes and some wily, smart three-year-old and older birds. There were zero two-year-old gobblers due to the complete lack of a hatch back during the difficult spring of 2011. The drought of that spring, coupled with the huge fires all over Texas, caused our turkey hen population to go on strike when it came to nesting and raising young birds. So there was a gap in the age-mix of the turkeys this spring.
Secondly, the drought has returned - maybe not yet quite as bad as two years ago, and thankfully there are no fires, at least up to now. But the dry weather definitely had an effect on the turkey's habits during the 2013 season. The normal breeding ritual of the birds seemed to be underway to some degree, but hunters often reported disinterest among the gobblers to their calling. Some hens showed evidence of nest building activities, but a fair number of other females did not.
Every turkey hunter will tell you that three-year-old and older gobblers are more difficult to work than are the two's. So during yet another dry spell, and with the birds responding less that enthusiastically, the hunters had to (1) be lucky and (2) be good at their craft. There was little room for mistakes.
Of course, veteran turkey hunters can recount many lessons they have learned over the years. Especially during the 2013 season, improper hunting of the skittish, older birds brought disappointment to some of our hunters. But on the other hand, those who followed the long-established rules of hunting the Rio Grande specie of birds did mighty well. Drawing on years of experience, the veteran Rio hunters collected birds maybe not easily, but reliably. So nothing takes the place of experience, unless it is luck, and it never hurts to have plenty of that in your game bag, along with all your calls.
With the dry pasture conditions, the weights of the mature gobblers were down from earlier, better years. Not many of them topped the twenty-pound mark. Spur length, as you might imagine with all the older birds, was generally quite good.
The roving bands of jakes were seen by almost all the hunters. There was speculation that these groups of young toughs might, in fact, be intimidating the few, solitary longbeards. Indeed, the older gobblers were at times not all that vocal and often slipped up unannounced on hunters. But with the proliferation of jakes, and with hunters intent on taking a bird, many jakes fell to the hunter's guns as consolation prizes. Other jakes taken, so we were told, were mistaken for a gobbler. With the vast number of yearling male birds in evidence during the 2013 season, the harvest of a few jakes hardly scratched the surface. Indeed, there will be a multitude of two-year-old longbeards next spring.
Here are some statistics on the 2013 season combining the numbers from all three of our spring turkey camps:
48 hunters took 40 gobblers and 22 jakes.
4 hunters took three birds/each.
16 hunters took two birds/each.
18 hunters took one bird/each.
9 hunters failed to collect a bird.
We tabluated at least eight missed shots.
As everyone knows, statistics can be bent to support any message. Regarding the numbers above, it should be noted that some of our hunters had a self-imposed limit of only one gobbler, needing to save tags for other hunts. Also, several hunters did not have the advantage of a full three days in the field. Some had other demands on their time.
The Best Gobblers of 2013
Heaviest Gobbler - 22 lbs. Bill Lester, Cleveland, MS
Longest beard - 10 1/2" Brian Robinson, Cleveland, MS
Longest Spurs - each 1 5/8" Michael Thomas, El Paso, TX
Biggest Fiasco - Brad Milner's giant gobbler turned out to be two jakes instead.
If you are looking to bag a Rio Grande turkey, come hunt with us. We are located right in the heart of their home land.
Contact me anytime for a list of available open dates.