Keep up with all things, outdoors, with Big Billy Kinder...
The most recent deer season just wasn’t what we dream of. The previous year was. Last year, on opening morning it was perfect! Robin and I had made the drive on a bright cool and sunny November day and enjoyed precious and rare relax time for an afternoon, a good meal and a solid night’s sleep at the hotel. I rose early in search of venison! It was opening day and that same excitement that I felt as a young teen is still exactly the same now, decades later! I had a couple of sausages and biscuits, coffee and more coffee and made my way 6 miles north of town on the blacktop and then 8 more down the caliche road to the ranch gate. Thru the gate, up the hill, slow rolling past the thick oak and mesquite to the area that I park, then a quarter of a mile walk to my spot. It’s still about an hour and a half until legal shooting time. I like to settle in with plenty of time for the area to be at ease with the surroundings. You can legally harvest deer at 30 minutes prior to official sunrise. Sunrise would be about 7:50 am, meaning that I could legally shoot at 7:20am.
I killed a nice buck at appx 7:30. Tag gone, easy as pie and the sun hasn’t crested the horizon yet on opening day. This most recent season? Total opposite. Deer season (1st Saturday in November thru the first Sunday in January) came and went without much activity at all. They just weren’t active and in my area during daylight. I saw and passed on a few young bucks. The does were not using my little area of the world nearly as much this year either. Deer season expired without me pulling the trigger. That means a shortage in the Kinder freezer. Fortunately the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists keep a close eye on our deer numbers in Texas county by county. Those numbers say that good management means taking some does and spikes out of circulation. To do that, much of Texas enjoys an extended doe and spike season, two extra weeks after the official close of the whitetail season.
I had hunted hard at every opportunity for two months and seen no dependable pattern in the deer movement that would build excitement. But, taco meat and German sausage and backstraps on open fires are wonderful, so...I loaded up on patience and carried on into the extended doe/spike season. My final day to hunt would be Saturday the 16th. I had church duties on the final day to hunt, Sunday the 17th. The sun set on my deer season without a cervid in my freezer for the first time in I don’t know when. It was eating on me when I woke up at 2am Sunday morning. I figured in the drive time etc and discovered that I could hunt for 2 hours and still make it to church on time! So, up at 2am, 80 plus mile drive, blacktop, caliche, oaks, mesquite, quarter mile walk and in place plenty of time prior to first light. With 30 minutes left until the absolute end of my deer season, three does popped out. I know that doesn’t sound like much but this year it was huge! I loaded two in in the bed of the truck. Glorious joy! Weeks and months of slow burning patience, 10 minutes of deer hunting thrill, one year’s supply of very good and healthy things to eat in out freezer. Patience!
July 15, 2021
The weatherman lied…again! The wind, they said, would be gentle-northerly at about 5 mph. After I made the 90 mile drive and launched the boat in the dark, the breeze picked up a bit, more like 15 to 20. It was one of those days where the waves would lift the front end of the boat so high that the trolling motor would spin in the air before plunging deeper than I wanted in the water. The north wind carried cold temps too. I woke up to calm and 62, and by 8am it was knee-knocking shivers with a wind chill in the 20’s. I did throw in the insulated rain jacket and that helped out a bit. The shorts that I wore did not. It was April and the crappie spawn should have been in full swing. Under typical conditions, I would have eased the boat around in 4 to 6 foot water, vertically jigging standing timber and caught my limit of 25 crappie within a couple of hours. These cold blasts just kept coming in the spring of 2021-one per week. Perfect spawning water and conditions for 3 days, north wind and cold moisture for the next 3. The fish never really “patterned”. They just kinda went with the flow of things. I’m sure that some spawned out in 10-14 foot water and others in less than a foot.
On this particular day, the north wind didn’t kill the bite, but I certainly had to work for my fish. The bois’ d’arc tree jungle gave up one fish in 6 foot water. A trusted brush pile in 12 feet of water yielded a few more. The bridge was holding some fish in 12 to 14 foot depths. Moving the boat was cold, wet and time consuming. I caught my 25 keepers but not in a couple of hours. This took all of the morning and half of the afternoon. Patience was the key.
I love the part of fishing that requires some thinking...trying to figure out where they are and how to get them to bite. Now I’d rather not do it with numb hands and cold tears running from my eyes, but it worked out. It would have been a lot more comfortable to load the boat at 7:30am and head out for a hot breakfast and home, but the fish fry wouldn’t have been nearly as good. I’m not patting myself on the back or saying ”look at me”. I’m simply pointing out the fact that many times, the guy in deer camp that comes back with the venison is not necessarily the best hunter in camp, but the one that will be patient and wait it out longer.
My wife, Robin, and I were fly fishing a beautiful stream some years back. This place was loaded with rainbows. She studied a short, shaded stretch of the little creek and spotted 6 trout. She patiently worked the less than eager fish for what seems now like half a day. Robin never spooked them and patiently delivered her fly to each individual fish again and again until she had held each one in her gentle hand. I don’t remember what her fly was that day, but the magic ingredient was patience.
They say that patience is a virtue. Ol' Daniel Webster says that a virtue is “a beneficial quality”. Yep. If our kids learn to possess the power of patience, not only will they experience better hunting and fishing successs but better relationships, careers and lives too. Ecclesiastes Chp 7 Verse 8 says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, likewise, patience is better than pride.” God, in His grace, is the definition of patience. As He watches (and He is) this sinful world circle round and round, He patiently waits to hold us, one by one, in His gentle hand.
May 26, 2021
JCR Fat GirlHey, if you're a dedicated bird hunter, you've been behind good bird dogs all of your life. You will NOT be disappointed with the dogs at Joshua Creek Ranch. It's so special to see a well-trained setter on point, head and tail high, setter feathers waving in the breeze.
AND THEN...They turn the "Fat Girl" loose!
Her real name is Stella. She stands maybe 14 inches tall, and she enjoys her meals. She carries a few extra pounds therefore she's earned the name "Fat Girl". She loves to hunt as much as she loves to eat. And when you turn this little English Cocker loose, there's no down time. She takes no breaks. And even though the cover is three times taller than her, she somehow, with the miracle of God's creation that HE put into a Cocker and bird dogs in general, tunnels through this thick cover unable to see the game being played. It's all nose and instinct that leads her to that bird that she promptly puts in the air and then retrieves to hand. The smile on her face that you can visibly see will put joy in your heart and a smile on your face.
There are lots of "Stellas" at Joshua Creek Ranch. They employ the little English Cockers to do the flushing and much of the retrieving. Most of the little Cockers are much more dainty then Stella; all work equally as hard. You're gonna want to take one home. I promise! (That's not a maybe) AND...from time to time, they do have litters available. Check with the folks at the ranch about that.
January 15, 2021
I see people with house dogs do it all of the time. It’s 98 degrees and they have ol’ Rusty on his leash because it’s time to “go poo-poo for mama”. So, Rusty leaps from his plush doggie bed in 72 degree air conditioned comfort and is bouncing up and down by the door waiting for the leash, an opening and the wide open spaces of the local park! When he first enters freedom’s bliss, he looks like a calf in a rodeo. Run fast, hit the end of the rope, bounce back, repeat. Just a few short minutes into the trip, ol’ Rusty has slowed down considerably. His tongue is hanging out about 8 inches long and he’s panting like the chug-a-lug of a Model T. He might even be involved in more of a drag than a walk by now, but he must continue on until mama leans down with her rubber glove and does the dirty work. Back home once again, Rusty foregoes the cozy doggie bed and stretches out belly down on the cool tile of the kitchen or bathroom.
Overheating and dehydration is serious business with our dogs, and as bad as it is in the dreaded August heat, I believe winter may be even hard on them from a dehydration perspective.
For bird hunters, summer workouts are imperative. September brings teal for lots of folks across America and in places like Montana, there are huns and sharptails to chase. Field trials even start back up around Labor Day. You can’t afford to just take the summer off. Common sense plays a huge role. Take steps to get your dog work done in the best of the bad conditions.
Enjoy your dogs! You’ll be working together in the dove field, teal blind and upland pastures before you know it…Get ready!!
Quick tip…If you have a kennel setup that allows you to run a garden hose across the top, buy a long sprinkler hose. You know, the kind of flat water hose that has little holes in it from one end to the other? Zip tie it in place, sprinklers aimed down into the runs. Set it up on a watering timer for 5 minutes each of the hottest hours of the day. Not only does it give your dogs a beneficial cool down, but it helps keep urine washed down as well.
August 11, 2020
With the virus popping up on every checkout counter, workplace and TV channel that you associate with, most folks have been looking for a way to space themselves from fellow humans. Depending upon who you listen to, there is either not as much to the COVID as first thought, or it’ll drop you in your tracks before the day is over. Heck, the Governor of California seems to think that you catch the COVID by attending church. From the sound of things “out there” your best bet for a healthy tomorrow is to get in line with a mass of protesters and then tear down a John Wayne statue out at the airport. I personally like John Wayne. In fact I’m a big fan. Sometimes when I’ve had enough of the panty-waist politicians and street-gang thugs on TV, I flip it over to the Duke. It’s refreshing to watch him smash a bad guy’s face into a tree. Of course, that was back when folks knew the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Hit a cop on the head with a stick...bad. Run an outlaw's face into an old oak...good.
If you’re not into protesting, looting or burning cars, you might try fishing. A lot of people have so far in 2020. One of my friends in the fishing industry recently told me that in the spring, the fishing business was up 200 percent! Wow! What church burning and window busting are for gun sales, the virus is for fishing poles! People put their masks on and went to Wal Mart. They bought a rod n reel and a few bass lures or maybe some stink bait for catfish. Some put the stink bait on the new bass lures. Some bought those disgusting looking dead minnows in the shrink wrap. Some dipped the stiff dead minnows in the catfish bait before hooking them on the bass lures. All of the above is okay!! In fact, its better than okay, its wonderful!!! When folks made the gear purchases, probably without even knowing it, they made a contribution to conservation. With that fishing purchase, they actually made America better and they didn’t even have to turn a police car upside down on the sidewalk. They proudly held that new fishing rod upside down, they reeled it backwards, they threw those brand new lures high into trees or over high line wires, never to be thrown again.
So…put the mask back on and now that you’re an experienced angler, go to Bass Pro Shop. You might pass out when you round the corner and see all of those glorious lures. You can buy stink bait by the bucket at BPS! You can even buy a shirt that makes you look legit, until you throw that new $18.00 Whopper Plopper up there next to the Wal Mart lures. At some point through dogged determination and countless casts, it will happen. Your bass lure will be firmly affixed to the mouth of a game fish, but like my late and wise friend Ray Sasser once said “it’s you that will be hooked” and you couldn’t be “hooked” on anything better than God’s great outdoors. It’s a wonderful side to a terrible virus, people are getting outside. Getting away from the news channels, honey-do’s, computer screens and frozen pizzas. In Minnesota there is an explosion in teens buying fishing licenses-TEENS! In fact, state after state are reporting big license sales. Do you have yours?
Let’s get started…
A 5 to 6 foot, lightweight spinning rod and reel combination or spin cast rod and reel combination. Less than $30 at Wally World. Small pan-fish hooks, bobbers and weights or sinkers. About 5 more bucks.
A box of worms. Couple of bucks unless you run into some COVID worm price gouging. From the bank of any creek, pond or lake, pinch off a small portion of worm, just about half an inch. Thread it onto the hook that is 4-6 inches below the weight, which is about 8 to 12 inches below the bobber. Cast to within a few feet of rocks, logs, boat docks or any kind of shade or structure in the water. When the bobber swims off or goes under, lift the rod tip and turn the reel handle at the same time to set the hook and reel 'em on in. There ya go! Your hooked!
Clean your fish. Yes, you can. Watch YouTube videos on how to fillet (boneless) or traditionally clean (bone in) your fish. Very simple. Wash the meat thoroughly. Bread your wet fish with cornmeal, salt and pepper mixture and place the fish in a deep fryer or hot skillet. (I fry my fish in a deep fryer at 355-360 degrees) It doesn’t take long. TIP: In a deep fryer, when the fillets float I give em another minute or so then pull them out.
Smile big at the dinner table, tell BIG stories to the family! YOU…are a fisherman. YOU have disappeared into the wilderness with rod in hand and reappeared at the dinner table with delicious fish. YOU…are something else!
C’mon, it’s the latest hot trend that doesn’t require you to sleep on a city street in Seattle or try to bust the CNN plate glass with your skateboard. (bettin that dude regrets that move) Really live it up on your radical journey to the neighborhood pond and tell someone Merry Christmas, Back the Blue or God bless John Wayne!
July 17, 2020
Before we get started, this is not a one size fits all crappie fishing guide. Your water in Florida may only be five feet deep. Your crappie in Minnesota may not know what standing timber looks like. We all live in our own little world, welcome to mine.
The calendar is slipping into middle May now and in Texas, that typically means the crappie spawn is nearly or completely over. If you will pay attention to the annual patterns that fish and wildlife follow, you can get closer to them and on occasion enjoy them on the table. This is true for all of God’s critters, but I’m zoned in on the crappie right now-zoned in for several reasons, not the least of which is dinner.
In the annual crappie chasing cycle, there are blocks of time. Predictable blocks when you know pretty much where the majority of the fish are located, and they are in that area in big numbers. There are also unpredictable blocks of time when the fish are scattered and can be tougher to find and capture. Predictable blocks of time are spring and summer. In springtime when the water temp hits 62 degrees or so, here the crappie come! They are headed for the shallows to make an investment in your grandchildren’s fishing future. The waves of crappie coming in and hanging out in shallow (10 feet or less) water can last for a month to six weeks or so. (notice all of the “or so’s…all of this can shift some from year to year) Typically, the very shallow water will hold male fish tail-fanning nests or protecting fry. Yes, the big females can be found there as well, but they move in to spawn then back out to slightly deeper cover, back in to spawn more eggs, out again deeper, five to ten foot water.
The spring spawn is a great time to impress the family with a big string of crappie and maybe even make the cover of “Wow! What a Fisherman” magazine. I fish a particular cove that features great shallow shoreline spawning cover.-reeds, brush etc. Within thirty yards of that shoreline is standing timber-two or three acres of timber. Drifting a jig or minnow just a few inches deep under a bobber in the shallows can catch a lot of fish! It’s the perfect time of year for the shore angler. Bigger fish are out there a little further, though, in those trees. Ease through the trees with a nine foot or longer pole to keep your distance and work a small jig from top to bottom and all around each tree stump. Recently, I caught all of my fish nine feet deep in ten foot water. The very next morning they were two to three feet deep in the same water. Typically, you will find a single fish on a tree, sometimes more and rarely a bunch…but it does happen.
Another predictable time is hot, hot, hot summer. A good fish finder on your boat and the knowledge to read and use it come in real handy! Side note…I know a fella that has spent many thousands of dollars on fish finders, always coveting the latest and greatest, but has never taken the time to learn how to properly use any of them. If you look at the simplest sonar units and don’t know what you’re looking at, throwing money at it will not increase your knowledge. It doesn’t take two or three thousand dollars to see fish on structure. There are great units for just a few hundred bucks out there these day: side and down imaging, sonar and gps technology for small money (small money for fish finder world anyway).
Okay, back to the fish. If you will spend your time doing homework with your fish finder, it will pay dividends in fillets! When the sun is high in the summertime, we like shade and air conditioning. Fish do too-boat docks, deep brush, timber, channel drops etc. The docks are obvious, the fish finder points out the other spots. In the midst of a Texas summer, I will usually find my crappie in eighteen to twenty five feet of water holding tightly to a brush pile or on standing timber. This time of year if you catch one crappie, drop your jig right back in the same exact spot and at the same exact depth and you're likely to catch another one, and another one and another one. When the bite slows on your jig, try a color change…sometimes that will fire em up again, or at least trick a few more. If you are concentrating on submerged brush, fish it completely. Even though the brush pile may be ten yards long, the crappie will hold in one or two small areas of the pile. If you are fishing standing timber, the shady side is key, so are limbs that produce shade. A big ol' narly limb or even better, a collection of limbs 20 feet deep in hot summer is a great find. It will also steal a lot of your jig heads. Take plenty of tackle.
In the fall, as the water temps cool and change, so does crappie activity...find and follow the baitfish because the crappie are. This is the time of year that I pull out the trolling rigs. I switch from jigs to live minnows and rig them on a weighted double minnow rig. Get up in the creeks and look for the baitfish. Set your rigs to troll at a depth towards the bottom third of where you are seeing bait. In other words, if the bait balls are averaging 5 to 8 feet deep in 12 feet of water, I will troll my minnows at 7 to 8 feet deep. Crappie feed upwards and will feed from under the ball of bait. I will either drift or use the trolling motor to slow troll my rigs. This is my least favorite way to crappie fish. My rods are in holders mounted to the boat, so I miss feeling the “thump”. You can still find large concentrations of fish but they are mobile, not “set up” on timber or brush like they were in spring and summer. You can be catching them pretty good one minute, and have absolutely no idea where they’ve gone the next. Like I said, fall is not my favorite time of year to crappie fish, but here is the good news. They taste the same!
There is a transition from spring to summer and summer to fall. These are the more unpredictable times to find and catch crappie. Big concentrations break up and individuals start making their way along the crappie trail. They are tougher to locate or catch great numbers at this time. Think about this. If you have a 20 mile commute to work, I have a good idea where you are between 8am and 5pm. I also have a pretty safe bet about your location between 6pm and 7am. However, it would be really tough to pinpoint your location from 7-8am and 5-6pm. But wait a minute…if I can do my research and find out where you like to stop for coffee, I can set up on a spot like that and intercept you during travel time. Same with crappie. They don’t leave point A with point B in mind and swim non-stop. They have waypoints along the trail that are good for resting, feeding, hanging out with other crappie and sharing the latest crappie news. These routes and stopping points remain the same year after year and generation after generation. That is unless flooding, drought or other related occurrences change that habitat. A mess of crappie may take a little longer and a little more “work” in these unpredictable windows, but it’s doable.
Winter-go deer hunting. It’s probably killed many a strong angler...trying to find crappie in the wintertime. It’s a little known fact that crappie dissolve in cold water. Crappie dust settles to the bottom of the lake and lies dormant until the first buds on the dogwoods bloom. Magically, God then calls the crappie dust to take shape and swim again. You ice fishermen are great people, but similar to duck hunters...a bit off-kilter. I’ve spent time with you. I’ve seen how you go about your crappie obsession. Dragging an auger where only weeks ago a very fast motor zipped you around in the comfort of your boat, beverage in hand. Now, you are drilling and drilling and drilling and moving and drilling and hoping and moving and drilling and hoping some more that there is a crappie under the next hole in the ice. Here’s a tip. Freeze a few in the summer and eat them in the winter. My version of ice fishing involves reaching into the garage freezer.
I hope this little outline helps you out season to season and that you become proficient at posing up for the magazine covers, websites and tv shows.
May 14, 2020
We've been locked up in our homes while making only the most necessary trips. We've Lysoled everything, a dozen times. We've watched the coronavirus news nonstop. Looks like we will be living this way for a while. A trip to the lake is wonderful therapy. An emotional band-aid. Even so, we can’t afford to let our guard down there either.
The Game and Fish folks in North Carolina have come up with a short list of recommendations for boaters. They are...
...maintain your distance at boat ramps and fuel docks
...avoid using boat ramp docks while other people are on them
...no beaching your boat right next to someone else
...no rafting up-keep your distance on the water
All good recommendations and I will add a couple of my own...
...if you are a shoreline fisherman, please don’t fish from the boat ramp docks-They are essential for boat passenger loading and unloading
...keep the hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and plastic gloves on the boat
...only boat with members of your household
...avoid all unnecessary contact with others
Spring turkey hunting carries new concerns this year as well. No long trips in the enclosed cab of a vehicle with members of a separate home but only with members of your home is not only a great idea, but possibly lifesaving.
Hunt solo, do your own calling. Don’t share calls, camo (especially face masks) or equipment. Common sense. (if solo hunting or boating be sure to leave an emergency plan with loved ones…where you are…time you should be back etc.) It’s a good year to skip the mouth calls and stick to your slates, boxes etc. Your hands back and forth to your mouth right now is not a good thing.
Once we have settled into that quiet cove or leaned up next to that tree in the turkey woods we can finally relax a little. Just be diligent.
April 16, 2020
It's surreal. The President of the United States steps up to the mic, surrounded by brilliant minds from science and medicine and reports the bad news. According to very reliable models, 100,000 to 240,000 of us won't be here just a month from now. Wow!! 30 days! You look at people differently as you drive down the road, run into and out of the grocery store trying to avoid others, briefly step out to gas up. Which of us will be here, who won’t? It’s not a movie.
We get caught up in ourselves, not only us Americans, I’m speaking of us humans. Many of us are spoiled to what we want-when we want it. In the blink of an eye, life has flipped to what will I use for toilet paper today-Humbling to say the least. Meat counters empty, empty store shelves where just days ago were everyday staples like paper towels, rice and baby wipes. We took the most menial day to day tasks and items for granted. How about that keypad at the checkout counter? Has it been sanitized lately? Has anyone stood here and sneezed over it recently? Yesterday? How long did they say this virus could live on plastic? What about the bags that I’m about to put my food in? How in the world can anyone find any peace?
This invisible killer is possibly every place I need to be. Guess what??? So is Jesus. Please don’t stop reading. This is also a life and death matter. THIS is more sure than the possibility of COVID-19 infection in your family. In case you have never heard it before, salvation through Christ is simply faith plus nothing. You can’t DO anything to earn eternal peace, but you CAN have that peace. It’s a free gift from God. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in 1st Corinthians, Chapter 15, Verses 3 and 4: “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day…” That’s it. The Gospel. Do you believe that? We are all sinners (Romans 3:10), and God wants none of us to suffer eternal punishment (2 Peter, Chapter 3, Verse 9): “…not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
These times are very hard, but peace exists. Only in Jesus is true and lasting peace. This is what I believe and am happy to try and answer any questions that you might have. Just give me a holler. 817-360-8090.
April 1, 2020
I hear that song about My Favorite Things around Christmas time each year. Some ol’ boy named Richard Rodgers wrote it back in the 50’s, then Julie Andrews made it famous in “The Sound of Music”, which I am proud to say I’ve never seen. I have, though, turned the volume up on the radio and listened to the lyrics of the song. That part about crisp apple strudel always conjures up a picture for me. I’m not a Broadway guy. Not much of a movie guy. I probably can’t name 5 show tunes with any confidence and that they actually came out of a show. In fact, I’m having trouble getting to two right now. But, ”My Favorite Things” kinda got me to thinking. We all have favorite things or situations that we cling to a little too much or dwell on while we should be thinking of more productive efforts. But what the heck, it’s okay to idle away a few minutes here and there I guess. You’re doing it right now, so, in no particular order...
The thump that you feel in the cork handle of a good crappie rod. The force with which a crappie sucks in a small jig is actually strong enough from 18-20 feet deep to send a vibration up the line to the rod tip and then to your hand that triggers a reaction in the brain, to send the thump back down the line and set the hook in ol spec’s mouth. All of this takes place in about 1 second. The thump is absolutely one of my favorite things.
Good dogs on point and birds that hold tight. It is amazing to watch what God put into a bird dog. The indwelling drive to hunt game birds. I’ve watched ‘em for years running at ¾ speed through dusty, windy, dry, rainy, thick cover. Meadowlarks, sparrows and chee-chee birds of all sorts popping up and flitting away as the dog runs, but he gives them none of his attention...none! Not even a glance, but 1 single molecule of scent from a quail, pheasant or grouse makes the dog flip back-end over front and land with a hard stop! Head and tail high, smoking the pipe. The dog breaths scent in with his nose, exhaling with his mouth which in turn makes his cheeks puff out and back in...giving the impression of a pipe smoker. Many times, a covey of bobwhite quail will hold tight on a snowy morning, so will early season young birds that have never met a birddog before. Walking up to that view will always be a favorite.
A big bass jig swimming from that shallow little pocket that you threw it in to. You know it didn’t come to life and start swimming on its own. No, a bass has that jig in her mouth and she’s headed for deeper water with her prey much like a dog will seek out a private spot to enjoy a treat. You “catch up” to her with your reel, then set the hook like your name is Klein, Brauer or Evers! Oh, what a feeling and favorite.
Any fish on a topwater bait. Matters not if its sunfish on a little popper delivered by your fly rod or a big 6 inch walking-bait targeting bass. When the lightning fast explosion occurs, that very second is on my favorites list. You want to see it again and again, the feeling never grows old! You could do this all day, but the sun climbs higher and the topwater bite dies off. Special moments reserved mostly for short periods of time and then left to bounce around in your mind while you should be listening to the preacher.
Pre sunrise in the pasture or on the lake. The temperature drops another degree or two as if the night is tightening its grip on your world not wanting to let go. The first birds of the morning, outside of chuck willows will or an old owl, start to make their presence known. Faint light begins to creep into your surroundings like water seeping into a marsh. The sun’s not officially up yet but is steadily working on it and is precisely on time, the same today as it was on that first morning when God put it in motion. The world is waking up around you. Barely visible are a couple of deer. How did they get there! I’ve been watching so closely, every second! It’s like they grew straight up out of the ground. Unseen turkeys lightly yelp from the roost and get more vocal as they fly down. In the stillness of pre-dawn you clearly hear the flapping of their wings and they depart the tree limb for breakfast. The slow gentle ride across quiet water to a favorite fishing hole with red and green lights leading the way. Trying not to spill your coffee as you go, you have just enough light to see “feeding rings” on top of the water, raising your expectations and thinking about that trusty old “Pop R” that you tied on last night.
Two-lane blacktops and worn dirt roads, especially those that you’ve never travelled before. Wonder and excitement, looking at new country and looking deeply for the flash of a white tail or a summer herd of elk. Snow topped high places in June. Ripe Montana choke cherries growing wild along a public right of way or wild West Texas sand plums in a pasture, ready for picking and making jelly. An old dry goods/grocery store from a bygone era that somehow manages enough business from area farm families and wide-eyed adventurers to keep the lights on. A winding Ozark farm to market road that leads toward the farm, not the market. As it leads you across the creek for the 3rd time, you catch a glimpse of a flock of eastern turkeys running up into the thick southern woods.
A crackling fire. The fireplace on a chilly winter’s evening, reading old Gene Hill stories for the 15th time. Maybe it’s a hot bed of coals with fresh logs popping on top, circled by satisfied hunters after a day in the field. Some facing the fire with glowing faces and cold hands extended, palms out, others warming their backsides with hands stretched backwards. Someone’s telling a story. You’ve heard it before and know the ending well, but the moment is so agreeable that you in quiet eagerness give it your full attention. The story is good, but so is the thick blanket of quiet that follows that laughter.
Smells...fresh gunpowder in the air on a clear blue morning, fish on your hands, spring flowers in the turkey haunts, smoke from the last pipe that exists in deer camp.
Time, places, experiences, tools of the trade, some people, well-mannered dogs. What was that?? Sounds. Peach pie in summer and my old Ruger Red Label 20 gauge. Just a few of my favorite things.
February 6, 2020
It has always kinda baffled me. A guy that LOVES to hunt whitetails, waits all year for it! Time in the woods is bigger than the shot. He/she loves everything about hunting but…they totally ignore the turkeys. What a treasure these birds are and absolutely delicious on the table. I truly have never eaten a pen raised bird from the grocery store that can hold a candle to a wild turkey. I think, in my humble opinion, that as the once plentiful turkey in North America plummeted in numbers during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, we went several generations without hunting them and passing those skills and recipes down. Now turkey numbers are good, turkey hunter populations are low.
The bird, native to America, was found to be dang tasty to early settlers pushing westward-so tasty that we nearly ate all of them. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that turkey restoration was noted as successful and working. In 1991 turkey seasons finally were open in all of the 49 states that hold wild turkeys. We all have turkeys outside of Alaska. The great frozen tundra is the only state without turkeys. Yes, you can hunt them in Hawaii! 1960 and 1991 are just a blink in time back from now. That’s not a lot of time to re-establish turkey hunters. A generation is generally thought to be 30 years. If turkey hunting was all but totally shut down in the 19-early’s, that puts between 3 and 4 generations between the 1st North American turkey hunters and the youngster that wants to hunt today. We simply have a nation of folks that didn’t grow up hunting turkeys, don’t know where to start or how to go about it. It’s easier than you think. Turkeys are an exciting and rewarding hunt and a pretty inexpensive way to round up a great meal. So let’s get started, and this spring will be the time to do that. You will need a place to hunt...
• A lot of land owners don’t hunt turkeys and wouldn’t mind you hunting them. Ask! Maybe you have a deer lease and simply haven’t explored what it takes to kill a turkey. Turkey hunters require only a few acres as opposed to the quail hunter that needs thousands of acres or the deer hunter that prefers hundreds. Do your homework. You will need a place that holds turkeys; preferably they roost there on that property at night. Tall trees and creek bottoms are prime places to look for wild turkeys.
• You’ll need camo; turkeys have incredible eyesight. Blend into your surroundings, break up your outline and BE STILL. They will see movement at great distances. This sounds crazy but even with this tremendous eyesight, they don’t mind a pop-up blind. I don’t know if they relate it to a bale of hay or a bush or what, but if you’re regularly seeing turkeys at your deer feeder or know where they likely will fly down from the roost, set up a pop-up blind. When you set up a new blind in an area, the deer typically will shy away for a week or two until they realize it’s immobile and safe. Turkeys on the other hand will walk right into an area with a new blind setup that wasn’t there an hour ago. If you want to take the youngsters, buy a pop-up to conceal movement. You can find them for under a hundred bucks these days. You can actually stand up inside and walk your pop-up blind closer to the turkeys, and it won’t rattle them. Try it when they hang up out there and won’t come any closer.
• You need a shotgun and heavy loads. I prefer a 12 gauge with an extended “turkey” choke and 3 ½ inch turkey shells. These heavy-feathered birds are tough, and I like to throw a powerful punch. Plenty of turkeys have been taken with a 20 and even a 410, but my goal is to kill a turkey, and I place the odds in my favor here. I also enjoy hunting them with a bow. That’s a whole nuther subject and probably not the right choice for the new turkey hunter.
• Spring means love to the tom turkey, so learn to speak the language. You don’t need a vest full of calls to have success hunting turkeys, but after you call in that 1st one and shoot him, you will be hooked and buying an assortment of calls and goodies! To break this down to its simplest form: (1) buy a slate call or box call. These two are easy to use and they won’t require a ton of practice time. (2) Visit the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) website and listen to the recordings of actual birds. The NWTF site is a trove of great information!
Take advantage of that small family owned parcel of land, or that deer lease that gets locked down in late winter and not used again till fall. You will not believe the rush of excitement that a gobbling tom turkey brings at 10 yards!
Remove and thoroughly clean the 2 breasts from your wild turkey. Cut the breasts into strips approximately 2 inches wide. Use an egg wash, then bread them good in flour, salt and pepper. I double coat by using this process twice on each strip of meat. Deep or skillet fry at 350 degrees. Hint: I like Kentucky Colonel seasoned flour for chicken fried turkey breast, and it also makes great cream gravy! The recipe is on the box as white sauce. But its cream gravy.
This is simply a beginner’s guide to the thrill of hunting turkeys. Give it a try! If you enjoy the sights and sounds of a fall deer stand, just wait ‘til you watch spring bloom right before your eyes, and Mr. Tom comes running to your call, stops, gobbles and goes full fan right in front of you!! THAT is when you invite him over for dinner!
January 31, 2020