OUTDOORS

This week’s column concerns a recent turkey hunt that turned into a quest for fresh pork for a group of soldier’s weekend barbecue. Pictured is Luke’s friend, Deryl Markgraf, with his night hunting rig.

In my humble opinion, wild turkeys are the crappie of the hunting world.  At times, such as when crappie gang up in large numbers in the shallows to spawn, they can be ridiculously easy to catch, but much of the time, they are one of the more challenging fish to pattern – likewise with turkeys.

I have taken first-time turkey hunters out in past years when the gobblers would come running to anything that remotely sounded like a hen turkey. When a turkey hunter hits the timing right, it’s easy to be a turkey hunting super star. A hunt I enjoyed up in Palo Pinto County three years ago with my friend, Deryl Markgraf, is a good case in point.

The ranchland within several miles of the Brazos River in Palo Pinto County is a great turkey habitat. On the hunt three years ago, the gobblers were lighting up the woods with their gobbling, not just at first light when they flew down from their roost trees but throughout the day. I remember arriving at Markgraf’s camp around eight in the morning and had a gobbler on the ground within the first hour and a second one down by noon.

I have hunted turkey for the past 30 years and can’t remember a time when the birds were hotter or coming to the call better. The hunt with Markgraf this past week in the same area was in stark contrast to that first hunt. Turkey numbers are still excellent in the region and Markgraf’s trail cameras captured the image of several mature longbeards frequenting the lease.

The first day of the hunt, I had a couple of distant gobblers sound off to my loud hen yelps. It’s common procedure to close the distance to distant gobblers that hang up and refuse to come in to calling. The idea is that the gobbler back in the brush hears a hen coming his way and eventually gets roused up enough to come toward what he thinks is a possible mate.

I used this strategy on both these distant gobblers and never heard a peep from them. They simply went silent after those first gobbles from several hundred yards, which kept them in the safe zone from my heavy load of No. 4 shot in the old 12-gauge. Turkey hunting can be somewhat frustrating when you know the birds are there but they refuse to respond. But, as they say, that’s hunting and part of the intrigue of hunting turkeys.

I’ve had friends tell me that I can turn a hunt for elephant into a wild hog hunt, and from past experiences, I must agree. I’ve had wild hogs run through spreads of goose decoys and even flushed hogs when I was after quail. 

For some reason, I attract hogs like a magnet.

While setting on the edge of a mesquite flat working my box call, I heard what sounded like a big hog only 25 or so feet behind me in the brush. I turned around and got a glimpse a big red sow trying to pin point what she perceived to be a hen turkey.

She must have had 10 piglets in tow and one of them ran within a few feet of where I was setting. There are much better places to be situated than between a big sow and her babies.

Lucky for me and possibly the sow, she made the low guttural sounds that must communicate to her brood, “Mama wants you to come here, right now.”  

I am way past the stage where I feel I must harvest game or catch a limit of fish in order for an outing to be a success. I relish the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors hunting or fishing and besides, it’s impossible to spend time with a friend like Markgraf without having a great time.

That evening around the campfire, we weren’t eating wild turkey fajitas but Markgraf did prepare some of what he calls “Road Kill’s Wild Hog Crock-Pot Enchilada Casserole.” I believe “road kill” must have been Deryl’s nickname during his motorcycle cruising days. 

After polishing off a couple of plates of this concoction, I commented that it was the tastiest of Tex-Mex style dishes I have eaten and, I meant it. Made from ground wild pork, garlic, onions, tomato sauce, corn tortillas, cheese, refried beans and chili,  Markgraf’s dish seemed easy to prepare at camp. I’ll be giving it a test try around the house soon.

While I was hunting turkey, Markgraf used his electronic caller to bring in a sounder of hogs on a different part of the ranch and downed a fat sow. He had been asked to contribute some wild pork for a group of soldiers that wanted to have a weekend barbecue.

I had to head for home that afternoon but Markgraf had another friend join him for a night of hog hunting using AR-style rifles equipped with thermal scopes. The two added several more hogs to the one he had previously taken, and from all accounts, the soldiers had plenty of pork for their feast.

A turkey report the next day from Markgraf and Randy Douglas that manages the nearby Dale River Ranch reinforced the fact that turkeys can be fickle. Gobblers were sounding off all over that part of the country, chasing hens doing what gobblers should be doing this time of the year. Douglas texted me a picture of one of his hunters with a boss gobbler he had just taken.

Round Two with the birds is in the plans.

Yantis Catfish Classic

The Yantis Catfish Classic is slated for Saturday-Sunday at The Minnow Bucket at Lake Fork. This is a family-orientated catfish tournament and everyone is welcome to participate.

Last year, I fished the tournament with my friend, David Hanson, and we were “in the money” for one of the hourly payouts. I am planning on fishing it again this year with another buddy, Jeff Rice, from the bank using old school cane poles. 

A barbecue dinner will be served at the Pavilion at The Minnow Bucket at 5 p.m. and everyone is invited. There will be live music and fun for all the family.

Registrations forms are available at the Minnow Bucket and many other locations around Lake Fork or contact tournament director Jerry Miller at 903-850-9500.

The proceeds go to a very worthy cause – the Yantis Volunteer Fire Department. 

 

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