Predators & Small Game
The Complete Texas Road Trip
Location: Several locations throughout Texas including the Ozona ranch, the Mayer Ranch in Barnhart and the Vinson Ranch in Albany
There's something about the sights of Texas that seem to say you're in the Lone Star state.
john hafner image
Dates: April 19-30, 2006
Hunters: Michael Waddell, Jeff Simmons and Steve Anderson, Chuck Sumners, Governor Rick Perry, Ted Nugent, Clay Walker
Game: Rio Grande Turkeys
Weather: Warm, overcast and drizzly much of the time with windKICKIN’ THINGS OFF
Texas is one of my favorite places to hunt gobblers because I rarely leave the Lone Star state empty handed. My usual success there is one of the reason’s I decided to spend a full week and a half down there chasing birds. Another reason is because I had the opportunity to hunt with several friends who already had hunts planned there, and I didn’t want to miss out.
I began my Texas turkey adventure in Ozona on April 19. Friends Chuck Sumners, Jeff Simmons of Simmons Sporting Goods, Steve Anderson and I hunted on a ranch that Jeff had permission to hunt.
In Texas and many other parts of the country, birds gobbled hard right off the roost, but shut it down once with they had their hens.
john hafner image
The terrain where we hunted was hilly and rocky with cedars, oak brush and mesquite. From the first day we hunted, we were covered up with birds. Chuck had never killed a Texas turkey, so we decided to let him go first while I videoed his hunt.
The first morning of the hunt was as easy as it gets. We woke an hour or so before daybreak and headed out. We set up against some scrub oaks and called. A few minutes after daybreak, a gobbler came in with several hens. When the gobbler was only a few yards away, Chuck smoked him. It was about as cut and dry as is gets.
That afternoon after lunch, we drove around in the truck trying to locate a hot bird. Although we got some toms to respond to our calls, we didn’t get another gobbler to fully commit on that day.THE MOHICAN SNEAK
The next morning, we headed off to hunt with John and Richard Mayer at the Mayer Ranch in Barnhart, Texas. He had several friends in town from Mississippi, and they had all killed turkeys despite the fact that the birds were henned up.
The Mayer Ranch is grassy with more open terrain than the ranch in Ozona with some mesquite, oak and hackberry bush draws. The birds would actually roost on power poles because there was a shortage of tall trees in the area.
Scene from one of Waddell's recent Texas turkey hunts.
The next morning, I planned to film Chuck and Jeff hunting. The birds gobbled on the roost, but they were really henned up. We couldn’t get any to come in to us. We ended up riding around in the truck trying to locate some gobblers that would respond to our calls. We eventually hooked up with John Mayer who helped us find some turkeys gobbling down in a mesquite flat.
We set up in the mesquite and called for close to an hour. We heard a tom gobble, but we could also hear the hens with him and knew that he wouldn’t come to us, so we decided to do the “Mohican Sneak,” as I like to call it, and go after him. We crawled through the grass on our bellies until we were approximately 30 yards from the birds. Then while trying to stay as low profile as possible, Chuck put the gobbler in his sights and made another good shot.WEEKEND WITH THE WILDMAN
From there, we continued our journey to the Vinson Ranch just outside of Albany for a very special hunt celebrating Texas Governor Rick Perry’s father’s 81st birthday. The Texas Trophy Hunters group was there along with country music singer, Clay Walker, and the Wildman himself, Ted Nugent. Professional bowhunter, Jack Brittingham, was in camp as well.
I was immediately swept away by the ranch’s beautiful landscape. It was right on the Brazos River. Rolling hills flattened into big plateaus, and there were huge oak trees everywhere. The ranch was really spectacular not to mention that it was infested with turkeys and hogs.
Waddell and friends including Randy Cline--owner of the mega store Oasis near Uvalde, Texas.
I had always wanted the chance to hunt with Ted Nugent. I had met him before but I had never shared camp with him. He was quite a character. He didn’t care about hunting “thunder chickens” as he called them. He was much more exited about spotting and stalking hogs with his 8mm pistol in the river bottoms. I, on the other hand, was more excited about knocking Rios in the head.
We hunted and hunted with no luck on that first day. We really got our butts kicked by henned-up gobblers. On the second day of the hunt, while riding around in the truck, we finally heard a turkey gobble. We got out of the truck, set up among the mesquite and called it in. He really strutted and showed off for the camera. I shot him at 10 yards.
Ted didn’t kill a turkey. He wanted to kill one with his bow, but he didn’t get the chance although he did have a great time shooting five hogs with his pistol--we ate a ton of fresh pork on that hunt.
Clay Walker had a good hunt killing a turkey with his bow for the first time, and Gov. Perry took a turkey with his bow as well. I must say, Gov. Perry was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s an excellent sportsman and hunter, and he doesn’t have a problem with letting people know how passionate he is about the outdoor sports. He’s just a down-to-earth good ol’ country boy.
Ted brought out his guitar and played the star spangled banner for the Governor's father who is a veteran.
I especially enjoyed the time we spent in the evenings just hanging out with everyone in camp. Gov. Perry and I were the reigning horseshoe champions. Ted brought out his guitar and played the star spangled banner for the Governor’s father who is a veteran. Ted is one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever been around. He’s hilarious and fun to listen to, not to mention he has a very strong passion for fighting gun laws and confronting anti-gun and anti-hunting people. I’ve never met someone more passionate or sincerely absorbed in the struggle to secure our hunting heritage. He truly believes that as American citizens, we have the right to be hunters, outdoorsmen and gun owners, and he really fumes about those who try to stop us.
Clay Walker is a nice person as well. He brought both of his tour buses in so we’d have somewhere to stay. He’s down to earth and a lot of fun. He has no problem standing up for our hunting heritage as well.
Finally, hats off to Lanny Vinson, owner of the Vinson ranch, for showing us tons of hospitality and a great time.FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on the Vinson Ranches, call 325-668-7297, or check out vinsonranches.com.
For more information about the Mayer Ranch, call 1-325-655-6220.
The Oasis was a big draw for outdoorsmen chasing down spring birds. Waddell and friends hunted the ranch that is owned by Oasis' owner, Randy Cline
Okay, you’ve just covered the first leg of MW’s quest for Rio Grande turkeys in the Lone Star State. Below Michael wraps of the remaining days of his hunt, which happened to be the most productive.
Location: A ranch near Uvalde and Perlitz Ranch near Carrizo Springs
Hunters: Michael Waddell, Jim Willard of Bad Boy Buggies, Brad Draughon, manager of the Hacienda
Game: Rio Grande turkeys
Weather: Warm and rainy with temperatures reaching up into the 80s
I had a great time during the first half of my Texas hunt chasing Rios with friends and just goofing off. I managed to bag one bird and had three tags left that I was itching to fill.
I began the second half of my Texas hunt by flying down to San Antonio to hunt with Jim Willard of Bad Boy Buggies. We stayed at the Hacienda Ranch in Uvalde but planned to hunt at another ranch nearby.
The lodge at the Hacienda Ranch is a really cool antebellum home that dates back to the 1880s. Back in the day, it was a big depot that acted as a hub for the South Texas region. People farmed a lot of hogs, goat and cattle in this region and they’d stay at the Hacienda to do their trading.
A glimpse inside the Oasis prooves that this is a place for hardcore hunters.
Later on, the house became a brothel. There’s a lot of history in that building. The owners recently remodeled the rooms which each have their own private bath. It’s very nice. I’d recommend a hunt there for anyone who enjoys going after exotic animals.
One of the biggest deals down there is a store called the Oasis, which really rocks. It has everything you could want from feed and seed to shotguns to home decor as well as food and liquor. It’s a huge Bad Boy Buggy dealer. Brad Draughon, the manager of the Hacienda set us up to hunt gobblers on the ranch, which belongs to Randy Cline, the owner of the Oasis.TEXAS TURKEY TRIO
On the first morning of the hunt, we set up before daylight with a Pretty Boy Decoy and called. The turkeys that responded to us were roosted 700 yards away in a big open field. There must have been at least 25 longbeards roosted in that field because each time they called, an army of toms responded.
They eventually flew down several hundred yards away from us. I called as loud and hard as I could finally convincing one desperate gobbler to break off from the others at 200 yards away and come in to the decoy. When he got to the decoy, I shot him.
Immediately after I shot that bird, I simulated some fighting purrs and yelped loudly. Seven to 10 longbeards along with their hens came in closer to us. Within a few minutes, one longbeard broke off from the 15 hens he was with and ran up to our decoy. I shot and killed him. When I stood up to fetch him, I saw another longbeard on the ground 60 or 70 yards from the first one.
I couldn’t believe I had taken two birds with one shot, especially since the second gobbler was so far behind the first one. That was one successful day of hunting. I don’t think I’ve ever taken three birds that quickly before.
That evening after we returned to the lodge, we just lounged around, did some skeet shooting and watched some hunting DVDs. We ate delicious steaks and just enjoyed the camaraderie.
There's a first time for everything--like Waddell busting three longbeards in a matter of minutes!
With one morning left to hunt, Jim and I took Brad with us to the Perlitz Ranch near Carrizo Springs. It rained almost two inches while we were there. We were running a little bit late that morning and ended up getting to the spot we’d planned to hunt about 10 minutes after the turkeys had already hit the ground, but luckily for us, they were still gobbling. In addition to the gobblers, we heard hens, which was not good because those gobblers didn’t want to leave their hens. They’d occasionally give us courtesy gobbles, but we soon figured out that they just weren’t going to come in to us.
We moved to another area of the ranch where we got some more birds to gobble. Eventually, three longbeards came in by themselves. It took us two hours to get them to come into the opening and walk across the mesquite flat to us. When one of the longbeards got into range, Brad shot him.
Overall, I saw more turkeys this year in Texas than I have all together during the past five years, which tells me that the population is doing great throughout the southwest region of the state. Despite the huge number of birds populating the ranches, this year was by far the toughest year I’ve ever experienced when it came to locating gobblers without hens. If I saw 10 gobblers then they’d have 30 hens with them. And the locals I talked to agreed, saying the birds had been henned up the entire season. No doubt about about it, Texas was a true challenge this year, but I certainly can’t wait to get back there next year! If you want to plan a trip for next year here is the information you’ll need:
Hacienda Ranch; haciendatexas.com; 830 279-4758
Perlitz Ranch; perlitzranch.com; 830-591-6022
Submitted on May 25, 2006