Predators & Small Game
Family Affair in the Texas Panhandle
One of the challenges that I have being the kind of father that I really want to be is carving out that one-on-one time with all three of my boys. For my wife Ginger, it's much the same. Yet, since they are all boys, the father/son thing really becomes special. It's no secret how busy my job keeps me, but one thing I've always given a high priority to is taking each of the boys at different times of the year, one-on-one just doing something that each wants to do. For example, in early March, my middle son Alex (11 years old) who really loves sports. He's a baseball fanatic! He and I went to Arizona to spend three or four days at spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers and our buddy Ned Yost. According to Alex, "It was just the greatest trip!"
team realtree photos
Top photo: Welcome to Allison, TX! Home of the Begerts! Population 100.
Bottom photo: One of the Begert's prized bulls, named Blow In Smoke, weighing approximately 2400 pounds.
FATHER & SON PLANNING
Harman, (14 years old) just loves to turkey hunt more than anything. This year, we had the chance to go hunting in north Texas during his spring break from school. Now, how we ended up hunting where we did is quite a story in itself. As Harman and I started planning our spring trip it became very obvious that his spring hunting was going to be cut back drastically because he's playing on a traveling soccer team. At that age and at that commitment requirement I simply can't scarf him up and take him like when he was younger. It's that commitment to something that Ginger and I are really trying to instill in the boys. When they sign up to do something with a team they can't just leave and go hunting. So Harman told me that he couldn't go unless the trip was planned during his spring break. Ginger was all for it. She said she'd love for us to go and spend some good quality time together. She really understands how important that time together means to a father/son relationship.
So back in March I started asking around. I found out from some buddy's of mine in Mississippi that they had been going up in the Texas Panhandle for turkeys. That area is one that I had never been to which matched up nicely with one of my main goals. The goal: Take Harman to a place that neither of us has ever been to that had no history or previous connection to my work at Realtree. In other words, no outfitter that we ever hunted with, no plantation or guide service or anybody we had ever known. It's always interesting to me to go somewhere and meet new people and see new country. When I told Harman about this plan he thought it was an awesome idea. So these friends of mine told me about all the Rio's up in that part of the state and through a friend of a friend of a friend-literally-I got a phone number of a fellow named Hiram Begert. I found out that he was a rancher and knew how difficult it would likely be to get him on the phone especially during the middle of the day. I gave it shot anyway and sure enough Hiram answered the phone. I couldn't believe it! It's so strange how our paths have crossed.
Top photo: Hiram and Darenda share a photo opportunity with Harman--one of the only times he didn't have food in his mouth...
Bottom photo: Lifelong Friends - David Blanton and Hiram Begert - the beginning of a special friendship. David says, "Harm is the perfect gentleman."
team realtree photos
DO I WE KNOW EACHOTHER?
He and I talked and I told him what I was interested in doing. He said, "We sure do have a lot of turkeys out this way. If you'd like to bring your boy out here my family and I would just love to have you." Immediately from that phone conversation I could tell that he was one of the nicest people in the world. Hiram directed me to his website -- http://www.begertranch.com - so that we could get an idea of what we were getting into. Just as Hiram told me, the Begerts raised some serious 'Limousin' cattle by the looks of the website. The site to me was very impressive. I could tell that these folks work very hard. One thing led to the next and before long I was talking to his wife Darenda on the phone. We hit it off so big that before Harman and I ever went to Texas-through phone calls and emails-I felt like we knew the Begerts like family and they knew us like family. It was weird—really, really weird. I told Ginger, "I have not me these people but I already know that this is a friendship that is going to last the rest of my lifetime." Things like this just don't happen very often.
Hiram--just recently in March of '04--was awarded the first-ever Texas Limousin Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. The first recipient ever! To say the least, it's incredible what they have going on out there at the Begert Ranch. I could tell that this was going to be a very special trip.
The ranch is located just outside of Allison, Texas about four miles from the Oklahoma border in Hemphill County. Prior to arriving, Hiram told me that they had a bunch of turkeys. The land was made up of a lot of open cattle country, but they also had riverbottoms filled with big old Cottonwoods. Completely different country than we'd ever hunted.
A view of "the lodge" sitting high on the hill overlooking the Washita River. Gobbling could be heard from the porch of the lodge. Bottom photo: A view of the riverbottom with big cottonwood trees and scattered oaks.
team realtree photos
BEGERT RANCH HERE WE COME
So for spring break 2004, the Blanton family was going in separate directions. Ginger and Lucas went to a beach in Florida with some friends of hers; Alex went to the mountains of Georgia with a friend of his; Harman and I went to the Texas Panhandle to hunt turkeys! On April 3rd after Harman's soccer game we headed to Atlanta with all of our hunting gear and my video camera gear. We flew into Oklahoma City, rented a vehicle and drove some 2.5 hours to the Begert ranch. On the way out there we just had a ball. It was that 'Final Four' weekend of the basketball season and Georgia Tech had made it to the finals. Of all the teams they were going to play—that's right, Oklahoma State. That game started right about the time we landed in the Oklahoma City airport. Every radio station on the way out to the Begert's had the game on. We were tickled because we wanted to root for Georgia Tech! What a great trip!
As we got closer to the Begert Ranch my anxiousness for meeting these folks soared. I just knew these were some of the finest Christian people in the world. We called them just before arriving. It was right after dark when we pulled into their drive. Sure enough, it was like we'd known these people for our entire lives. Quickly we found out that Harman and Hiram had something in common. People around the ranch called Hiram 'Harm'. That's the same nickname I have for Harman. We all thought that was a pretty neat thing and had a laugh or two over. After meeting them for just a short while I got the same feeling that meeting them was like meeting family. It was weird—really, really weird. (In a good way of course.)
The Begert's have a lodge that overlooks the creekbottom where we were going to turkey hunt on the first morning. The spot was about eight miles from their house as the crow flies. After sitting around, visiting and talking, we followed Hiram over to the lodge and unpacked our gear. It was a moonlit night. We looked down from the lodge and we could just see the tops of the trees down in the creekbottom. Hiram told us that those trees were just full of turkeys. Then we jumped in his truck and he gave us a quick tour of the land showing us his property lines and such. We were ready and had our plan ready for the morning. Harman and I had the entire, cozy lodge all to ourselves and Darenda had stocked the kitchen with the most food-and the type of food that a 14-year-old likes to eat! She had sausage, egg and cheese, biscuits, she had ice cream, she had honey buns, cereal, sandwich stuff, fruit candy, milk, drink. You name it, she stocked it! The Begerts were treating us like royalty.
A photo that wasn't hard to get! Harman in the kitchen, fixing something else to eat! There was never a threat of running out of food. Thanks Darenda! Photo right: Harman Blanton supervises Hiram "Harm" Begert grilling steaks in the barn.
team realtree photos
GETTING DOWN TO TURKEY BUSINESS
On the first morning, since we didn't know the exact location where we were going to set up, we got up just at the crack of day. I walked out of the lodge in my shorts and tee shirt and could hear those turkeys gobbling down in that bottom. It was unreal! I called to Harman, "You've got to come hear this son." He too thought it was unbelievable. So we threw our stuff on real quick and got the camera loaded up into our rental SUV and we headed down to the gobbling birds. We didn't have to drive far. Next thing you know, we tore off to some gobbling turkeys. We set up and the turkeys gobbled and gobbled and gobbled. Right off the bat though it was apparent that these birds were already henned up. I was thinking to myself, "Man, this is Texas, why are these turkeys already with hens?" Then it dawned on me how far north we really were in relation to south Texas. Heck we were almost on the same latitude as Nashville, Tennessee. I then knew how early these turkeys were along in the breeding process. They were henned up and gobbling, gobbling, gobbling. We had a ball that morning just listening, even though we didn't kill. We hunted pretty hard and kept getting on gobbling birds but they just weren't coming into the call.
We went back to the lodge for lunch and a hunting break. Harman said he was starving. If you've ever seen a 14-year-old boy eat, then you'd understand how amazing it is to eat that amount of food in such a short period of time. Harman said Daddy, "Miss Darenda, she knows how to buy food." He was so impressed with Darenda's food stocking ability. I don't know if he was more impressed with the turkey hunting or the food. After that huge lunch, we both took a short nap and went back out hunting until dark.
So we hunted that day with no luck but we learned where we wanted to be the next morning at daylight. There was a nice hay meadow down by the bottom on one corner of the Bergert's property. The turkeys loved strutting out there in that meadow in the early morning. We had turkeys roosted and were geared up for the morning.
We were thoroughly entertained by McKinley "Mackie" Begert, two and a half-year-old daughter of Bret and Hayley. Mackie is a future turkey hunter!
Bottom photo: Harman with Bret and Hayley Begert. Bret is a partner with his Dad in the cattle business and he and Hayley are just as nice as his Mom and Dad.
team realtree photos
HEY DAD, CAN YOU GET THAT GATE?
That night, Hiram and Darenda invited us over to their house for dinner. As I do a lot of times on these ranches, I let Harman drive just to get the experience. He's actually turned into a pretty good driver. For the days we were at the Begert's, I was delegated gate boy. (If you've ever hunted a cattle ranch, then you're aware how many gates need opening and closing as you drive around.) Dad was gate boy and Harman just loved it. At dinner, we got to meet their son Bret, his wife Hayley. We also met Hiram and Derenda's their granddaughter McKinley. Mackie for short. She was a doll, two and Ω years old and cute as a button. Darenda had more food than you could imagine. The dinner and the company were awesome. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.
HE SHOOTS, SCORES, & SHOOTS AGAIN!
We headed back to the lodge very full and very excited about the next morning's hunt. We knew exactly where the turkeys were roosted and set our alarms to be up well before the crack of day. Before long we were sitting up against a cottonwood tree on the edge of the hay meadow with our decoy in place. Sure enough turkeys started gobbling and gobbling. Then all of sudden they flew down and like henned up turkeys they just shut up. Turkeys quit gobbling but we just stayed there knowing that eventually birds would come into the hayfield to strut. We were sitting there just talking as I filmed the sun rising. It was a beautiful sight.
Harman was cool under pressure for the first bird. The strutter was no match for Harman's solidly rested Benelli.
team realtree photos
Then all of a sudden I looked out to the field and saw three strutters across the field heading in our direction. I had been calling a little bit on and off and they must have heard me because they were on their way coming right to us. I whispered to Harman, "The one on the right, the one on the right, take him." Harman, with his 20-gauge Benelli shot and killed the strutting turkey on the right. When he shot, one of the turkeys ran off to the left and stopped and stood there. I whispered to Harman, "To the left, shoot that one to the left." He swung over kind of awkwardly, shot and missed. It was the first turkey that Harman had ever missed. To date he's killed nine longbeards. This was the first one that he missed.
He was so frustrated that he missed that turkey, but I loved it. And right after he missed him, the turkey gobbled at him adding insult to injury. So Harman had taken his first turkey of the trip we were both happy and all fired up. We kept hunting after shooting our video cutaways, but our morning was complete. We drove up to the lodge for lunch and Hiram's truck was sitting there waiting on us. I figured he was inside checking on us. Come to find out that Miss Darenda had brought the biggest pot of chili and cheese for hot dogs. I told her the night before, "Please Darenda, whatever you do, please do not bring anymore food over to that kitchen. We can't possibly eat it all." She wouldn't take no for an answer and of course Harman's eyes got as big as silver dollars. We ate and ate and ate. That's just the kind of people they are. They waited on us hand and foot. They simply are the nicest people.
WHAT FATHER & SON HUNTING IS ALL ABOUT
We hunted that afternoon with no luck. That night was the National Championship game on TV. Georgia Tech was playing Connecticut. We decided to make a big night of it. We went back of to the Begert's house, ate a huge meal again, had desert and then watched the game. Unfortunately Georgia Tech got beat.
Harman eventually got over his miss. This trip is one that he will never forget.
team realtree photos
The next morning we woke up and it was raining. The weather really got kind of nasty after that-it rained quite a bit and the wind started to pick up. We still got on turkeys but the conditions for video were not good. I told Harman that if we can get great video then he could take another crack at one. The weather just didn't permit it, but he could have shot at least 5 other longbeards.
On the third morning it was raining pretty good, which is wonderful for that type of country. I looked at Harman and he looked at me and said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "I don't know, what do you want to do?" He said that he was kind of tired so I said, "Well let's just go back to bed." "That sound good to me," Harman shot back and back to bed we went for another two hours. It was awesome.
The longer we stayed at the lodge the more I realized that this trip was about so much more than turkey hunting. It was just about spending quality time, one-on-one, not having an agenda. We were feeling no pressure to kill turkey after turkey. If we wanted to take a nap, we'd take a nap. If we wanted to sleep late, we did. If we wanted to eat (which is a lot of the time for Harman) we ate. If we wanted to just jump in the truck to drive around the ranch, that's what we did. So much more than turkey hunting. In fact, the Begert's cows were having calves while we were there. Harman and I got to see newborn calf's just 10 minutes old. What an experience! We got the tour of the ranch, which included their prized bulls. We even learned quite bit about the cattle business. More importantly, the Begerts to us became just like family. Darenda had me bring along pictures of Ginger and the rest of the Blanton clan. We all feel like we've known these people our entire lives. This was absolutely the most wonderful experience with the most wonderful people on the face of the earth. We really can't wait to get back out there and see the Begerts again.
The turkey hunting opportunities are amazing in the Panhandle as shown here by some of David Blanton's video screen captures. After looking at the Begert Ranch website, one will notice that the deer hunting can be pretty good, too!
team realtree photos
The hunt came to an end. We didn't kill another turkey because the weather became really nasty and windy. We flew home on Wednesday because all of the Blantons were due to reconvene at home in LaGrange to go and do something as a family for the rest of the spring break.
What The Begert Ranch Has For Deer Hunters
Before Harman and I had a chance to get out to Texas we went to the website begertranch.com. I was really impressed at the quality of some of the deer they had taken over the past couple of years. One deer taken that's on the website scored 160-plus inches. There are really some good deer up that part of the world. Hopefully, somewhere down the road I'll be able to go out there and deer hunt. If not this year, maybe next. And of course anyone that goes there to hunt will fall in love with those people.
They don't take a lot of hunters because they don't want to overhunt the property. The Begerts have taken a lot of time and effort to set out some really cool hunting blinds that overlook some of the draws and other strategic points throughout the ranch. You can see a long way, so make certain your rifle is dialed in!
As for timing the rut—their rut hits around the week of Thanksgiving. The style of hunting this wide-open country during the rut goes something like this: The bigger bucks don't really hang out in the creekbottoms and timber areas. They like to get the does that are in heat and push them into the high country. Although it's kind of natural to want to hunt them down in those bottoms and near the thickets, the big mature bucks are normally in the high country. This is somewhat similar to the way the bucks behave where we hunt in the Milk River area. Mainly rifle hunters hunt from shooting houses because the weather up there can get really nasty and cold and snowy. The Begerts really like for their hunters to stay out all day long so they have gone the extra steps to make the shooting houses as comfortable and as weatherproof as can be. Hiram said that "Invariably, a lot of times the deer movement is better in the middle of the day."
Editor's note: For hunting dates and rates please go online at http://www.begertranch.com.
MESSAGE FROM THE BEGERT FAMILY
The Begert family wishes to welcome you. Our phone number is 806-375-2346, or you can reach us the old-fashioned way, via the U.S. Postal Service, at:
Begert Limousin Ranch
P.O. Box 110
Allison, TX 79003
Submitted on April 29, 2004