Please note: Hunt reports are posted in reverse order with the first hunt of the season at the bottom of this page and the final hunt at the top of the page. To see the chronological order, scroll to the bottom and work your way to the top of the page.
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Hunt 5 April 27 -30
What a way to end the season!!! Ten turkey hunting amigos from the Dover, TN area took sixteen birds. Seven took two/each; two took one/each; one hunter got skunked, but vowed he'd had a great hunt and regretted not a minute of it.
There was good news, bad news, and no news along the way. Good news included the fact that many of the toms taken were still coming to the hunter's calls, a remarkable fact since the ages of most of the toms were three's, four's and five's, all of whom are much more wary and historically less callable than are the two-year-olds.
To confirm this observation regarding the ages of the birds, there were these spur lengths found on Hunt 5's birds:
Jakes only 1
< 1" spurs only 1
1" - 1 1/4" 11 toms
1 3/8" and up: 3 toms
So it would appear that most of the toms taken on this final hunt of the season were probably three-year-olds. Nope, they are not as easy to coax into gun range as are the two-year-old birds, so say the old pros who hunt them.
We weighed a few that topped the 20 lb. mark- yet another fantastic statistic this late in the season. By now most years, you just cannot find a gobbler that heavy. Reason: they have run-off all their weight chasing after the girls. So with some heavy gobblers being harvested, does this mean the breeding season ended some time ago?
More good news: the weather was near perfect all three days. At times there might be a bit of wind, but not bad. Temperatures ranged from the 50s in the morning to peak around the mid-80s by late afternoon, conditions that are easily corrected with a bottle of water. Or two.
A couple of the hunters, Boyd Williams, Sr. and Larry Borens tagged out in the first third of the hunt. Larry admitted to the extravagant use of four shells to collect his two toms, but this falls under "good" news in that he got them. In fact, at the half-way point of the hunt, you could count eight birds, only one of which was a jake. So with eight hunters still afield, we were just a little behind since we needed ten birds on the board at that half-way point.
But the troops rallied the next morning when seven more gobblers were entered on our tally board. Guides Tony Kieffer and Dick Irons and Buryl Williams were all super busy processing those birds. Jeff Hancock, Raymond Hewitt, and Cole Barrett all collected two birds/each that productive morning. Cole's dad, Chris collected # 2.
The bad news? We tabulated at least six missed shots over the three days. But Chris Barrett and son Cole turned their "miss" disaster to success when Chris immediately starting a loud yelping routine while the gun was still belching smoke. That stopped Mr. Gobbler in his tracks for a final strut and gobble before that second shot put him down for good. Not many gobblers stick around that long after a missed shot.
Chris had even more good news. His first tom had two beards, although one was mighty slim. But hey, that turkey had two beards. Then, to top things off, the 2nd bird taken by Chris had four beards. If you have kept count so far, that comes to a total of six beards for his two gobblers. Not bad. Not bad, at all.
More interesting happenings from Hunt 5: Doug Futrell, who put his tag on a nice Rio early in the hunt, was taken to a brand-new location before daylight. When he unloaded himself from his guide's pickup, unbeknownst to Doug or the guide either, they were right-smack underneath some roosting gobblers who were miles away from their traditional nighttime bedrooms. Doug thought he might call them back. Nope. These Rios don't act like their Eastern Cousins. He never saw them again. Finally Doug collected his last tom, but it was after some long and fruitless hunts where he saw nothing but cattle around a water point.
Many of these hunters have been here countless times - Boyd Williams Sr. and Jr., Jeff Hancock, Billy Williams, Doug Futrell, and Chris Barrett. It's always great to see them. And we got to meet a couple of sons for the first time - Clay Williams and Cole Barrett. The only two newcomers were Larry Borens and Raymond Hewitt.
One thing for sure: here late in April, turkeys were found in brand new locations, well away from where they were seen back when the season was young. And it was also true that former "hot-spots" on the first or second hunt were devoid of turkeys or signs of turkeys. As Doug Futrell discovered by accident, the birds are now roosting miles away from their winter hang-outs. We've taken note of this fact before, but it was really, really underscored this spring.
As our final hunt ended, we still have had no rain. There are almost no green plants to be found anywhere. No wild flowers, no nothing but gray, dormant plants. Hunters reported evidence of nesting hens, but one wonders if the old biddies will trouble themselves when there is not a bug or a grasshopper to be found. Come June, we'll know. Maybe by then it will have rained. Not a rattlesnake was seen all season until the very final day. Rattlesnakes are great predictors of rain. So maybe it is on its way.
Hunt 4 April 18 - 21
It's not often we have a turkey hunt such as this one. Among this group from Georgia, we had almost as many non-hunters as we did hunters. The hunters were a grandfather, his son and grandson plus their business partner and his son. We were knee-deep in pure-dee Georgia accents and loved every minute of it.
The patriarch was H.G. Yeomans from Swainsboro. His wife Carol helped organize and coordinate the event. Everyone except H.G and Carol flew here from Georgia. But the trouble was, and the exact origin of the mixup remains a mystery, their flights came to Abilene, Texas, not San Angelo. Abilene is at least 90 minutes away to our northeast. And some of them did not arrive until the next day which called for another trip to the Abilene airport, a task which interfered with the day's hunting activities.
In addition to H.G. and Carol, their son, Russ Yeomans was here hunting with his ten-year-old nephew, Jake. The business partner in their vast timber and lumber business was Will Heath. Will hunted with son Tucker, 13.
That first afternoon, despite a late start and all that, Will and Tucker were seeing and hearing several birds. But Mother Nature called loudly to Will who had to exit their blind to answer. While so engaged, without his gun by the way, he saw a nearby gobbler mount a hen. The love fest lasted a full two minutes, according to Will's account. Inside the blind, poor Tucker was unable to shoot with that big mesquite tree in the way. Similar incidents plagued them often as the hunt unfolded. If there was not brush obstructing their view, there was a missed shot. The good news was that on the final morning, both Will and Tucker brought two fine gobblers to camp, just before everyone packed to leave for that Abilene plane departure.
H.G. Yeomans admitted to being lucky, a valuable trait with any kind of hunting. Guides Snake Allen and Charles Westbrook had H.G. set-up in a well-used pathway near the lodge - a turkey highway you might call it. But this time, it didn't work with both guides watching with their binoculars. So they quickly relocated H.G. to a nearby blind down by the dry river. To get there, numerous birds of both sexes were seen. Would their movements in the truck spook the gobblers? Apparently not. When H.G. played his call, many gobbles were heard. He could see several headed his way from across the dry river bed. When their heads appeared (there were five of them), he lined it up and took down two with one shot, just like he planned to do. Both were great Rios, too, by the way.
Russ Yeomans only took one gobbler, but he declared he was having the time of his life hunting these Rios. Russ's nephew, Jake, unfortunately missed one. But Russ claimed they saw and heard a lot of toms.
The hunt closed, then, with one taking two gobblers, three taking one/each, and one taking none. Five for five, but we were hoping for two/each.
For two days, the wind was out of the east and rain was predicted Friday night or Saturday morning. Sure enough, before daylight on Saturday, it came. But only a wee-little bit. Probably didn't even total a tenth of an inch. We need twenty-times that amount. There are small pockets of green, but much of the rangeland is dry and dormant.
So big questions are thereby raised: will the hens nest and lay eggs despite the dry weather? Will we endure yet a second spring in a row with a virtual zero hatch? There is one final turkey hunt to come on April 27-30. These veteran spring turkey hunters from Western Tennessee know how to hunt, and we will be keenly interested in their observations. The report on this final hunt of our season will be posted around about the first of May. We will also have a summary of the entire season with statistics galore and photos of the season's best Rios.
Up to now, the success of the hunters has been great. Hopefully, the Tennessee troops will find the birds still plentiful and working to their calls as they were on this hunt. Surely a week can't make that much difference. Our long range weather forecast says the days will be nice.
Hunt 3 April 14 - 17
Ed Ford, who stayed over from the previous hunt, remembered something said by Tom Kelly, the legendary author who has written extensively about all things turkey. Mr. Kelly's opinion: "Each turkey season, there will come a week when you might as well stay home and cut grass." This observation comes close to what our hunters found on this date.
Speaking of Mr. Ed Ford, who has 130+ gobblers to his lifetime score - if it weren't for bad luck, Ed would have had none at all on this hunt date. He was so tired from his recent hunting, he slept right through the kickoff meeting at noon on the first day. Close observers will note that his photo is not shown with the rest of the group. Ed went out a couple/three times, but he was feeling bad, and it got worse. Finally, we took him to a walk-in clinic where they found serious issues which called for several bottles of pills and a shot. Ed even cancelled his hunt in Kansas later this week and clocked-out a day early to return home to Dexter, GA for much needed rest and recuperation.
On one of Ed's few outings, the best he could claim was having a pair of nice gobblers at 50 yards, but a nearby unseen Boss Gobbler kept the pair from coming closer. Rarely does Ed Ford get skunked. His calling just didn't work. But the same thing was going on with the rest of the hunters.
Once again, for the second hunt in a row, all the hunters in camp came from different states. Ricky Hatch from Crosett, AR who has hunted turkeys with us a couple of times brought along his son, Kevin, who lives in Bailey, MS for his first-ever turkey hunt. Mike Kramer, Lake Villa, IL and Dan Mink, Stewartstown, PA met here several years ago and have become a hunting team. From Haines City, FL came Ken Sasser who is working on collecting a Grand Slam this year. He lives right in the heart of the Osceola country and took his Eastern bird last week. He travels for a Merriam's in a couple of weeks. Collecting that Rio was integral to his goal.
So with a first-timer (Kevin) and a seeker of the Grand Slam (Ken), the pressure was on. But according to reports from those afield, gobblers seemed to be immune to their calling. Few birds responded. Even a little bit. All the birds - gobblers, hens and jakes - mostly ignored the feeders, too. If they came at all, they hardly stayed more than a half-minute before drifting on to wherever turkeys go. Much gobbling was heard from roost trees on occasion, but not always. On that first, windy Saturday afternoon, Dan Mink put his tag on a nice tom but heard/saw very little until the final morning. Although ultimately he found plenty of birds, none came to his calling until late in the hunt.
First time hunter Kevin Hatch is going to make a fine hunter someday. Why? His story of his hunt proves the prediction. Kevin has the patience for the sport. Sitting near a water point (a great place to hunt Rios in the middle of the day), Kevin spotted a strutting, but way-distant gobbler. Of course the rascal never came close enough for a shot. Kevin texted to his dad hunting a mile or so away. Come help. So Ricky did. When the reluctant tom finally came in for a drink and Kevin got his gun on him, he had been tormented by that devil for 6 1/2 hours. That's a long time to wait for a shot, but Kevin endured.
Trouble was, when he finally drew-down on his prey, his contact lens in his shooting eye turned sideways on him. That tricky lens had to be readjusted before he could finally get that shot. Kevin's first-ever gobbler. What an event!!!!
When Kevin's dad, Ricky, finally got his turkey the next morning, Ricky claimed that when he raised his gun to shoot, the lens fell out of his glasses. The listener (me) was about to note that this would be the world's biggest coincidence. Ricky burst out laughing at my gullibility. It got better: on the final morning, both Ricky and Kevin tagged nice gobblers while hunting a half-mile apart. Were they called or ambushed? Neither would firmly claim credit for success calling.
Mike Kramer redeemed himself after a missed shot early in the hunt. On the final night, Mike brought in two dandy birds taken a half-hour apart, he said.
And on that final night, Ken Sasser collected that first-ever Rio which turned out to be a spectacular specimen. The 22.4 pounder (heaviest of the hunt) had 1 1/4 x 1 inch spurs but he carried three beards of 11", 6 3/4", and 5 1/2". We put him in some panty hose and froze him inside a 48 qt. cooler for transportation back home for a full mount by Ken's taxidermist.
Was this the time of the season when the toms go silent? The hens appear to be laying their eggs now, so when they start sitting full time, will the gobblers start responding to calls once again for a while?
Finally, late during this hunt, reports came back of many birds being seen and heard. So it appears the turkeys are here. But they don't come to feeders (much) and the toms don't respond (very well) to calling.
So how do we score this hunt? Due to the several health problems which plagued him, Ed Ford missed half the hunt and took zero gobblers. Three of the hunters took two/each; two took one/each. So that's eight for the five hunters. Best of all: both the first-timer (Kevin) and Ken on his quest for a Grand Slam, were successful. We are eager to see how the next hunt goes. Some of the areas where the hunters will be located haven't been hunted since way back in early April on the first hunt of the season what was almost 100% successful on two/birds per each hunter. Will the turkeys still be in these hot spots? Or have they moved on elsewhere? Stay tuned for the next report this coming weekend.
Hunt 2 April 10 - 13
The weather folks predicted windy weather. The first Tuesday afternoon of the hunt, it was a beautiful, perfect day. Then, Wednesday and Thursday, we had 15-25 mph winds out of the southwest. As the hunt was drawing to a close at mid-day on Friday, a super gale from the west arrived, kicking up dust and limiting visibility. Thank goodness that storm waited till the final hour of the event.
Staying over from the previous hunt were Charlie Eifert, Mason, OH and Tom Edie, Metairie, LA. Both have hunted with us countless times. Another multi-year Adobe Lodge veteran was Ed Ford, Dexter, GA. Ed has 130+ lifetime gobblers to his credit. Like Charlie and Tom, one three-day hunt with Adobe Lodge is insufficient for him. So, he is staying over to hunt the following hunt, as well.
The two Adobe Lodge first-timers were Tim Conner, Shawsville, VA and Larry Miller, Bryant, IN. Both are experienced turkey hunters. When this Texas hunt ends, Tim is driving up to Wyoming to hunt the Devil's Tower area.
That first pretty afternoon, Charlie Eifert reported working a tom in the classic manner. Charlie admits to playing his call very, very little. Once set-up and in place, he played one, perfect yelp and waited 30 minutes or so. When he first saw the approaching gobbler, he stayed still and quiet. Charlie said the cautious gobbler took another ten minutes to get within gun range. With Charlie's heart about to jump out of his chest, it seemed like two hours. Yep, he got him, a twenty-pounder with a 10 inch beard and spurs of an inch and three-sixteenths.
All the rest of the troops saw and heard gobblers that first afternoon. But Tim had one sneak silently up to him from behind, giving him no chance to draw-down on the scoundrel.
Next morning before the wind kicked up, Charlie got Bird # 2. Tim got his first one, but in processing this tom, guide Charles Westbrook said the breast meat had encapsulated old feathers from a shot last year. The damaged meat was discarded.
Tom Edie took down a jake that morning from his blind. Then, his cell phone rang - his wife was calling from back home in Louisiana, just as a long-beard came into view. Tom quickly explained to his wife that he was leaving her for a more important task, and while she was pleading for more information, the gobbler came into range of Tom's gun. The wife even heard Tom's shot.
That afternoon, the wind got so strong Ed Ford said he had to play his call during the infrequent lulls in the gale. But his luck changed the next morning. Before the wind got serious, Ed put his tag on a multi-bearded dude. He first appeared to have four. Nope, a closer examination showed only three, but they totaled 21 inches. Interestingly, he was only a two-year old with 3/4" spurs.
That afternoon, despite the strong wind, Tim Conner hunted a water point, as we encourage all our hunters to do during the middle of the day. He didn't wait 30 minutes until the gobbler made his appearance. So Tim had his second Rio.
Charlie Eifert switched hats, going from "hunter" to "guide," graciously calling birds for Larry Miller. Despite three outings in places Charlie knew well, nothing worked. On the last morning, Larry hunted one of Tom Edie's blinds in a historic hot-spot for gobblers. Zip, zero, nada. So unfortunately, Larry had to go home without a gobbler, despite his dedicated hard hunting. Even Ed Ford, who collected his second tom on the final morning, admitted that, for whatever reason, the gobblers have become hesitant to come to a call. Instead, Ed set-up where he had seen the turkeys exiting the field the morning before. Getting in the pathway of a turkey can be as effective as calling, looks like. Ed got his second tom.
The five hunters took eight birds. Four took two/each; one took none. Of the eight taken, only one was a Jake. Speaking of which, there are, indeed, a few jakes and jennies being seen. Not a lot, but some.
It is getting mighty dry now. There are pockets of green in the low swales, but brown patches are growing by the day. Rain is needed badly, here in what is turning out to be a dry spring.
Hunt 1 April 6 - 9
Wait a minute. This is the second hunt of the season, so how can it be called "Hunt 1?" The earlier hunt came about when we discovered last spring that there were to be more days in the season than we had thought. We therefore created an earlier hunt to be known as "Hunt A."
And if this isn't enough confusion, you should have seen the weather on Hunt 1. The first afternoon, a Friday, the weather was pleasant. But along about 1 a.m. on Saturday, a cold front hit. By ten a.m., the temperature in my truck showed 42 degrees, and the wind was out of the north gusting to 30 mph. You talk about cold!!! Some of the hunters chilled-down and came in early. The very next day, on Sunday, the temperature in mid-afternoon reached the mid-90s and several of the hunters were complaining about the heat. Did this wild weather keep us from matching the success we enjoyed back on Hunt A?
Maybe so. But we had a dandy group here to enjoy/suffer, as the case may be. Six of the eight in camp were multi-year turkey veterans with us. Only two of the group were first-timers - James Pugh from Urbandale, IA and Russ Nugent, Lowell, AR. Actually, Russ hunted the McManus Camp last year for turkeys, but this was his first visit to our Home Camp.
The veterans included Brad Milner and Catharine (Cat) Cato, now living the western mountains of North Carolina after having migrated up from the Atlanta area. Joe Phillips (Stuttgart) and James Gibbs (Hot Springs), who were additional hunters from Arkansas, have hunted turkeys with us many times. And please remember Charlie Eifert, Mason, OH and Tom Edie, Metairie, LA. Why? Both are staying over to hunt once again on Hunt # 2. Hopefully, you will see their photos a bunch .
On that first pleasant afternoon, three birds were taken. Despite the wild and chilly weather the next day, our tally board showed that all but one were successful with one/each, but a couple were already tagged out. When the super warm weather returned, hunting got a bit better, but not by a bunch.
When the final tally was made at the conclusion of the hunt at noon on Monday, five of the troops had two/each; two had one each; and one had zip. Twelve toms for eight hunters calculates to be 150% which isn't all that bad, but certainly doesn't reach the success level of that earlier hunt. One hunter who had already collected his first bird, missed three subsequent shots at different long-beards. He blames the new shotgun shells he was using. They surely did not do what that earlier shell had done.
Regarding the hunting, Joe Phillips, who insists on hunting turkeys in the traditional style, says both his birds worked to his calls in a text book manner. Joe refuses to hunt at or near a feeder. Joe's words about his two gobblers: "It is times such as this which bring me back to hunt with you." No doubt - a gobbler that comes within gun range of a well-played call is a true trophy to a turkey hunter.
Cat Cato collected her 2nd bird on the final afternoon. Brad Milner got his # 2 on the final morning from a blind near a feeder. Scattered reports from our troops in the field were consistent: the gobblers are making some noise, but being henned-up and happy, their response to calling is sporadic. Some of the birds taken on this hunt worked just like they are supposed to; some did not. Hunters heard their gobbling, but the rascals kept their distance and refused to come to their calls. Who can ever explain a Rio Grande wild turkey?
Hunt 1 April 2 - 5
Until we actually get our troops out a-hunting turkeys, we just don't know how the shifty Rios will be acting. Turns out, they are playing the game. Plenty of gobbling, and they are coming (usually) to the calling.
Whereas last season when everything seemed to be happening early, 2018 seems to be a more normal year. Until very recently, trail camera evidence showed the birds to still be in their winter flocks - guys with guys; girls with girls. But that has now changed big time. Hunters are seeing the hens running with the toms who are all puffed up, spitting and drumming. What perfect timing.
The proof? That first Monday afternoon, nine hunters collected six toms. A missed shot would have made seven. And Earl Everette said he could have easily tagged out with a second bird if he had wanted to. What a great start to the season.
In camp were four veterans plus five brand-new (to us) hunters. The veterans were Jim Newman and Earl Everette plus their guest, Michael Newman. Multi-year Adobe Lodge veteran turkey hunter Gehl Mittelsted, from Midland, TX, of all places, had invited his long-time friend Jared Perry from back home in Wisconsin to tag along this year. Another veteran, Jimmy Dunahoo, Benton, AR brought along Paul Jenkins. Finally, a father/son pair - Allen and Hunter Smith from Oxford, NJ got their first taste of Adobe Lodge spring turkey hunting.
As photos were being taken that first afternoon of gobblers taken by Michael Newman, Earl Everette, and Jim Newman, you could see a distinct color-phase variation between the three tails. Michael's looked almost like an Eastern bird while the other two tails, being almost white on the tips, could have passed for Merriam's, or at least one of them could. What's more, the beard on Michael's darker bird was two-toned. Check out the photos below.
Jimmy Dunahoo, Benton, AR made friends several years ago with Paul Jenkins from Little Rock. Amazingly, Paul has been hunting turkeys since 2003 without any luck whatsoever. He could claim credit for taking zero turkeys. Having hunted here last year, Jimmy told Paul he knew of a place where, finally, his bad luck would come to an end. Sure enough, that first afternoon, both collected birds. Next morning, danged if Paul didn't bring in a gobbler with 1 1/2" x 1 1/4" spurs, the best of all of them.
Allen Smith wanted to introduce his son, Hunter, to the sport, and the pair drove all the way from New Jersey to get into our Rios. Hunter, with only one, lone bird to his credit, banged one down that first, busy afternoon. But it was Allen who had to finish him off. Hunter went on to take his pair of gobblers all by himself. Hunting a dry river area, both father and son got to watch a sho'nuff, down and dirty fight between two long-beards. Having a front row seat at the spectacle, said Allen later, was worth the trip all by itself. He said they must have fought for ten minutes. Dad and son each collected two gobblers.
Jim Newman and Earl Everette were tagged out with only an afternoon and a morning hunt. Both are old pro hunters, and both will affirm that you'd better collect a bird when the opportunity presents itself, rather than trying to drag-out the hunt to the full three-day limit. At any time, as any seasoned hunter can tell you, birds will quit working for no reason at all. Or, the weather might turn against you. As it did on that second afternoon of the hunt when the north wind got to 35 mph, kicking up some, but not a lot, of dust. Thank goodness.
Gehl Mittelsted, who runs a drilling rig making horizontal holes, was accompanied by his old buddy, Jared Perry from back home in Wisconsin. Gehl took his first tom in the classic manner. But that second gobbler drew more blood (Gehl's blood) than all the hunters all put together. It seems that the only shot he presented to right-handed Gehl was a left-handed one. Turkey hunters with much experience learn to shoot with their off-hand. Sometimes, that is the only chance you will have. When Gehl got that shotgun to his left shoulder and pulled the trigger, the butt-end of the big gun slide off his shoulder and allowed the scope to hit Gehl squarely on the bridge of his nose. Blood poured. And poured. And finally began gushing. Gehl called guides Jerry Watts and Charles Westbrook for help. Finally, the blood stopped but his nose will never be the same. Oh, yes. He did get that turkey. But from the looks of the two, you might think the gobbler won the battle.
Poor Jared was snake bit. He missed a shot the first afternoon. For the next day and a half, he struck-out, but declined offers to re-locate. Finally, on the final morning, he did collect a good tom - his first-ever Rio. But bad luck returned shortly thereafter as he missed two shots at a possible second gobbler.
The total results on this kickoff Hunt A are mighty impressive. Nine hunters took 17 gobblers. Besides Jared's misfortune, there was another missed shot, as well. There was a spit of rain that first afternoon. The cold front came the next afternoon, and by daylight on the second full day, the temperature was around 40 with a brisk wind. The final day saw temperatures approaching 80 by noon. On this hunt anyway, the gobblers were going by the rule book. Which is why spring turkey hunters go to so much trouble to play the game with them.