Slamming the truck doors, we left Kansas City on a clear, cool April morning. SOE ranch was expecting us after 1:00 on Friday. We stopped in Austin that night and stayed at the Moxy Hotel like we had in Mississippi. I’m a bit superstitious, so wanted to keep as many of my pre-hunt rituals the same.
Next morning, we grabbed breakfast at the Driskill (built in 1886!). Afterwards, we hit San Antonio for a visit to the Alamo. Walking around at that historic site, I couldn’t imagine trying to defend that place with only a musket. Jim Bowie, William Travis, Davy Crockett and less than 100 men defended that small mission for 13 days against an entire army, then were defeated March 6th, 1836.
After the Alamo, a 2-hour drive brought us to Uvalde, Texas, we were headed to meet Rueben Carrillo, guide, and ranch hand. I’d met Rueben in Illinois a few years ago when he guided for me. He took us out to the ranch house where we would be staying for the next few days.
James and I quickly got our gear ready, we were heading out that afternoon to see if we could complete step 3 of the Single Season Grand Slam. Mike Stroff, owner of SOE hunts and guide, met us at the house and ran us through the plan for the afternoon. He saw some turkeys at a small dry creek bed and had a blind in the shade. That shade was welcomed, it was pushing 100 degrees that afternoon. We jumped into Mike’s truck and headed back towards Uvalde. On the way, Mike told us to be ready to go, there were quite a few turkeys at the spot. He also said to be on the look-out for rattlesnakes!
As we drove into the property, we saw two strutters. We slowed down and watched them. They slowly walked off into the high grass. As we got closer, there was a flock of hens, jakes, and a couple of other gobblers. I had a good feeling about this spot. We drove down the creek bed to our blind, the turkeys are used to the trucks on the farm. Once at the blind, I looked to see if there were any snakes. Satisfied, we put out the decoys and got situated in the blind. A few minutes later, James grabbed my arm and said “stop”. We both heard the rattle. We exploded out of that blind like a cannon, must have been a sight to see. Mike was driving away and saw us rush out of the blind. He stopped, “what’s going on?” James and I both said, “rattlesnake in the blind”. Mike grabbed a tripod shooting stick and moved the snake away from the blind for us.
James and I reluctantly got back into the blind and tried to get situated again. As soon as I sat down to grab my call, I saw two turkeys coming down the banks of the creek. I tapped James on the leg and whispered, “here they come”. The turkeys came out in front of the blind, I asked James if the camera was on. James said, “sure is” and I fired, dropping my first Rio Grande Turkey and completing step 3. Once I fired, two other birds took off in flight. I called Mike to come back and get us, he’d only been gone maybe 10 minutes. What an incredible experience to get my first Rio!
The next morning it was James’ turn, it was his first time hunting a Rio Grande. Mike took us up north to Hill Country. What a beautiful area! We pulled up about 6:45 am, getting out of the truck, we walked maybe 20 yards when we heard gobbles. One to the north and another to the west. Mike said “Sounds like they’re on the roost to the west”. We took off in that direction. Slowly and patiently, we got within 200-250 yards of where they were roosted. The hens had started flying down off the roost with the boys following them. We froze. Getting down on our bellies, we army-crawled to a couple of trees so we could hide and get set up.
James got behind a cedar tree and I got behind an oak tree. Mike crawled to another tree behind us. I tried my hand at filming James’ hunt. Man, he makes it look a lot easier than it is. We got settled, and Mike started calling. Three gobblers responded with another gobble to our north. I slowly moved, and saw one of the big boys about 30 yards out, he was walking away from us. We quickly realized it was the hens pulling those strutters away. Mike kept calling, finally we heard another gobble from the north. He was getting closer. The boys that had followed the hen then circled back and gave James his opportunity. James canted the 12-gauge Retay around the tree trunk and took a shot. The bird dropped immediately. That was also James’ first time shooting that gun - he was confident in his shot. Standing up, we headed out to the bird. He was a great-looking strutter about 50 yards out. James got that hunting grin, and couldn’t stop smiling.
What a great way to end the hunt in Texas. Big thanks to Mike for letting James and I come to his ranch to hunt these beautiful Rio Grande Turkeys.
April 9th – High that afternoon of 98 degrees, we hunted in creek bed with shade, so it was around 89 to 90 degrees and a little more comfortable 4:30 PM when turkey was shot
- Bushnell – RXS 250 Red Dot, Bone Collector LRF, 10x42 Engage Bone Collector Binoculars
- Retay Shotguns – 20 Gauge Masai Mara
- JEBS Choke Tubes – Head Hunter .565 tube
- onX – Elite subscription to scout and create strategy for each turkey hunt
- Banded – Clothing, vest, and rain gear
- Realtree – Using Edge and Timber pattern for gear and shotgun
- Federal – TSS Shotgun Shells for 3” 7-9 shot 20 gauge
- Primos – Mouth, Box and slate calls and Photoform decoys, Half Strut Jake Gobbstopper
- Danner – San Angelo Snake Boot (glad I had these with that baby diamond back rattle snake in our blind)
Measurements of Turkey:
Weight: 17 pounds 1 ounce
Spurs: Right: 1” left: 14/16”
Beard: 8” – should have been 10”+ but shot off at 18 yards