Last season when I was hunting turkeys at Miller Creek Ranch in central Texas, I found that gobblers were henned up beyond belief, gobbling on the roost, then clamming up like Mafia members on the witness stand as soon as they hit the ground. In six days of hunting, I managed to call one big bird up for a friend who had never been turkey hunting before, and he thankfully hammered him. (He had hunted a total of two hours and went home thinking, hey, what's so tough about this?)
Oh, don't worry. I got my licks in, too, but it was only because I have a bowhunter's mentality and started turkey hunting as if I were bowhunting mature whitetails. That is to say, I found places where the birds were crossing fence lines heading back to their roost, built some ground blinds and waited them patiently out. And I also put the sneak on a big gobbler strutting in a wheat field next to the edge of a wooded creek channel. I killed that 4 year old at eight steps. But none of it was classic turkey hunting like you see on the cable hunting TV shows. No gadgets, specialty items or high-tech devices we've used to chase down my birds.
Like me, outfitter Stony Trainham of Miller Creek Ranch has evolved from a hunter with no money who took afield nothing more than a gun, binoculars and a sharp knife, to one who brought so much gear that he ran out of pockets and daypack space. Now, both of us are back to the basics, believing that the less you haul around the better you'll know how to use what you have, and thus be more efficient in the woods. The key is to bring the right stuff.
The famous conservationist, writer and sportsman Aldo Leopold once wrote that the nimrods of his era were becoming a gang of "gadgeteers," more enamored with their toys than becoming skilled woodsmen. I am pretty much the anti-gadgeteer, unless a new high-tech whatchamacallit proves its worth to me. One of those gadgets is the modern GPS unit. I have not found a more useful tool in many a year.
The GPS can help you get found if you become lost. It can also mark downed big-game animals that have to be packed out later without worrying about leaving a trail of bright flagging. It has a 101 uses, and the newest units are simple to use.
We used them turkey hunting for several things. The most important was the ability to roost a gobbler and mark both his exact tree and, even better, the exact spot where I wanted to set up in the dark to try and catch him as he flew down off the roost at first light. No need to alert him with a flashlight, no need to make a lot of noise getting settled in, just read the unit and follow the trail and you're ready. Other times, we'd get into a new area in the early afternoon, mark the truck on the GPS and head off. When we saw or heard turkeys, we chased them wherever, with no fear of not being to find the truck again in the flat, brush-choked terrain. I doubt I'll be hunting much without one anymore.
Trainham made a great point about gadgets. "There is no substitution for woodsmanship when hunting," he observed. "Too many folks believe they can buy all this fancy stuff and become Daniel Boone overnight, but that isn't the way it is." A GPS can simplify things and be helpful, he said, but hunters still need to know how to locate birds and know what to do once they find them. "You cannot buy that knowledge at any price."
Truer words were never spoken.
Did You Know?
Set up active decoys where you don't want geese to land. Use sleeping and resting decoys to signal the area has been checked out and it's safe enough to drop in and nap.
At this year's Texas Truck Rodeo, the Texas Auto Writers Association named Ram Trucks worthy of delivering true Lone Star State capability. We're proud to announce Ram Trucks roped in some respected awards, including the highly coveted title of Truck of Texas for the 2011 Ram 1500. No small feat in a state that's known for big things—like standards for their trucks.
2011 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn: Luxury Pickup Truck of Texas. Fit for the rodeo. Worthy of Rodeo Drive. Ram Laramie Longhorn was named Luxury Truck of Texas for a reason–it's loaded with only the best. Like premium leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, ornate belt buckle seatbacks and more. With authentic southwest style and true Ram Truck capability, 2011 Ram Laramie Longhorn sets a higher standard for luxury trucks.
2011 Ram Outdoorsman: JFull-Size Pickup Truck of Texas. From open range to thick backwoods, Ram Outdoorsman has the off-road capability to take you where ordinary trucks can't. Rugged, all-terrain tires, heavy-duty cooling, enhanced lighting and available RamBox storage with Mopar gun and fishing rod holsters making heading into the sticks more fun than ever.
1EPA est. 14 city/20 hwy mpg for Ram 4x2. Ram, HEMI, and RamBox are registered trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC.
Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »
the Texas Auto Writers Association named Ram Trucks worthy of delivering true Lone Star State capability.... Read More »
Number of U.S. citizens who participated in informal target shooting on their own property in 2009.
Number of Rifle Shooting merit badges awarded by the Boy Scouts of America from 2006-2010 (earning the badge through use of .22 rifles exclusively is not required to achieve Eagle Scout, yet it is the 12th most popular merit badge earned)
Number of days of U.S. participation in rifle target shooting in 2010
Number of rimfire cartridges sold each year in America
Number of U.S. adults who would be "extremely" to "somewhat" interested in participating in shooting sports in the future (based on 2010 Harris interactive poll)
Number of .22-caliber handguns produced in the United States in 2009
Smith & Wesson's .22 Short first appeared in 1857 and was followed in 1871 by Great Western Gun Works' .22 Long. .22 Long Rifle was introduced by J. Stevens Arms & Tool in 1887.