Okie Gobblers

I was first invited to hunt Oklahoma gobblers two years ago. Back then, Bushnell Outdoor Products marketing manager Mark Schaefer and Eric Barnes, Sr. Vice President of Outdoor Recreation for Brothers & Co. advertising agency, asked me to join their spring camp near Vinata, Oklahoma to chase Rios. Although I could have done without the excitement of a tornado warning that hammered camp the first morning--boy, how I hate hard-hitting thunderstorms that hit in the black of night--the hunt was great. I managed to call in a couple of birds for other hunters, but discovered that there was nothing easy about these Rios. They were the anti-thesis of the gobbling fools I ran into in Texas several years back and they could see better than any Easterns that I'd ever encountered anywhere in their range. Simply put: they were tough. I was back in familiar woods the other day with the hope of doing a bit better this time. Morning No. 1 dawned windy and quiet. I hate quiet and windy almost as much as I hate tornado warnings. The pair of mallards which plopped into a puddle out in front of our first setup was an almost comical distraction from the business at hand. We had to go find some gobblers that wanted to play.
The winds picked up in mid-morning making it all but impossible to hear turkeys even if they were gobbling unless they were within 50 or so yards. Ducks and this box turtle were the best we could manage.
Oh, and then there was the cottonmouth. I hate snakes and this one was dispatched in short order. Hard to tell from this photo (I didn't really care to take its close-up) but its girth was wrist thick.
Much of the game with Oklahoma Rios involves spotting birds loafing or strutting in distant pastures and then formulating a plan to sneak into calling position. That was the case with these gobblers. When guide Rusty Cornwell spied some birds on this high hill, we plotted an end-around. Once hunkered down amid some blowdowns, Mark Schaefer and I prepared for a long sit. I could hardly believe it when four jakes stepped up out of a creek bottom after just two series of yelps.
Schaefer (right) didn't hesitate. When the birds split, he bore down on the biggest of the group and shot. Success!
Apparently the young gobblers weren't split up quite far enough, however. Schaefer's pattern took down two birds filling both his tags--and saving on ammo!
Cromwell and Schaefer pick up the downed birds.
Schaefer (left) and Cromwell pose with their handiwork. I'm still amazed that the birds could hear Cromwell's mouth calling amid 40 to 50 mph wind gusts.
The Judas hen. Shortly after this episode, Schaefer, Cromwell and I set up in a creek bottom and were astonished to watch a hen approach this deke in full strut!
Cromwell, owner/operator of Trails End Sanctuary, has access to thousands of acres of prime Oklahoma turkey habitat. Rio hunts cost $500 and include two nights lodging, meals and a guide. The limit is two birds per hunter.
Although Cromwell and his guides are first-class callers, all are perfectly willing to allow you to call up your own birds.
Hunters are allowed two bearded birds--both may be taken on the same day.
Hunters are allowed two bearded birds--both may be taken on the same day.
Tags must be affixed to the turkey's leg until the bird is prepared for consumption.
After gobblers have had their way with you for three days straight, there's often not much else to do than take a breather and reassess the situation.
This turkey hunting is easy--outdoor writer Skip Knowles lowered the boom on two adult gobblers on the second morning of the hunt. Knowles and his guide caught the pair strutting for hens in the corner of a wheat field. As for me? My Oklahoma turkey hunting nightmare continues. Maybe next year. Now it's off to New England where I've got a better handle on the longbeards. Or at least I think I do.

I had a score to settle--plain and simple. Oklahoma gobblers kicked my butt two years ago and I wasn't going to let it happen again.