South Zone turkey report — great gobbling in early season

IMG 1010You can usually find Texas Game Warden Chris Swift roaming the woods looking for poachers and other wildlife violators in his home area of Southeast Texas.

But as an avid turkey hunter, Swift likes to take a week off from chasing law breakers and head to the turkey woods to chase longbeards.

He and several friends, including Foster Schempf from Corpus Christi, did just that last week when they hunted two locations — ranches around Fredericksburg and Brackettville.

“There was a lot of gobbling,” Swift said. “The birds gobbled until 10:30 a.m. and then started up again around 5 p.m. The toms were ganged up but there also were big groups of hens that had dominant gobblers with them.

“There were so many birds, it wasn’t hard to find a hot gobbler.”

Swift said his group hunted mornings and evenings and “there were so many birds, we were passing gobblers that didn’t have long enough beards or spurs.”

“They were all fired up, but I still think the hunting in the Hill Country will be better in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We didn’t see any evidence of breeding — no single hens headed to a nest.”

Swift said the range conditions could not be better for a super hatch of poults this spring.

“There is a lot of grass, a lot of bugs and poult production in the Hill Country is going to be great,” he said. “I do think the drought took a toll, though. The beards and spurs were not as long, even on three-year-old birds. They were brittle. The longest spurs on a tom we shot were ¾ of an inch.

“I think it is a lot like antler growth. We just didn’t see the big, curved spurs we’ve seen in the past.”

IMG 1013After hunting the northern Hill Country, the group headed to Brackettville, which proved to be just as good.

“It was phenomenal,” Swift said. “The turkeys were in such good shape. We were seeing a lot of birds strutting in fields along the highways on the drive down. Range conditions are perfect, as was the weather.

“It’s very enjoyable hunting turkeys when it isn’t 95 degrees outside.”