DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — As a turkey hunter, Robert Linder gets positively excited when spring comes around.
“This is the best time to be in the field for a turkey hunter,” he said. “Because it’s not like during the fall season when most people are deer hunting and take turkeys with a rifle as they come in to the feeder. No, spring season is true turkey hunting.”
Linder knows a few things about turkey hunting. He’s hunted every North American turkey — and collected each of the huntable species. While he loves hunting, in general, turkey hunting during the spring gets his feathers up.
“Hunting spring birds is the most exciting type of hunting,” Linder said. “You aren’t shooting them over a feeder at 50 to 100 yards with a rifle. No, you have to bring a tom in to within 30 yards or less to get one.”
The spring season runs March 21-May 3 in the South Zone, which includes Blanco County, and April 4-May 17, in the North Zone, which includes Burnet and Llano counties. And spring means shotguns and archery equipment.
Texas boasts some of the healthiest numbers with about 500,000 Rio Grande turkeys and some Eastern turkeys. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation are trying to bolster the Eastern turkey numbers in the eastern portion of the state. But hunters in the Highland Lakes will find a good population of birds this year.
The wild turkey ranks among the wariest game animals around. And you can’t really sneak up on an old tom during the spring season, but you can give him a call.
Linder advocates calling turkeys during the spring.
“You’ve never been hunting until you’ve called a turkey in to 20 yards,” he said. “That’s where it gets exciting, when you call them in close.”
Linder uses a diaphragm call that he places in his mouth and then incorporates different breathing techniques and inflections to imitate various turkey calls. But he recommends a different call for people just starting out.
“I would start them out with a simple box call or slate call,” he said. “They’re fairly easy to use.”
The box call looks like a small, rectangular wooden box. A handle comes off the lid, which slides across the top of the box. As the hunter moves the lid across the top, he or she can conjure up different types of turkey calls. The slate resembles a piece of wood about six inches long and a few inches wide. In the middle lies a piece of “slate.” Using a piece that looks like a wooden dowel, the hunter draws the dowel along the slate at different lengths and speeds to “talk turkey.”
While the slate and box calls are relatively easy to develop a turkey language, they require two hands, so as a bearded turkey works its way through the brush, the hunter must move slowly to set down the call and pick up a shotgun or a bow. Many hunters will lose a bird because the turkey spots the movement and breaks for cover.
This is where the diaphragm call is an advantage since it’s placed in the mouth and reduces hand and arm movement.
“It’s a little more work than you probably do in the fall, but when that turkey comes strutting in there looking for a fight, man, you’re hooked,” Linder said. “There’s nothing like it.”
Even after decades of hunting across the country and around the globe, nothing compares to a turkey coming to call for Linder.
“To me, there’s nothing more exciting than calling in a turkey,” he said.
And with spring turkey season here, it’s a perfect time to try it out.