By Luke Clayton, Daily Light contributor
I’ve limited my outdoor outings to one per week lately. With turkeys gobbling all across the state and blue catfish action red hot in the shallows, I simply cannot resist getting ‘out there’ in the woods and on the water. Not to worry though, I’m avoiding contact with large crowds; wearing latex gloves at the gas pumps and mask during those once a week trips to the grocery. As far as I know, social distancing with wild turkeys and blue catfish is still acceptable. After all, a camo face mask is necessary in the turkey woods and at the fish cleaning station, wearing gloves is always a good idea!
All kidding aside, I do have a couple of outdoor excursions to relate to you this week, we all could use a brief respite from the talk of Corona and a little time spent outdoors goes a long way in keeping a healthy outlook on life.
My first venture out of the house was a long planned turkey hunt at Dale River Ranch in Palo Pinto County. In past years, I’ve enjoyed many hunts for turkey and deer at this outdoor wonderland situated on the Brazos River about 5 miles from Palo Pinto. My long time friend Randy Douglas manages the ranch and keeps well attuned to the wildlife on the ranch. Randy called last week and informed me that the gobblers were sounding off all over the ranch and there would never be a better time to collect a wild turkey for the smoker.
“Luke, better head up as soon as you can, it will be just you, me and the turkeys, social distancing is pretty easy to accomplish up here!”
My buddy Jeff Rice joined us for the hunt. Jeff is veteran outdoorsman but his experience hunting spring turkey was limited. Randy and I were making plans for Jeff to do the shooting and join the ranks of successful spring turkey hunters.
As is often the case, the passage of a cold front caused the gobblers to cease much of the gobbling they had been doing but we still managed to get a few of the birds to sound off down near the river. It’s a great confidence builder to hear at least an occasional gobbler. I’ve killed lots of gobblers that never sounded off and came in silent to my decoy and calls. But, there is nothing more exciting in the outdoors than hearing a turkey gobble and he moves closer and closer to your set up.
The gobblers must have been with hens the first afternoon of the hunt, we heard only an occasional gobbler and when Randy invited us to do some bass fishing in a very well stocked pond, we opted to remove some of the surplus smaller fish for an evening fish fry. That first day wrapped up with a big meal of crispy bass fillets and Bushes Beans back at camp.
The next morning was cool and clear and the three of us set out ‘running and gunning’ for turkey. Randy knows every inch of the ranch and when we heard a gobbler responding to our hen yelps, we set off in a direct line to close the distance. The gobbler sounded off fairly close, we estimated him to be a little over 100 yards through the brush when Randy positioned the decoy while I located a bushy cedar tree with a low hanging limbs that would made a perfect blind to conceal the three of us. The gobbler came in unannounced. We heard him gobble one time back in the brush and then he was right there in front of us. The bird was beginning to get a bit nervous and about ready to vacated the premises when Jeff located a hole through the brush to take aim. A heavy load of #4 shot from Jeff’s 12 gauge put his first spring gobbler on the ground. We celebrated with a big skillet of fajitas back at camp!
If you’re looking for a great spot to hunt turkey, give Douglas a call (214-797-2217). He charges only $150 per day and the area has a heavy population of birds.
ON TO THE BLUES
My next outing occurred closer to home at Lake Tawakoni with another great friend, guide Tony Pennebaker. Only one stop in route to fish with Tony, for fuel and gas and YES, I did wear my latex gloves!
Tony decided not to run guided trips during the peak of this virus but still fished every day. He has been catching his daily limit of blue catfish weighing between 2 and 10 pounds, freezing them and giving them to anyone in need of some fresh fish. This allows him to stay current on the fish’s patterns and supply a lot of folks with fresh fillets in the process.
Before our trip, Tony briefed me on the red action on ‘eater’ size blue catfish. “Luke, we should be able to catch a couple limits of blues in two three hours fishing. I’ve been fishing a point not far from my house and I expect this pattern to hold steady throughout the spring. There are tons of shad in the area and the catfish are up shallow enjoying the easy pickings.”
Tony eased his big comfortable boat up a long cast from the point and we soon had 7 rods baited with fresh shad in the rod holders. Just as predicted, the action was fast and furious. The two of us were kept busy catching fish, missing strikes, taking fish off the hook and rebaiting. We fished about 3 hours before Tony pushed the button to pull the talons out of the lake bottom and free the boat for the short ride back to dock. The live well was filled almost to the top with 50 of some of the best eating fish in fresh water. We estimated the weight of the fillets to be right at 30 pounds, the makings of many fish frys. As soon as I got home, I fired up my fish fryer and enjoyed a ‘mess’ of some of the tastiest fish fillets I can remember eating.
Tony is contemplating beginning his guided trips again soon. Feel free to contact him for more details (903-474-3078).
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton online at www.catfishradio.org . Check out videos of the two outings depicted in this column on YouTube by searching for “A Sportsman’s Life.”