Took my 7 year old on his first "official" hunt last month. We packed up the RV and headed for San Saba, TX where my brother-in-law works his family pecan farming business. The property they live on sits on just over 450 acres of pecan orchards, with another 2000+ acres spread out around the local area. The orchards are home to beautiful pecan trees, many well over 100 years old. To me its a outdoorsman's dream. The San Saba river runs one border of the farm offering fishing and incredible wildlife habitat (turtles, water moccasins, ducks, cat fish, bass, nutria, toads, etc). The orchards are a haven for deer (i started taking pictures of deer but it literally got old. Easily 40-50 deer every morning and evening), dove, turkey, squirrels and of course the nemesis of most farmers...wild hogs.
For my son and I our focus was turkey. My brother-in-law had been seeing them frequently in one particular orchard. We had two and a half days to stalk the property, set up some decoys and work the turkey call to coax out some gobblers.
Shot of what the orchards look like...
Our "camp" for the weekend (a little different accommodations then my Minnesota trip).
Once we had the trailer set up it was time to unpack the important gear and start walking the property.
The orchards are bordered by higher grasses and a mix of oak and pecan trees.
Beyond the tree line along one border it drops off into a ravine. Right away i could tell this would be where we would start our evening stalking session. This particular section met up with a section of the river which then gradually led back and opened up at the far end of the orchard.
The San Saba river...looks pristine from this angle...
But those are some muddy waters
hiding all kinds of critters...
You can see the damage the hogs do to the river bank. My brother-in-law uses the river to irrigate so he is constantly repairing and moving his equipment from the damage the hogs and nutria cause. Both animals are KOS at all times.
We finished off the day with a little archery practice...
...as well as some target practice with the Ruger 10-22.
Also uncovered some fresh water clams down at the river (actually i think they are classified as mussels)
Before sunrise the next morning we hit the first area where turkey had been seen regularly. Put out some decoys and threw up a makeshift blind with a couple layers of camo netting against a pecan tree.
We hung out here working the turkey call for an hour or so after sunrise...but all was quiet. We left the decoys in place and headed across the orchard to the ravine and began a slow quiet stalk. Stopping every 20 yards to let out a few calls. Still nothing but we spooked a few deer out of hiding and found the mother load of squirrels which we returned for later.
Nasty vultures always looking for a free meal...
Where the ravine eventually came back up to the orchard we found a few little goodies...a nice shed and some turkey feathers. We would return here sunday morning and try again.
But until then it was back to the trailer to pick up our fishing gear and hit the river to chase some fins and relax.
I love photographing old farms. So much history and character on a piece of land thats been worked for over 100 years.
Sunday morning started off with a proper breakfast...
Then it was back to the ravine before sunrise for one last chance to find the turkeys. We sat in this spot for some time trying a variety of calls. Twice I thought I got a response but it was tough to tell with all the other birds chirping and the occasional chatter from the few surviving squirrels.
We decided to head back up to the orchard and circle around to where we found the feathers at the other end. Once there we sat for a few and I decided to throw out a couple short clucks. Immediately we got a response. The loudest gobble i have ever heard. My sons eyes went as big as silver dollars and every hair on my neck stood up. Again i hit the call...GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE came back from beyond the tree line. This went for 10 minutes...back and forth. I knew from where we were laying even if i called him out into the short grass of the orchard I wouldn't have a shot. So we had to move. It seemed like an eternity before we reached a better spot with good cover of tall grass behind a pecan tree.
Hit the call again...nothing back. Dammit! I had given us away. Hit the call again....GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE! he was CLOSE! Between us and tree line (about 20 yards) was a barbed wire fence and some scrub brush. I needed him to clear the fence to have a clear shot. Suddenly we hear hen clucks 30 yards to the left! Could this get any better?!?!? I let rip a few more calls eliciting a perfect response from both birds each time and they were on the move.
Then it happened...I repositioned myself slightly for a better look and in doing so rose up to my knees. And there he was eye level with me at the fence! In a split second he was gone back into the trees. I cursed under my breath and looked at my son who had been so quiet and still the whole time. He said two words that almost brought me to tears..."patience, Dad".
Of course I wanted to shoot that bird and have my son's first hunt put meat on the table. But overall I couldn't have been more happy. We explored for 2 days, had the best father-son time a guy could ask for and in the end had the most suspenseful 30 minutes calling that gobbler in and it won't soon be forgotten. We will be back there before the season is over and next time I will remember my 7 year old's words of wisdom...patience, Dad.
A few more random pictures...
Turley Dogwood Creek above and ML Knives custom to the left...
Thanks for coming along...God bless!