Jim and I were expecting the same flat terrain as last year
Nothing can make a 15-hour drive fly by more than the anticipation of chasing the Rio Grande subspecies in South Texas, but it is a haul from Missouri. Last year, Jim and I hunted a 1700-acre ranch that was so flat, you could stand under a mesquite tree and see for hundreds of yards. This year, we were standing at the base of what this flatlander calls a mountain. I was able to handle the terrain and challenges of the hunt, but I am glad I was in shape. If I had not been, my experience and overall success may have been different. Here is the breakdown of the various challenges and lessons learned in the hill country of Texas.
I shoot a Mossberg 935 during waterfowl season and used the same weapon with an Indian Creek choke tube for the last four years to hunt turkeys. It does the job, but weighs a TON! I love that 12 gauge but with a 28-inch barrel plus that choke tube, I already have my eyes on the Mossberg 500 12 gauge. It is a slightly lighter gun with a shorter barrel. Much easier to run & gun with while still delivering a devastating blow to a long beard!
Vest or Backpack
I’ve been using the same turkey vest since I was 15 years old. It is great for sitting in a blind but this year, Jim tried something a little different. Instead of a vest, Jim customized a 5.11 Rush 1.0 backpack which worked out extremely well. It held everything he needed plus his camera gear. My vest is fine, but it is clunky, and heavy and did not sit well on my back as I climbed up to the plateaus. I liked his set-up so well, I might just emulate it next Spring. If you want to see how he customized his pack check click here!
Top Tier Conditioning
Being a coach and personal trainer who helps people prepare for hunts just like this, my overall conditioning was not a problem, but had I known we were talking baby mountains and loose rock vs. sandy flats, I would have done a lot more rucking prior to the trip. One of the reasons we train is to delay the pain. On any type of western hunt, you are going to suck wind, feel burn in your legs, and be required to go up and down rocky terrain which is exactly what we experienced. The difference for me was, how did I recover?
It is one thing to have your hamstrings screaming and lungs on fire as you ascend, but once you hit the top, do you recover quickly? If the answer is yes, you trained appropriately. If the answer is no, I would recommend you do a little more work before you head to the hills for any type of big game hunt. Our new program Extreme Strutter was designed specifically for hunting mountain birds and it is a great tune-up for any western hunt you are preparing for this fall.
Hunting feeders is legal in Texas but natural cover around feeders are few and far between. It is not like hunting brushy fencerows or edge feathered fields in the Midwest. There are places to set up but the cover is a minimum which makes calling, filming, and getting into position extremely difficult. We also noticed the birds made a circular pattern, much like the birds we hunt in Missouri do, around feeders locations and would approach from specific directions. The birds were easy to pattern, but being able to set up a blind in these travel routes would have made us more effective because we would be creating our own cover.
And if you think hunting feeders are slam dunks, you would be wrong. All wildlife we observed was extremely cautious and would approach from directions where they had the widest field of vision. One morning we had a gobbler in sight and HAMMERING minutes after the legal shooting light and he kept a good 60 yards in between us and his travel route. He was not coming to us and stood there gobbling waiting for the seductive hen that continued to yelp his way. A ground blind in his travel corridor would have resulted in a ten-minute hunt and an early breakfast burrito at camp.
I am a geek for all things performance and am 100% sick for turkey hunting. Taking on new terrain and learning how to improve my physical strength and conditioning plus gear was an incredible amount of fun. Getting to do an adventure like this with Jim, my son, and our host Steve made it even more special.
How is your season going? We hope you are smack into the middle of the turkeys but if you need help with your strength and conditioning, please reach out to us. We’d love to help you get and stay #FitToHunt!