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Texas hill country sports more than turkeys

by Minden Press-Herald

I am truly blessed as an outdoor writer/broadcaster to get to do some really neat stuff in the outdoors. I get to fish places I wouldn’t ordinarily get to fish; get to hunt in places I’d never go if I weren’t in this profession.

Most of the spots I get to visit are offered gratis with the expectation I’ll find something interesting to write or broadcast about.

There is one trip, though, where the expenses come out of my pocket book, one I’ll gladly fork over funds necessary to spring for the trip. I’m talking the Russell Ranch in Menard, Texas.

For the past several years, I’ve joined a group of friends for the 11 hour drive way down to south-central Texas to hunt Rio Grande turkeys. There are several reasons I enjoy this trip so much. For one, the owner of the ranch, Walt Russell, is a first class fellow who makes our group feel welcomed and right at home.

Another reason is the abundance of wild turkeys on the 10,000 acre ranch and I always go with the expectation of bringing in a bird or two.

Third, there is so much to see down in this part of the world that absolutely fascinates me. The terrain and lay of the land is diametrically opposed to what we wake up to every morning in north Louisiana. This part of Texas is a place you can get hurt if you’re not careful. Diamondback rattlers are there and virtually every bush and shrub has something on it that can poke a hole in you if you’re not careful. Spiny cacti are everywhere so it behooves one to watch where he steps or chooses to take a seat.

I just returned from a three day trip to Menard with my hunting buddies and the gobblers were cooperative as usual. Eight hunters collected nine gobblers and I was one of the fortunate ones to bag a gobbler. Mine was a good bird weighing 22 pounds with needle-sharp spurs.

As much fun and exciting as was the hunting, it was the hours spent out there waiting to hear and call in a gobbler that proved equally enjoyable.

As I sat swathed in camo mornings and afternoons, the abundant wildlife kept me entertained offering opportunities to put my camera through its paces.

I saw and photographed lots of creatures we don’t have in north Louisiana. Let’s talk jack rabbits. I don’t know nor do I question what the Good Lord was thinking when he took a bunny rabbit, stretched it’s ears to a floppy foot length and gave it a face only a mother could love.

There were birds I get to add to my life list because they’re there full of flit and flitter. One bird I see each time I visit Walt Russell’s ranch is absolutely beautiful. The Vermilion flycatcher is all dressed out in crimson so brilliant it almost makes you squint to see one.

I was able to identify several other species I’d never seen before. Once while sitting in a ground blind, a tiny wren hopped on the window ledge two feet from me. My bird books identified is as a rock wren.

Another bird sat on a branch less than 10 feet away and it’s another we don’t have here at home. The canyon towhee is not the prettiest bird in the book but I got to write it down as one I hadn’t identified before.

The most interesting bird was one that closely resembles our red bellied woodpecker but when I first saw it, I knew something was different. Both are ladder backed but this one, the golden fronted woodpecker, has gold mixed with red with a bright red spot on top of its head.

I consider myself richly blessed to get to, once a year, immerse myself in the other-worldly experience south-central Texas outdoors affords me.

Glynn Harris Outdoor column is sponsored by D.C. Pawn in Minden

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