Fishing for Turkey

I love birthdays. Not for the presents, or cake and ice cream, or the thrill of making it another year. No, I love birthdays because no matter who’s it is, it means we’re probably gonna get out in the middle of nowhere for a few days. Just a little tradition we started years ago when the kids were real small. And what kind of parent would challenge a birthday camping trip? “But that’s all they really wanted dear, honest. I’m just trying to make them happy.” lol  Of course on mine, it runs along with our annual Dude’s Trip in November. A way to break free with the dude for a week doing something a little crazy Momma and daughter have no interest in. But on his or my daughter’s birthdays it means camping…or something of that nature.

My son Nick turned 16 last Saturday. And oh, did we have a plan. We decided to head about 50 miles Northeast of San Angelo to a small ranch right on the river that flows into Lake Ivie. Just the boys this trip. Me, Kyle, and Nick. Our main goal was to bag a turkey or two.  We spent almost every weekend here back in October during archery season looking for some deer meat to put in the freezer. I got mine, Kyle’s daughter got hers, but Nick didn’t come home with one. So we figured this would be a nice, cool weekend to get out there and go play in the brush.

He was excited and set to go. He asked for new clothes for his birthday, so I got him a ghillie suit. He absolutely loved it, although I think he should be more specific next time, since i’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant. 🙂 We had his party Friday night, then finished off the evening getting everything ready for the next day. I still had to work until the afternoon, but knew we had plenty of time to make the drive and get in place by 5pm.

Kyle had left earlier in the afternoon to go up there and get everything in order. Turn on the electricity and water,  check things out, and open all the doors and windows because it smelled like something died in there…you know, the usual hunting cabin formalities. Fortunately, the previous hunters had bombed the place, so all we had to do was kick all the dead spiders and scorpions out of the way. Kudos to you fellas, we all slept a little easier…sorta.

Once we got there, we got moving fast. We unloaded the truck as quick as we could and immediately changed into our gear.

Nick and Kyle

Then it was off to get Nick set up, down closer to the river. Kyle and I decided to stay back closer to the cabin and hunt up there.

We found a great spot for him and set up the decoys. He had all the calls he needed and knew what he needed to do. We’ve always seen turkey all over the place down here, so it was a great location for the best odds at a turkey dinner.

Being a photographer, I always enjoy getting shots of the whole process. There’s always so much that’s happening that can offer great photos that can even make the “trophy” shot secondary. But after a few minutes of Nick’s constant complaining that we need to leave him alone, Kyle and I headed back to the cabin.

And the calling began. And we called. And called. And he called. And called.

Nothing. Notta. Zip.

For hours. Nothing responded.

Before sunset I radioed him and told him we’re done. Our guns are put up, and to slowly walk the 3/4 mile road back to the cabin and be on guard, just in case something might have come in between us.

But no. For the first time since we’ve been coming up here, they shied away from this usual prime location. But, but, but…they’re always here. Why now, why today? Looks like chicken is on the menu tonight. Boooo.

Once Nick got back, we cranked up a fire and began to prepare supper. Southwestern style marinated chicken, diced potatoes, and some great, magical baked beans with onions and bacon.

It was getting pretty chilly out. The fire and beans were warming us up good, but this evening was not over. After we quickly cleaned up, the decision was made to shoot a few guns before it got too late. The closest neighbors are over a half a mile behind us, so we hoped starting early wouldn’t annoy them too much. The main gun Nick really wanted to shoot was the AR-15. It would be his first time. He’d all but forgotten about the less than stellar hunting and wanted to get some rounds down the shooting lane.

Disclaimer: That light blue 9mm was a borrowed gun from Kyle’s daughter, not his. He loved it, but preferred a different color. 🙂

It’s been a while since we all got to shoot, so we brought a few that haven’t seen the outdoors in many years. I even brought along a few oldies for good measure. One of them, the SKS, hasn’t been shot since the late 90’s. Another was a little 38 Special Derringer. I forgot how fun that little dude is and was probably shot more than any of them that night. We had limited ammo on everything, but still so much fun just to let loose a little for 30 minutes.

The next morning we were up early. Kyle had to head back to town for a family function, but would be back later, so Nick and I decided to go back down to the river and mess around. It’s a beautiful area. The cliffs and rugged terrain on the opposite side keeps any roads or trails from getting down to the river. So for that few mile stretch, it’s absolutely peaceful with no human signs whatsoever. I like it that way.

About mid-afternoon, Nick and I had to head back to town. I would be returning later, but he had school the next morning, so he had to stay back. Kyle and I still had to get the place cleaned up, tidied up, swept, mopped, etc.  It’s amazing how messy things get when you have to hurry because of limited time. And of course slopping through the marsh pits at the river didn’t help the floors each time we returned.

We got back around 4pm and, once again, headed to the river. We thought we’d try out the fishing. The water is stained, narrow and fast moving for the most part, but it did have a few larger pools we wanted to try. Just walking the banks in chest high weeds and thick mud posed quite a challenge do get to those larger pools. When the lake was at capacity, the water would have been well over our heads. I wish I could have seen this place then.

We went downriver until it was getting too thick, then turned around and headed further back upstream. We came to one spot that opened up a bit and looked like a nice little fishing hole. We could see gar, carp, and a few bass. Kyle said it looked like fork stick country and I agreed. Once we get done hunting, we could set up some chairs, prop up the poles, and throw out some bait. Sounded like a plan.

We headed back up to the truck to gather our gear. We weren’t sure where we needed to be, since the turkey seemed to be nonexistent this time. No signs, no sounds, no nothing.

As we stood there looking around, a plan was hatched. Why don’t we get all our hunting and fishing gear together, and head back to the fishing spot? There’s a ton of cover down there. We can fish and we can call, and see what comes in first. If we hear something, maybe call them in closer to where we are. And if not, maybe catch a fish instead. Might be a little goofy of an idea, but who cares, we were enjoying our tranquil surroundings. Plus, I like the sound of “fishing for turkey”. 🙂

As predicted, the turkey weren’t in our area again today. One thing that was in the area…fish. We hoped for some big yellow cats, but were happy just the same to catch what we did.

The Carp Whisperer

Once the sun went down we decided to leave most the fishing gear down on the river, and head back to the cabin for food. We wanted to come back for some night fishing, but we needed to eat and it was getting quite a bit cooler and we needed heavier clothes. After a fine meal of chili dogs, a few coats, and more camera gear, we were back on water.

I love playing around with the camera after dark. As expected, I didn’t do any fishing, just wandered the banks looking for cool shots.

Here are a few…

The steam was coming off the water very thick. It had been pretty hot all week, but it was getting down in the 40’s the last two nights. It was hard to get a good view of it at night, so I whipped out a flashlight and lightened up the area.

It was an amazing weekend hanging out with the boys. We fished, shot, ate well, and tried to hunt. You can’t ask for anything more. Well, a turkey would’ve been nice, I guess.

Thanks for coming along,


Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He's a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at

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