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Outdoors

Equipment and patience, the keys to hunting turkeys

By: George deVilbiss, Special to Gold Country News Service
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There are a lot of wild turkeys throughout California. They’re a highly prolific bird and for the most part, their populations are thriving. The major problem with turkey hunting, however, is that their habitat range is below the snow line and, for the most part, on private property. In many areas, especially around housing areas, they are actually considered a nuisance because of the messes they can leave behind. Except for the spring breeding time, they’re a herd bird, found in fairly large flocks. When they’re not brooding on a nest of eggs on the ground, they spend their nights roosting in trees. They are a highly wary bird. If you go into the field in regular street clothes, you’ll rarely get a turkey within a mile of you. The hunting of these wild birds not only takes some very specialized gear, it also takes a world of patience. Gear: You need to blend completely into the environment. One of the best options for that is a blind. There are some fairly inexpensive blinds to be found and various sizes to accommodate every need. Some can be set up in a matter of a few minutes. If you don’t have or use a blind, you’ll need camo from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, including either a face mask or camo paint. Your shotgun should have a camo cover. A couple of decoys also work wonders. The springtime hunt is when the tom looks for hens to breed, so at least one hen decoy with a tom decoy nearby would be a good idea. If you can get a tom turkey to take a look, he’ll want to “fight” the tom already there, decoy or not. There are a wide variety of turkey calls on the market and some are much easier to use than others. If you don’t know one call from another, call wrong and all that tom turkey will do is turn tail and make tracks for another area, wholly unseen. Pick up an instructional CD that describes the different calls. Patience: A turkey is not a bird that will announce its arrival so you need to be patient and on guard at all times. If you’re not using a blind, that means sitting there as solidly as the environment you’re in, totally unmoving. Anything that appears unnatural will immediately scare off this wary bird. Where to go: Just about everywhere, the land is private in one way or another. There are numerous wildlife areas but all require reservations. There are hunting clubs that allow access for a fee, and some landowners may allow you access if you go knocking on doors. The season opens Saturday, March 28 and runs through Sunday, May 3. A legal bird is any bird with a beard showing through the breast feathers. The beard is predominant in the males, but some hens will also sport a beard. The daily bag limit is one turkey with the seasonal bag limit of three turkeys total. CURRENT FISHING Salmon: While the final, published regulations won’t be made until April, the early word is there will be a continued ban on both recreational and commercial salmon fishing again in 2009. That means there will be no ocean fishing for salmon and that Sacramento River drainage will also be closed again. Folsom Lake: It is over 100-percent of wintertime “normal” and the lake’s shoreline changes almost daily with the rising waters. Looking for available fresh grub, the bass are following that rising shoreline. As the weather warms, too, many of the bass are really gearing up for spawning time. Still need to fish it slow, though. Drop-shotting works well or use jigs and dartheads with dark plastics attached. Some trout action for the shore bound from the Granite Bay boat ramps to Beaks Bite with trollers not getting much. Suisun Bay: It’s amazing what rain and rising rivers will do. Sturgeon fishing has totally busted loose with an added bonus of stripers up to 20 pounds being hooked. Shrimp baits and pile worms are all working well. Around the Mothball Fleet is always a good bet, or near Martinez or around Ozol are all producing well. Any questions, comments or concerns, contact George directly at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM