The first few trips to the ranch after the close of duck season are an awakening. I make very few trips to the hills during duck season, mainly because I’m focused on ducks and once the hills on our ranch become saturated by winter rains, travel becomes difficult.
Once duck season is over, thoughts turn to the hills and we know it won’t be long until turkey season opens. Along with the turkeys comes an occasional opportunity to bag a wild pig, but the last few years have been slow for pigs, so we’ve spent more time looking for gobblers.
Sometimes we see tule elk along the easement road as we did this day, but the two bulls we spotted were too far away to make a useful photo. The bulls had already shed their antlers. They like the open hillsides where they can spot people coming from a long ways off. Although they are not hunted, they are very careful to avoid people.
Although we found no pigs, we did find a large area that had been rooted up by pigs in search of tubers – probably within the past week. I find it interesting that so many people complain about the destructive nature of pig rooting. I’m sure it does have a short term negative impact upon grass, but my gut instincts tell me that there are benefits derrived from the rooting. It probably has a positive impact upon soil compaction making it easier for some plants to grow. It sets the area back a bit succession wise and creates some diversity. If pig rooting is bad, what about farming?
We had a good crop of turkeys in 2006, but the dry spring of 2007 seems to have had a negative impact upon our local turkey prooduction. The short grass last summer was probably not conducive to good brood survival and that seems to be the case as this spring the flocks are smaller and spread out over larger territories.
We have two areas on our ranch that tend to attract spring turkeys, but one of those two is by far the most productive. It is a canyon that holds a lot of water and has heavy cover on its north-facing slope. Along with the cover, the area has plenty of large roost trees – a key to attracting and holding turkeys.
That’s where we found a small group of gobblers following a couple hens in typical spring fashion.
We stopped to check a few ponds in search of red-legged frogs, but only found a few tree frogs along the pond edges.
On the way home we found a small flock of hen turkeys with several gobblers displaying.
Brian leaned out the passenger window to take these turkey photos.