Mock Turkey Hunt

Turkeys were spread out in smaller groups yesterday – a good sign if you’re a turkey hunter. With the big flocks divided up, it’s a lot easier to find a callable bird.

For me, it was not a hunt. But, I couldn’t resist bringing my box call. I stopped above camp and made a few calls. Nothing.

When I reached camp, I again pulled out the box. One set of yelps and a gobbler answered from the property to the west. I moved to a controlling position overlooking where the gobble had come from and sat down.

Then I yelped again. The gobbler answered immediately. He wasn’t far away. I waited. He gobbled on his own twice. He was coming.

After a period of minutes, I yelped and he answered. Now closer. I scratched the box softly a couple times. He didn’t answer, so I waited to see him.

He appeared at about 50 yards and walked up hill directly towards me. He came to 30, then 20. I had my camera up, but since I was nearly laying down, grasses twigs were preventing me from getting a good focus.

Finally at ten yards, I got a pretty good focus and snapped a decent photo.

DSC_0962 wanna fight

Mr. Ugly and a serious fighter, this bird looked like he’d been to war.

Then, because he couldn’t get through the fence next to me, he turned and walked down the hill about 40 yards to a better pathway. There I got some good photos as he strutted and wondered where the calling hen had gone.

His harem of four hens followed about 30 yards behind him.

DSC_0995 member of the harem

At this point there wasn’t much left to do, except wait for him to leave so I could begin doing the chores I was there for. After I while he continued on this way looking for the mystery hen.

Apparently the four hens that followed him didn’t need his services any more on this day. Not sure why they were hanging out with him.


Looks Good for Ground Nesters

Been seeking some successful nesting signs for turkey, pheasant and quail. Here is some evidence.

Last week I ran into three hen turkeys at the ranch. looks like they had a couple of poults each. That’s pretty good success on our ranch where there are lots of predators.

DSC_0152[1] turkey flock

It’s not always easy to pick out the poults this time of year. Size varies, depending upon when the young hatched.

Driving to work on my trailer at Mayberry Saturday and Sunday, I bumped into a half-dozen pheasant broods. The seemed to have between four and six poults in each. Once again that looks pretty good to me.

DSC_0164[1] pheasant poults

Seems that the number of quail chicks is also very healthy. Maybe there will be some successful upland game bird hunting this fall.

Shady Jakes

Caught these young tom turkeys resting in the shade of a blue oak alongside the road.

Shady Jakes DSC_0964[1]

In summer, young male turkeys band together with other males their age. Gobblers tend to avoid the yearlings, but sometimes the jakes hang out near the older birds or follow them around.

After taking this photo, I stepped on the gas a little too hard and my tires spun, causing the flock to sound off together proving that turkeys do gobble in summer.

Photos of the Week

Here are a few of the best photos of the past week.

Ran into some great wildflowers at the ranch and photographed a horned lark surrounded by wildflowers. The light could have been better, but here is what I got.horned lark singing and wildflowers DSC_0181 cropped

lark bee and wildflowers DSC_0199 cropped

In the second photo a bee jumped in.

Spotted an eagle and red-tailed hawk soaring together. The red-tail was harassing the eagle.

eagle and redtail DSC_0168eagle and redtail DSC_0169 cropped

Here’s a blowup which demonstrates how much larger an eagle is than a red-tail.

Got a couple good turkey photos today. Here’s one of them.


Spring Turkey Season March 26th

IMG_1065-1 Brett with gobler resized

Son-in-law, Brett Kelly with his first gobbler – three seasons ago.

There’s a lot to talk about this spring. Rutty deer meat, the arrival of my full body wolf mount, planning my trophy room and purchase of an Open Zone tag are popular topics. But mostly the big news is that spring turkey season opens in 11 days.

We have about 12 to 15 turkeys living on our ranch. I see a few of them each time I go there, but they are not always the same birds. Of the turkeys, my best guess is that about half are adults and the rest poults.

Of the six or seven adults, I think two are mature toms and the rest are hens. Of the poults, probably half of them are Jakes, but I don’t want to shoot a Jake this year as the overall population is down. However, bagging a mature gobbler would be a satisfying feat.

Based upon past experience, the best day of the season to bag a mature Tom is on opening day. With a shotgun it is almost no contest. But, I’ve proven that that’s not the case with bow and arrow. In fact, I’m zero for forever on gobblers with my bow.

On he other hand I’ve got loads of experience (failure) and it’s almost a sure thing that I’ll get a shot opportunity on opening day.

The best tactic will be to set up my Double Bull blind in one of the known turkey hangouts with Jake and hen decoys about 15 yards away. Once a gobbler responds to my hen yelps, it’s almost a lock that he’ll come in strutting. Typically the gobbler will go eyeball to eyeball with the Jake decoy or maybe even knock it down.

At 15 yards, you’d think the shot would be a slam dunk, but turkeys are constructed differently from  anything else you can hunt with bow and arrow. Their vitals are low and back – nothing like deer. And, about half of the target is feathers. It’s easy to draw feathers without drawing blood. It’s also easy to poke a hole through a turkey and not recover the bird.

I’ve done this the wrong way before, but I plan to do it right this year.

I’ll be shooting a bunch of 15 yard practice shots during the next ten days.





Tom’s Tom

We had hunted the morning, in a location about two miles to the north, but nothing showed. About 11:30 AM we shifted to a spot where a gobbler had been hanging out. After about 30 minutes of sparse calling, a gobbler sounded off from behind us. I suggested to Tom that he turn to prepare for an approach from that direction.

Within a minute, a second gobbler appeared and fanned out about 150 yards away in the opposite direction from the first gobble. Tom managed to scoot around just as a hen turkey passed by at ten yards. The strutting bird couldn’t resist following the hen and soon Tom had his chance.

My heart sank after the gobbler took off at a fast walk. Fortunately he didn’t last long, and Tom caught up with him as he dropped and rolled down the hillside a few yards before coming to rest on a level spot.

It was a great ending to turkey season.

Opening Day – Gobblers Hot

Saturday morning I continued my quest to bag a gobbler with archery equipment.

I headed to the ranch in a good frame of mind and photographed a golden eagle nesting on the way out.

Click on the photo and you'll enlarge the eagle.

Click on the photo and you’ll enlarge the eagle.

Arriving mid morning I set my hunting clothes out next to my folding chair, picked up my box call and sent a string of yelps out to see what would happen.

While dressing, within a few minutes after calling, a gobble sounded in the distance. All right, I thought, they’re around.

I was feeling rather casual about this hunt, so I took the chance of yelping one more time.  A gobble sounded closer than the first.

As I put my boots on, movement caught my eye and a gobbler popped up only twenty yards away. Talk about not being ready…..but I didn’t really care.

My plan was to hide in an old barn, while setting a decoy out where I would have an opening to shoot. Two other openings might provide a chance for a shot as well. I moved my chair into the barn and set out the single hen decoy. Holding the box call outside the door, I let out a few yelps. I expected quick action as there seemed to be more than one gobbler in the vicinity.

Sure enough, as I faced the decoy, a gobbler appeared behind me and it passed by one of the other openings. Soon, another gobbler appeared and followed the first. They were both mature toms with long beards. Excited, I tried to think on my feet. I turned and tried to draw my bow as the second gobbler passed through an opening, but it didn’t work out.

Then the big bird turned and headed back to an opening. I drew the bow and tried my best to get on the bird. Thinking I would be on target I released an arrow. Nothing. Not even a feather.

Realizing that I probably had executed a perfect example of target panic, I tried to calm down and take advantage of the fact that the first gobbler was still  standing 20 yards away and I’d probably get another chance. I could see the bird and it wasn’t going for the decoy. Instead it was behaving a bit nervous and began to walk in the direction of the departed gobbler which had flown off after the shot.

I concluded that I should make a single yelp to stop him when he approached the opening.

As he neared the opening, I drew my bow and yelped as the gobbler stepped into view, framed within an old doorway. The gobbler stopped, providing a perfect broadside shot at 20 yards. Taking more time to aim, the stationary gobbler would be mine. At the release, the arrow smacked the bird and it ran over the brow of the hill and out of sight. It appeared to be a perfect hit, but I’d been through this scenario before, so I tried to remain objective and go through a thoughtful progression of evaluating the situation.

I departed the barn and removed some of the gear that was weighing me down. Sliding under a barbwire fence, I studied the feathers left behind and spotted my arrow. I was disappointed to see that the arrow had no blood or moisture on it. The arrow had passed through feathers, but apparently not the turkey’s body. I searched the area anyway, and found no evidence that the bird had received a damaging blow.

Two twenty-yard shots and no turkey – not even a good hit. At least I was gaining experience. As I wandered and checked the area for any sign of the gobbler, a different gobbler appeared over a slight ridge, I ducked down and lost sight of him. It appeared that he might be heading my way, so I sat on the ground and pulled an arrow, but before I could get my bow vertical, he appeared about 20 yards away, staring at me. Eventually, I tried to raise the bow, but it didn’t work. Before I knew it the bird was 40 yards away and departing the area.

I followed and set up next to a large oak tree. I yelped with my mouth call and before long the gobbler returned, but he passed by too far out and I was afraid to call as I was sure he’d spot me. After he disappeared again, I tried a call and he gobbled, but didn’t return. Later I observed that he had found some hens and was preoccupied.

Waiting patiently, I hung out by the large oak. It was about four feet in diameter and provided lots of options for hiding. I sat where I could observe the turkeys. After a while a large group of birds showed up – five jakes. They had a bit of a confrontation with the gobbler and then high-tailed it out of his way. Apparently they didn’t was to get their butts kicked. They wouldn’t even gobble.

I was very optimistic that the jakes would come if I called, and I expected them to pass up hill from me as I’d seen other birds travel that route. After calling, I waited and the young turkeys did almost exactly what I expected, but they stayed out at about 35 yards, further than I wanted to shoot. When the passed out of sight, I stood and moved to the opposite side of the tree. Once again I relied on calling to bring them back.

The unfortunate part of standing behind a large tree is that you are blind and cannot look around to tree or turkeys will see you if they are present, so I was forced to wait patiently, ready to shoot. After about five minutes, a jake stepped out about five yards from me.

I waited. A second jake, and a third appeared. I knew there were more so I waited for the last one. As I prepared for a shot, one of the jakes acted alarmed and the others noticed.

When the last jake stepped out, he quickly moved away from me to about 20 yards. With bow drawn, I was prepared to shoot. I steadied on the bird and released. Thwack. I hit him hard. Amazingly all five jakes walked off and I could not tell by their movement that any of them had been hit. This was disappointing.

When I found my arrow it was covered with moisture and feathers. I had definitely penetrated the bird completely with the arrow. I watched for a sign of the jakes. Soon one and then another appeared about 200 yards away. They were behaving routinely. I counted four. Thinking that one was down, I waited for several minutes and encountered a rattlesnake. That’s the one I videoed with my cell phone for my previous post.

This rattlesnake was not happy with me.

This rattlesnake was not happy with me.

After about 30 minutes I trailed the group of turkeys to a run of oaks and came upon them. All five were back together. Bummer, I knew one was hit, but apparently this would not be the day for taking home an arrowed bird.

Later in the day, I believe I located a single jake hiding out in the brush and as I headed home a few hours later, spotted four jakes standing in an open field, not far from where I’d encountered them.

Their buddy was missing.

Their buddy was missing.

Archery hunting is usually exciting, and often disappointing. It’s much more challenging than hunting with a firearm and success is more appreciated. Failure is difficult to accept. I’ll have to take this experience and use it to my advantage. It will take a while to fully digest it.

Wildlife was abundant on the way home.

This deer grazed, surrounded by spring wild flowers.

This deer grazed, surrounded by spring wild flowers.

Roadside turkeys paid little attention to my truck.

Roadside turkeys paid little attention to my truck.

Turkeys Active – Wolf Stakeholder Meeting

Turkey season opens this Saturday (March 30) and the gobblers are gobbling.

I sat on a rise overlooking (and overhearing) a canyon where most of our turkeys live. Gobblers sounded off from several locations. Hoping that this season will provide more action than the past few. I’m planning to be in attendance for the opener.

My new Mathews bow will be with me. I’d better take a few more practice shots.

My iphone says the weather will be rainy. A serious rain could curtail my trip, but it seems unlikely that the rain will fall very hard. We could sure use the rain. Before long it will be too late for this year.

Tomorrow I’ll be in Redding to attend a Wolf Stakeholder meeting. It will be interesting to see how the group reacts to the latest movements by our only wolf (OR7). He headed north (back) into Oregon a few days ago.

Todd Foster’s Gobbler


Todd Foster attended the MDF Central Coast Chapter banquet last month and got carried away in the auction. The results? A spring turkey hunt. Today, we completed the transaction.

At daylight it sounded like there were gobblers everywhere, but by 8:00 AM, we were beginning to wonder where they went. 

Here’s a youtube link to Todd’s version of the hunt. Just click on it and watch.

Fence Gobbler

Here's a vineyard turkey in full strut.

Here’s a gobbler that stopped on a vineyard fence to strut his stuff. Turkeys are active, but following hens which often makes them difficult to attract. Click to get a close up view of him and the nearby black phoebe.

This time of the year, hens are receptive to the toms and will lay one fertilized egg each day until they have completed their clutch, which is normally about a dozen eggs. Once the eggs are laid, the hen will set on the eggs and incubate them. With luck, the polts will hatch out in about 30 days. By beginning incubation at the same time, the eggs will hatch nearly simultaneously.

When, in another week or two,  when the hens begin to sit on eggs, the unsatisfied toms will become more vulnerable to hunter’s calls and decoys.