California Wild Turkeys and Turkey Hunting

 

 

There are an estimated 240,000 wild turkeys in California. According to the DFG Annual Hunter Survey, about 19,000 turkeys are harvested each spring and another 6,000 are harvested in the fall. The numbers of wild turkeys appears to be stable in California and a similar number of turkeys is expected to be taken this year.


In California, the Rio Grande turkeys are found in the blue oak covered foothills and sometimes in the Central Valley river bottom habitat. When scouting an area for turkey sign look for tracks, feathers, scratching, dusting areas and droppings. Look for dusting areas with tracks in them or roost trees with droppings and feathers under them. In dry areas, search around water sources for turkey tracks. The best times to look or listen for turkeys include the early morning hours from one-half hour before sunrise until mid-morning, and late in the evening as the turkeys go to roost.


The male turkey gobbles primarily for two reasons: to attract hens for breeding
purposes, and asserting dominance. Although more common in the spring, gobbles can be heard throughout the year.


Turkeys also “yelp.” Both gobblers and hens, as well as young turkeys (jakes and jennies) will use one form or another of the yelp, often as a basic communication call.


There are many different types of yelps, ranging from quiet tree yelps made by hens while still on the roost, to louder, coarse gobbler yelps made by both adult and juvenile males. The translation of any yelp depends largely on the call’s volume, intensity, cadence or rhythm, and frequency, or how often it’s repeated or the length of the call’s duration. A tree yelp, for instance, may contain only three or four low-volume calls, while a turkey that’s become separated from the flock may yelp 18 or 20 times in a row, and with much more enthusiasm and volume.
If you do not hear gobblers calling, try a crow call, owl call or predator call in early morning or just before dark. Gobblers
will often respond, giving away their location.
The most effective way to call a spring gobbler is by reproducing the sounds a hen makes. The easiest calls to master are the friction calls (box, peg and slate, peg and glass, or push button). Diaphragm
mouth calls are the most versatile
calls but require much practice.
Beginners should remember that it is better to call too softly than too loudly, and to call too rarely than too frequently. Timing, or rhythm, can be more important than the actual quality of sound.
The best camouflage clothing is both protective and comfortable. Hands, face, and gun should be camouflaged.
The illusion of depth is the key to great camouflage clothing. Earth tone colorations and careful arrangement
of simulated limbs, leaves, sticks, and twigs in clothing can make one disappear
into the surrounding terrain.
Shot size used to hunt wild turkeys is typically #4, #5, or #6. A turkey hunter shoots for a specific spot on the bird, namely the head and neck. Multiple
pellet hits in this area is the best way to bag a wild turkey.
Jakes are one-year old or younger toms which have spent the fall establishing
dominance among themselves. They usually avoid the older toms and come silently to a hen call. Most of us would like to shoot the biggest, oldest gobbler. He is likely to be the dominant one within a flock. When watching a small group of gobblers
in the spring as they approach a hen or come to your calling,
look for the long beard that does most or all of the strutting. The other gobblers around the dominant bird will often strut, too, but usually they will not strut as long or as fully fanned.
Spring turkey season is from March 28 – May 3, 2009, and an additional
season from May 4 – May 17 is open for archers and junior hunters. Also, the Saturday and Sunday preceding the opening day of the general season are open for apprentice junior hunters only. The spring season bag and possession
limit is one bearded turkey per day and three per season.


A bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers. In addition to a hunting license, an Upland Game Bird Stamp is required by adult license holders to hunt turkeys. Spring shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to 4:00 p.m.

 
 


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