Starting with a successful opening day, my 2009 turkey season got off to a great start. In fact, in less than two weeks, I filled my three-turkey limit. I readily admit, however, that not all of my 38 spring turkey seasons in California have been as productive. To help guarantee your year is a good one and now that the 2010 spring season is upon us, it’s time for our annual turkey-hunting forecast.
Photo by John Higley
Formerly with the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), retired biologist John Massie spent plenty of time during his career trapping and transplanting wild turkeys. A member of the San Diego chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation since 1992, Massie is one guy well worth listening to when it comes to talking turkey.
“I kept track of the hen to poult ratio in 2009 and have classified hundreds of birds,” Massie said. “The brood size averaged four young per hen this year, and that’s very good for this area. Two weeks of unusually warm weather in January set off the breeding season very early around here, so there should be lots of older class jakes in the mix in 2010 along with plenty of holdover adult toms.”
Current CDFG regional biologist Randy Botta echoed Massie’s findings.
“Production in this region was up a bit, so the prospects for 2010 are good,” he said. “The best hunting will be on private land, but hunters can also try public areas like the Palomar and Descanso ranger districts on the Cleveland National Forest. As usual, the Laguna Recreation Area offers archery hunting only for interested hunters.
“Although I didn’t see any evidence that the turkeys are still expanding their range, I don’t think they’ve lost ground either. So hunters should still be able to find them in the usual places this year.”
For further information, the numbers for the CDFG branch in the region are (858) 467-4201 and (858) 467-4202.
Moving north to Kern County, Don Geivet, resources manager for the sprawling Tejon Ranch, painted a bright picture with regard to turkey hunting there.
“I’d say production on the ranch in 2009 was adequate if not exceptional,” he said. “In 2010, we expect all our guided hunters to score on adult gobblers just like they did last year. Once again, we will also offer several junior hunts in conjunction with the department of fish and game.
“Our turkeys are the Merriam’s variety. They were introduced from South Dakota in 1989, and they’ve done quite well here ever since.”
For information on the Tejon, you can visit the Web site at www.hunttejon.com, or call (661) 663-4210.
Coast Range to the Sierra Nevada
Last year, Camp 5 Outfitters took 25 hunters turkey hunting, and they were all successful. Doug Roth, who is head of the operation, thinks Camp 5 will duplicate that feat again in 2010.
“The turkeys reproduced very well last spring,” Roth said. “The weather was mild, so the poults that escaped predation are all young adults now. I saw more broods than usual on a ranch we hunt in southern Monterey County, and our main ground in San Luis Obispo County was loaded. Of course, we prefer to take only mature gobblers in the spring, and I think there are plenty of them to go around. In all, we have around 50,000 acres to hunt in this area.”
For information on Camp 5 hunts for turkeys, wild pigs and deer, call (805) 238-3634 or (805) 610-0031.
Meanwhile, Eldon Bergman, who has been guiding turkey hunters in San Luis Obispo County for decades, had similar observations.
“There are turkeys scattered all through this country,” he said. “The other day I saw a group of 31 hens and poults in a creek bed near my house. Last spring, one of my hunters missed a tom, but everyone else got a bird. I don’t see any reason why 2010 can’t be just as good.”
To contact Bergman, call (805) 238-5504.
Another familiar name in California Game & Fish is Terry Knight, fellow outdoor writer and veteran turkey hunter from Lakeport in Lake County. As usual, Knight was enthusiastic about the hunting potential in the surrounding area.
“I keep saying that the turkeys are expanding their range in Lake County, and I have no doubt they are,” Knight said. “Due to ideal nesting conditions last spring, the quail did great and the turkeys did too. The hens I’ve seen had an average of six or seven poults going into fall, and that’s exceptional. We always hear about the effects of predation on young turkeys, but the hens can deal with some of the threats. Last summer, I watched one of them chase a tom cat across a field to protect her brood, which I thought was surprisingly aggressive.”
Knight also mentioned sightings of several gobbler groups, indicating that spring music should be abundant.
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