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ONE MONTH TO GO! Time to talk turkey in SoCal
It's just a little over a month away from opening day of the spring turkey season and reports into Western Outdoor News from hunters, guides, outfitters and biologists indicate that we could be in for a good season. Last year was a tough one for many hunters out in the woods hoping to shoot a long beard. There were plenty of toms and jakes out there, but they stopped gobbling early in the season, which made for very difficult hunting for those who lacked patience or didn't have a good place to pattern the movement of birds all day long.

Unfortunately, it looks like one of the premier ranches to hunt Merriam's turkey will remain closed this spring. The Tejon Ranch closed up its hunting operation last month, hopefully on a temporary basis, but there was no time frame given as to when they might reopen to public hunting and that's a big loss to turkey hunters who want to continue the quest of shooting a grand slam on turkey.

There have been some concerns among those contacted by WON about the long warm periods we had in late January and right on through the middle of this month. Those warmer than normal days, with lots of sun, could have kicked the first peak of the breeding season into gear earlier than what traditionally occurs in Southern California.

Western Outdoor News contacted John Massie, a retired Department of Fish and Game biologist who specialized in upland game birds and turkey, and the following is what this knowledgeable turkey hunter had to say about the upcoming season.

"We have already started our turkey route survey for 2012. Almost everything looks typical for late January and early February. Lots of turkeys in tight flocks of up to 60 birds at a time, BUT one thing that is a little unsettling is the number of single wandering gobblers we have been seeing in the higher parts of eastern San Diego County. While we would expect the birds to leave the winter flocks to be the older and more experienced hens, what we have seen are gobblers walking around in singles and pairs."

Massie went on to say, "It could be an early onset of dispersal which would not be good for the hunter. While it is certainly possible that we could have missed seeing single hens as they are pretty secretive when they are looking for nest sites, so far, we haven't noted one hen in about 12 hours of scouting a vast area." And then Massie added, "With that exception, the numbers of birds looks real good. The poults we've seen are so big that you have trouble telling them apart from their mothers."

Turkey hunters looking for that Merriam's turkey this season don't have to look beyond booking a hunt with Mike Berry Guide Service based out of Bakersfield. WON checked in with outfitter Berry about his hunting program and he responded with the following: "

We offer one day fully guided hunts on private ranches along the foothills of the western slopes of the High Sierra that encompass nearly 20,000 acres of good Merriam's turkey habitat. Our top turkey guide has years of experience and really knows the terrain and turkey pattern on the three ranches hunted."

There was good word on turkey season coming from the Paso Robles area when master guide Doug Roth of Camp Five filed his report with WON.

"It's looking like another good year. An excellent carryover of two and three year old toms should make hunting a trophy gobbler productive. If this weather continues we will have a great opener. I do have one concern with the recent weather pattern and I am hoping for more rain to grow food and improve nesting conditions for this year's breeding season."

Also reporting from the Paso Robles, but an area closer to the coast was Anderson Taxidermy and Guide Service headed up by Don Anderson. "The ranch property that we hunt receives little hunting pressure which makes for excellent turkey hunting. There was a very good hatch of birds this past spring, which put a lot of jakes and jennies on the ground that only bodes well for the future. Last year we had 100 per cent success and most every bird shot sported a beard measuring 10 inches or more." Central Coast Outfitters, LLC is now booking combo turkey and hog hunts for the spring season. Hunts occur on private ranches along the coast and some properties just over the coastal range.

Fort Hunter Liggett will be open for the spring turkey season and hunters interested in hunting this military base should make immediate contact for booking information and other details by calling (831) 386-3310. Unfortunately, Camp Roberts will remain closed through the 2012 hunting season as they continue to do construction and military training on this base consisting of thousands of acres of prime turkey habitat.

Turkey hunting should be pretty good around Poza, Atascadero and up into the foothill ranches around Parkfield. Guide Clayton Grant of Bitterwater Outfitters reported to WON that ranches he hunts are holding good numbers of gobblers and they are still pretty bunched up. Guided hunts take place on private ranches with only limited hunting pressure on the birds. Parkfield guide Roger Miller feels it will be a good year to harvest a long bearded carryover tom as a result of fewer birds killed out of a huntable population last spring and passing on jakes last season.

For those just getting into turkey hunting there will be a very good seminar on turkey hunting and calling conducted by Dieter Kaboth of Hunter's Specialties at the Fred Hall Tackle and Boat Show in Long Beach. According to show associate-producer Mike Lum, Kaboth will talk about turkey hunting, pass on timely turkey hunting techniques and answer questions during his seminar. Lum also added that this year's show will feature more in the way of firearms, hunting accessories and destinations.

There is some pretty new hot ammo for turkey hunting on dealers' shelves right now. Federal introduced their Premium Heavyweight Turkey line with the addition of a No.6 and No. 7, 1 and a quarter ounce load in a 12 ga. shell that produces approximately 50 per-cent less recoil than its 3-inch Heavyweight loads. New Hevi-Metal Turkey loads are available in both 12 and 20 gauges in a No. 4 layered shot, Rio ammo has in its line of high performance loads the M50 Magnum Game Load 50 in a variety of shot sizes and Kent now offers its Ultimate Turkey load featuring Kent's Diamond Lead Shot with 366 pellets in a 3-inch 12 ga. shell with excellent patterning.  

Turkey hunters looking for a place to hunt on public land and get a chance at hunting the big flocks of birds that surround Lake Sutherland should make plans on attending the 2012 Spring Turkey Tune Up and Lottery for Turkey Hunts at Lake Sutherland that will be held Feb. 25 at San Vicente Reservoir off Moreno Ave. in Lakeside. The event is co-sponsored by the San Diego Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. It starts are 8:30 a.m. with the drawing for turkey hunts beginning at noon.

big tom for andy

BIG TOM FOR ANDY — Andy McCormick shot this big gobbler towards the end of last season after spending nearly a half a day getting into a position where the bird was interested in coming to a decoy with very little calling. The big tom was shot with an Escort Extreme Magnum semi-auto in Realtree Max-4 camo. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEGACY SPORTS INTERNATIONAL

hen and poults

HEN AND POULTS — There was a good turkey hatch last spring with lots of jakes and jennies surviving the summer season thanks to excellent habitat, food and cover in most all turkey hunting areas in Southern California. There should be lots of jakes to hunt this spring. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN MASSIE

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