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Jim Niemiec's Blog

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Waterfowl opener just ducky!
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Upland game bird club winter planner


Hunt options for fall upland game
It sure didn’t seem much like fall this past week with scorching temperatures climbing up to and beyond 100 degrees. While there were some good reports coming from chukar country most hunters trekked for miles over lava rock and dry arroyos with little sign on the elusive chukar. There were a few good reports from the lower Owens River Valley where both chukar and quail populations reached huntable numbers thanks to Mother Nature’s generous amounts of rain and snow pack. This hunter spent hours in some pretty high mountain country and only saw a couple of Gambel’s quail with no shots taken.

turkeydaygobbler
TURKEY DAY GOBBLER — WON’s hunting editor Jim Niemiec harvested this big gobbler the week before Thanksgiving while on a guided hunt with Bitterwater Outfitters. Odds of shooting a fall turkey are improved when flocks of turkey can be patterned and either a spot and stalk or ambush hunting technique is employed. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO


Looking ahead to Nov. 11 the remainder of the upland game bird seasons open with the second half of dove season, pheasant and turkey on tap. While not many outfitters opt to guide for fall season turkey hunts, in hopes of being able to harvest more toms during the spring hunt, this hunting editor has enjoyed excellent success on hunts around Paso Robles over the years While I didn’t harvest a Turkey-Day gobbler last season, hopefully this fall will give up another opportunity.


Hunting fall turkey requires a whole new game plan. Toms are not out looking to breed a hen and most of the birds are pretty much flocked up. While hens, jakes and jennies will be found in flocks that number in excess of 50 birds or more, groups of satellite toms will normally number in a flock of ten birds or less. Outfitters that do offer fall turkey hunts have to spend a lot of time in the field ahead of any booked hunt in hopes of trying to pattern the birds as they move around after leaving a roost of stately oaks or giant digger pines.


Spot and Stalk and ambush are two techniques most often used for the fall turkey season. While any turkey is legal to harvest avid hunters will first attempt to shoot a gobbler, often passing on a tenderer hen, jake or jenny which offer up easier targets afield. Knowing the route (pattern) that a flock of turkey take during the day is one of the most important factors in harvesting a fall bird. Big flocks of turkey tend to move all day long covering as much as 5 to 7 miles as they circle back to the roost just prior to sunset. On hot days birds will move under the shade of live oaks and chaparral and hang out in the bottom of dry creek beds or washes.


Shots taken during the fall turkey season are traditionally much longer than those made during the spring season when a lone gobbler comes well within effective shotgun range as he keys in on a decoy. Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations now require the use of non-toxic shot when hunting turkey, native chukar and pheasant. This hunting editor’s choice for a very effective fall turkey load is Federal Premium Prairie Storm ammo #4 steel shot with a muzzle velocity of 1600 FPS. Many turkey hunters also find that HeviShot #5 shot very effective as is Winchester Blind Side ammo and new loads by Kent, Rio and Remington.


On a spot and stalk, hunters have to be prepared to get within shotgun range and this often requires moving through thick cover or making stealth moves between stands of oaks or rocks. The keen eyesight of a turkey makes it very difficult to get into position for a shot.


Remember that when you are moving through a stand of oaks, even though you might cover up most of your upper body, your leg movements can alert a flock of turkey and bust up the stalk. If a flock can be patterned then getting out in front of them at a good ambush spot will offer up an excellent opportunity to harvest a Thanksgiving Day wild turkey.


The second half of dove season will also open on Nov. 11 with pretty good prospects for those who get out and do a little scouting. The warm weather of the past few weeks will likely hold birds in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties, as well as the farming fields around Yuma and across the Mexican border south of Mexicali.


A recent scouting trip through Riverside and San Bernardino Counties showed very few mourning dove, but there were huntable number of Eurasian collared dove hanging around feed lots and open cattle pens. Imperial County is holding small flocks of dove that can be found around fallow grain fields and watering holes. The use of a Mojo spinning wing dove decoy is a good way to get high flying dove down into shotgun range. Dove will be fully feathered and now would be a good time to move up to size 7.5 shot.


There aren’t too many areas in the southern part of the state that offer good pheasant hunting, but one area has been pretty reliable in offering up a place to hunt native ringneck pheasant. The green alfalfa fields around El Centro are targeted by upland game bird hunters as are the farm fields around Niland. There used to be native pheasant in parts of Orange, Riverside and Kern Counties, but to this writer’s knowledge none have been shot in over a quarter of a century in these counties.


The wild turkey season will end on Dec. 11 with a 1 bird daily bag limit and 2 birds for the fall season. Pheasant can legally be hunted through Dec. 24 with a 2 bird male limit for the first two days of the season and then 3 birds through the remainder of the season. Dove season will close on Dec. 25.


Editor’s note: Winchester ammunition has an offer on the table for those purchasing Blind Side Waterfowl Ammunition. With the minimum purchase of 10 boxes of Blind Side ammo there currently is a $5 a box rebate available. This offer will expire on Dec. 31, 2017.


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