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Friday, March 02, 2018
Buying ammo in California today

Cost of spring turkey hunts on the rise
PASO ROBLES — Thanks to Mother Nature and those timely winter and early spring rains the last two years, the native wild Rio Grande turkey population has bounced back to huntable numbers. Most guides and outfitters contacted by Western Outdoor News are looking forward to a good spring season and are very hopeful that clients will be able to harvest long beards versus jakes. Early field reports, stretching from Northern San Diego County, up to the Coastal mountain ranges and across to the foothills of the western slopes of the High Sierra mountains, are very positive with less than two months to go before the spring opener on March 31.

FULL FAN GOBBLER — Matt Murry, master guide for 2M Hunting, hefts out a mature gobbler on opening day of the last year’s spring season. Field reports indicate very huntable numbers of adult toms will be out there come opening day of the spring season on March 31. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Moving a hunt calendar back a few years, the price of a native Rio Grande turkey hunt would cost between $300 and $500 for a one-day hunt and hunter success was near 90 percent. Today, the cost of a basic turkey hunt for two days runs anywhere between $750 and $2000 depending on the species of turkey hunted, lodging and meals, with a better than 95 percent success rate.

Hefty rises in the price of a guided California native turkey hunts has likely more to do with what a licensed guide has to pay a rancher or land owner to hunt turkey on their property. Those beautiful ranches along the Coastal range and along the western High Sierra are expensive to maintain and manage domestic and wild game. Ranch owners have now realized the value of a wild turkey and they are charging a guide between $300 - $500 for a bird harvested off their land. Guides are even obligated to charge a hunter who wounds a turkey the full price of the lost bird so that he can keep the owner happy and continue to hunt on prime turkey ranches.

This hunting editor often gets asked prior to each turkey season how to justify paying a guide to shoot a native turkey when there is so much public land that is huntable with some (i.e. Northern San Diego County) holding huntable numbers of gobblers. My answer has always been the same. “When you total up miles driven, fuel, time spent, lodging and meals when out scouting prior to opening day, and then having to deal with other hunters who may have been scouting the same area at different times and you don’t even hear or see a tom, it’s hard to rationalize all this time and money. Most guided turkey hunts are successful on day one of the hunt, but some may take two days to get a tom within shotgun range. Still, the cost of guided hunt vs. public land hunts can be more than offset by harvesting a gobbler during the spring season.”


NEW XTENDED RANGE AMMO FROM WINCHESTER — Winchester’s new bismuth turkey loads should be available on dealers’ shelves before the spring turkey season opens on March 31.

Under new California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations now call for non-toxic shot to be used when hunting turkey, and the maximum size of shot is #2. Manufacturers are now producing turkey loads with a high muzzle velocity — some exceeding 1600 fps — and these traditional turkey loads cost between $17 and $25 a box of 10 shells.

Winchester has just announced a new Xtended Range turkey load for the spring turkey season. Featuring Shot-Lok Technology and #5 Bismuth shot, this new ammo is lead-free and should be ideal for turkey hunting. Shot-Loc Technology is used to protect the Bismuth shot from fracturing, which improves pattern density and increases downrange energy. According to Winchester, this new Xtended Range Bismuth ammo puts twice the number of pellets in a 20-inch circle at 60 yards when compared to standard lead loads. The price of box of 10 Xtended Range 12 gauge ammo is $35, which works out to $3.50 a round. While most hunters are successful in harvesting a decoying gobbler with one round, there are times when three shots are required to bring down a wounded tom. Winchester Vice President of Marketing Matt Campbell made the following statement about Winchester’s newest ammo: “Winchester strives to provide consumers with the optimal ammunition for every hunting situation. Xtended Range Bismuth provides an affordably priced, high-performance turkey load.”

Turkey hunters really don’t seem to mind spending money when it comes to harvesting a long beard. The selection of an auto-loader 12 gauge shotgun in camo is almost mandatory when hunting toms and hunters don’t seem to mind paying an extra $200 for a good western camo pattern. While Mossy Oak blends well in our coastal shrubbery and dark oaks, the new Edge pattern by Realtree will enable a turkey hunter to blend in well with all our native vegetation. While camo is important for the hunter, one guide has taken on a different observation. Matt Murry, master guide for 2MHunting, 831-601-5228, based out of Paso Robles, told WON that his preference when out guiding is to wear dark gray outer clothing to match the dark gray trunk of an old oak tree. Murry will stand behind the shooter and does all the calling, and this technique has proven to be 100-percent successful for many spring turkey seasons.

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