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Thursday, April 19, 2018
Mid-season turkey tips should be helpful

High Sierra gobblers
It had been well over a decade since this WON hunting editor has last hunted spring turkey along the lower slopes of the western High Sierra. During a meeting at the SCI- Convention in Las Vegas earlier this year, I had a chance to visit with veteran hunting guide Ron Gayer and we talked about the old days of hunting hogs, deer and Merriam’s turkey on the Tejon Ranch. Gayer was the master guide on the Tejon for nearly 10 years, which gained him expert knowledge in resident big game and upland game birds that abound in this region.

Fortunately Gayer had an opening for a midweek spring turkey hunt and asked if I would like to join him for a hunt on Indian Rock Ranch,

HIGH SIERRA GOBBLER — Guide Ron Gayer of Indian Rock Ranch in Glennville shoulders a tom that was shot by WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec on a hunt last week amid wind, rain and sleet. The tom was shot at a distance of 30 yards with Federal Premium FS Steel #4 shot. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

“I think you would not only enjoy a great turkey hunt and this ranch is one of the prettiest along the slopes of the Western Sierra. It sits at an elevation of between 3,500 and 3,700 feet, it’s loaded with oak trees, has lot of ponds and Poza Creek runs through part of the ranch. With ample water its location is prime country for three species of wild turkey, deer, hogs, quail and dove.”

After leaving Hwy. 99 past Bakersfield, driving up through thousands of oil derricks, Granite Road went right by the old wagon train stop of Granite Station. It was at this elevation that the entire countryside turned to lush greening of wild oats, native grasses, live creeks and stately newly budding ancient oaks.

Arrival at Indian Rock Ranch hunt camp was at mid afternoon. With a storm system moving in but still a few hours left in legal shooting time (5 p.m.), Gayer suggested we go sit in a nearby blind.

“After we spend some time getting out in this rain and sleet, we’ll head back to the hunt camp to barbecue a steak and then head back out to try and roost a couple of spots that the turkey have been using regularly,” was the plan laid out by Gayer.

Driving around in the sleet we spotted small flocks of toms, jakes and hens moving slowly through wet grass on their way to a roosting tree having the choice of a tall oak or digger pine. One mixed flock of birds moved right through a newly planted food plot and this would be where we would set up in the morning, as there was a dry blind on one corner of that little field.

Back at the camp we talked about game on the ranch, its history dating back to the late 1800s and Gayer’s game management plan for the ranch.

“There are three species of turkey on this ranch. The bulk of the birds here are of the Rio Grande species, there are full-blooded Merriam’s that were released by the DFG (W) nearly 50 years ago and there are also huntable numbers of hybrid Rio/Merriam’s. I honestly don’t know which species will come into a decoy spread and sometimes, if I have two shooters in the blind, there could be two different species harvested. We manage our deer herd to harvest only mature bucks, and limit our quail hunting. This ranch holds some huge wild hogs and a trophy boar could weigh well over 300 pounds. Some of our clients opt to book a combo hunt for turkey and a boar and are often successful in harvesting both. Our camp can hold up to eight hunters, but I would rather have only two to four hunters and we really specialize in father son/daughter hunts,” said Gayer.

“I have a special place in my heart to introduce youngsters to hunting along with some of those with handicaps. This past year, Indian Rock Ranch hosted a blind junior hunter who harvested a turkey and a mule deer buck with the assistance of his father. Those were special hunts for me to be part of, hunts I will remember the rest of my life,” said Gayer.

Thankfully it stopped raining and sleeting before sunrise but it was a cold walk into the dry blind with a crinkle of ice under soft steps. The first gobble blasted the still air 15 minutes before legal shoot time, followed by echoes across the ranch. There had to be at least a half dozen roost trees within hearing range from our blind. The first birds that showed up were jakes, one sporting nearly a 60-inch beard, but this shooter opted to hold out for a longbeard.

With all that wet grass, after fly down everything went pretty silent and we opted to move around the ranch, setting up when Gayer got a response to his Bass Pro Shops box call. With a temperature still holding at 36 degrees at 10 a.m., the gobbles went silent and the hunt was on. After spending another hour in a blind, with distant gobbles coming from in front and behind us but not moving, and it was time to change tactics to soft calling, spot and stalk technique.

With good ears and seemingly a GPS locator set in his head, likely based on over a quarter of century of professional guiding, we were on the move over a couple of gentle ridges. Gayer spotted the red head of a gobbler and a fan just over a rise and motioned this shooter into position. At an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet and the stalk mostly up hill, this hunter was not steady enough to take the shot and backed off. Moving off to the cover of nearby oak and repositioned, a good shot was offered and a tom was folded as it was hit with a heavy load of Federal Premium FS Steel #4 Shot with a velocity of 1600 fps. It was a very successful day of turkey hunting to say the least.

While Indian Rock Ranch, (661) 809-1613, is booked for the rest of turkey season, there are a couple of openings for junior hunts and that season runs through May 20. For next spring Gayer will be offering a great father son/daughter spring turkey hunt. With an adult paid hunter, Indian Rock Ranch will allow the junior hunter to hunt for FREE! The hunt package includes lodging and great meals, guiding, transportation during the hunt and an opportunity to hunt a well managed and unpressured hunting ranch.

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Reader Comments
Thanks Jim, good article. However you know I must have missed that turkey with the 60 inch beard! I would have loved to have taken a photo for my ranch world records file!!
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