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First Person Report: Tale of Two Turkeys

First Person Report: A Tale of Two Turkeys

BY PAUL MORTIZ/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Apr 20, 2018

JULIAN — Paige Moritz, 12, of Escondido, grounded her Rio Grande wild turkey in Julian after heading up the evening before the youth opener and camping out on a cattle ranch.

An hour before sunrise, she hiked out to a spot and sat under a tree until the turkeys made their move. For the better part of an hour, turkeys would gobble off their roost trees. There were at least three different locations of gobblers in the trees. Once the sunlight began to fill the sky, the gobbling stopped like it often does. Usually the male turkeys fly down onto the ground where they flock up with the hens, and almost go silent. During this time, the hens roam about to their feeding areas and the longbeards follow.

After the morning group was established, Paige heard a loud single gobble just over the hill. The bird was gobbling behind her, within 100 yards or so. The bird began to gobble more and more, and he was getting closer with each gobble. Paige spotted the bird within 30 yards, but could not get a shot off because the branches of the oak tree were hanging down between her and the trophy.


THE MOTHER-AND-DAUGHTER hunting duo of Noelle and Paige Mortiz of Escondido, with a masterfully-hunted score in the mountains near Julian.

The big bird caught sight of Paige’s AvianX hen decoy. He turned, fanned out, and began to go into full strut. The gobbler then walked to the other side of the large oak where Paige was sitting. He now presented himself on her right. When the old gobbler walked behind another giant oak trunk, Paige swung around in his direction, and readied her 20 gauge. The old long beard began to quickly move toward the decoy, while going uphill, away from Paige.

The moment he paused to open his body to strut, was the last time he strutted his stuff. One shot from her Remington 20 gauge, and down he went. A clean shot.

Paige used an Environ-metal turkey load made by Hevi-Shot. The Magnum Blend round she used was 3”, weighed 11⁄4-ounce, FPS 1200, with a blend of #5, 6, and 7 sized shot. Paige is a Jr. Hunter sponsored by Prois Hunting.

She was wearing a Prois jacket and pants that blended in perfectly with the oak and pine terrain. The lone gobbler that strutted into range was the only turkey we saw. Paige collected her bird and hiked out back to the truck.

After changing out of camo and field dressing the bird, an entire flock of turkeys began to filter into the meadow. A promising outlook for the next outing. At 12 years old, Paige has been collecting her own turkeys since she was 8. She got her license early, and has been hammering birds. She has 6 nice gobblers to her name. Start them young. They are the future of our sport.

Noelle Moritz, (Paige’s mom, age hidden), Escondido, picked up a healthy Rio Grande on the general statewide opener in Julian. Noelle woke up at 4 a.m. and made the journey up to the mountains of Julian to find her bird. By 5:45 a.m., turkeys were gobbling up a storm on the roosts.

The outside air was filled with hens putting, jakes and longbeards thundering, along with every other bird in the woods singing their early riser songs. Not long after the sun rose, a flock of turkeys filtered through the danger zone. Paired-up hens, jakes in a group of four, a single longbeard, a single jake, another three hens, and a lone hen.

One lone hen broke off the flock and fed in front of Noelle for a half an hour or so. Hens make noises all to themselves when they are feeding. The sounds are more of a contented chuckle rather than a traditional hen call. The noises are soft and almost sound like a cat purr mixed with a chicken clucking. The hen fed within 25 yards of Noelle’s blind made of sticks and branches, and a wary hen would be able to spot a careless hunter if she were to move or make a noise.

Noelle remained statue-still, and silent. As any husband will tell you, when your wife remains silent for a long time, somebody is about to get in trouble.

In this case, she must remain silent so that the hen in front of her would not alarm putt and advise all the in­coming birds to do a U-turn and vacate the area. She did well. Gobblers called to the lone hen and she eventually fed off in another direction. This opened up a hunting lane and opportunity for the gobblers to come down and see what all the fuss was about.

Minutes turned into hours, no gobbler would commit to her zone. There were gobblers up on the ridge, out of sight, but making plenty of noise gobbling.

Finally a rogue gobbler began to show himself. He fanned out and scanned the valley for the hen making the calls. There was no decoy out in front of Noelle, and the gobbler eventually lost interest and wandered off into the forest never to be seen again.

Soon enough, more gobblers sounded off. This time, it sounded like more than one. Sure enough, here comes three nice gobblers puffing out their chests making a display. They moved slower than watching paint dry. At times, it seemed they would just hang up and strut between themselves. There were no hens around, aside of our calling. They searched the valley to see where the hen call was coming from, and could not find her, so they continued to strut in one small area. Soft hen calling was keeping the interest of the big boys, but they would not commit to the zone.

We decided to get aggressive with the diaphragm hen calls, and sure enough, that set them off. Their heads changed to a deep red, they focused on the call location, and began to walk toward Noelle.

All three gobblers were the same size, so Noelle focused on the one that would be easiest to land a clean shot. Two of the gobblers put their head down to peck the ground, one gobbler raised his head to see if he could see the location of the hen, and his lights turned off. One well-placed shot and down he went.

After sitting in the same place for nearly five hours, patience paid off. A fatal error was his last. Noelle used her Remington 11-87 Sportsman 12 gauge. She shoots 3” Environ-metal Hevi-Shot Magnum Blend shells. 2-ounce, 1200 FPS, and a blend of #5, 6, and 7 pellets. Noelle has three successful seasons in a row under her belt. It’s never too late to start.

A few keys to success for this mother-and-daughter duo were to remain still and silent when birds come into range. Wild turkeys are no turkeys when they are in danger. Mature gobblers are as wary as any wild animal, and spook over the smallest movements or unnatural sounds.

Do not underestimate the need to cover yourself from head to toe with camouflage. Don’t forget, the best camouflage is to remain still.

Some tips for turkey hunters would be to get very familiar with your shotgun before the hunt. Nobody ever had a bad experience in the woods by practicing too much before the hunt. Learn your weapon, learn your limitations. The game deserves for you to be on your game.

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