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Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Foxtail alert!

Bitterwater Outfitters’ ranch properties loaded with gobblers, hogs and bucks
Mother Nature has been kind to wildlife the last couple of years and this year generous amounts of rain has soaked most all areas of the state. Currently hillsides are a display of lush greens and yellow mustard flowers, some standing 4 to 5 feet tall, and there are still some wildflowers blooming at higher elevations. WON was not fortunate enough to have hunted opening weekend of turkey season, which saw good results, only to be followed by poor weather conditions the following week.

This Western Outdoor News field editor received a call from master guide Clayton Grant of Bitterwater Outfitters,, after he enjoyed success on opening weekend of the spring turkey season.

“It was a supper opening weekend of turkey hunting at one of our prime ranches in San Luis Obispo County. The hens hadn’t fully dispersed due to cool night time temperatures but toms and jakes were very vocal off the roost and pretty simple to pattern once they hit the ground. The working ranch hunted had ample running water in the way of creeks and streams, the meadows were starting to green up and oak trees were showing new buds, which bodes well for a great acorn crop to drop come October,” stated Grant.

BIG GOBBLER FOR EASTER DINNER — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec shot this big gobbler while hunting a ranch near Paso Robles with master guide Clayton Grant of Bitterwater Outfitters. The tom was shot at 40 yards with Federal Premium #4 FS Steel shot. The bird weighed 20 pounds and sported an 8.5-inch beard. PHOTO COURTESY OF BITTERWATER OUTFITTERS

Grant went on to add, “Jim, if you can fit in a spring turkey hunt why don’t you plan on coming up mid-April. I am pretty booked up with turkey and hog hunters, but I do have a mid-week day open. I would like to show you just how many turkeys are out and about and allow you at the same time to see ideal conditions for all wild game animal and birds we hunt. I cannot ever recall seeing so many gobblers on any ranch we have leased over the years, not mention wild hogs, deer, dove and quail. All game seems to have been able to reestablish into very huntable numbers thanks to all the rain.”

While Santa Ana winds were howling across much of Southern California the protected hillsides and valleys of the coastal region offered up ideal turkey hunting conditions. It would be cold at night and warm up mid-morning, but not so much as to push birds into thick cover early in the day.

At the ranch we jumped into a Can-Am and headed off to a roost that had been scouted out by Grant. While putting out a pair of decoys and settling in on a Hunters Specialties Strutt seat, a strong gobble came off an ancient oak that was less than 100 yards across a little dip in the lush terrain. My first thoughts were, “Oh sh…., that tom has had to have seen us setting up and is now on full alert, but it was too late to relocate. A few minutes later a single hen flushed out of another nearby oak and flew directly over that gobbler, but into a different meadow. There was still gobbling coming in strong from other roosts, so we decided to wait it out.

Grant is pretty darn patient and very good with a soft purring slate call, off set with a few hard gobbles. Unfortunately, right after fly-down, there was some hen chatter, but no more gobbles, as the toms were pretty comfortable in the company of possibly breed able hens. We spotted a couple of mature gobblers topping a nearby ridge and after another 20 minutes decided to make a move.

Grant knew the ranch very well, as we moved to different locations, stopping from time to time to call. Spotting a few hens, a couple of jakes and 2 long-beards we set up in hopes of getting the attention of those now very silent toms. Needless to say, those toms were hened up and no way were they going to leave that small flock. A couple more set-ups also resulted in no response to Grant’s calling.

It was now time to change tactics and try to cut off ambush style flocks of mixed birds that were moving around all over the ranch. Getting ahead of one satellite flock of mixed jakes and couple of toms, not with any hens, we thought results would change, but they were on a mission and just kept moving down a poison oak filled creek bed.

Finally , it all came together when 3 hens and 2 mature gobblers made the mistake of going the wrong way. This small flock seemed confused and kind of moved off as a tight group and not going single file, as one would hope for a clean shot. The hens moved ahead, but still the two toms, like brothers, stayed too close together to take a safe shot. Just as they were ready to go over a ridge into a stand of chaparral, the toms separated enough for a round of Federal Premium #4 FS Steel, sent out of my Benelli M2 auto-loader, to put one of those toms on the ground.

It was an enjoyable hunt with Bitterwater Outfitters and the results were a 20-pound gobbler, with an 8.5-inch beard and well-worn spurs measuring just over an inch. Wing feathers were well worn from all the strutting this bird had been doing.

On the way back to ranch headquarters Grant talked about how good turkey season was going and that he was booked up for the remainder of the spring season as part of his game management program. Grant also talked positively about how good hog hunting was right now and that he believes that the rest of spring and clear through the fall season will offer up some of the best wild pig hunting that the central coast has witnessed in over a decade. In addition to hog hunting, Bitterwater Outfitters has some prime blacktail and coastal deer ranches leased for this coming season.

“I really feel that all the rain we had this year has put our game populations over the top and that both big game and upland game bird hunters should enjoy excellent hunting in the months ahead,” closed out Grant.

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