Elwing Goes Turkey Hunting

Spring 2003 Turkey Hunt

Turkey Pictures

More Turkey Hunting Stuff Coming Soon

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For years, whenever my favorite hunting magazine had an article on turkey hunting, I'd skim over to the next article. I had no interest in chasing these big birds, primarily because I never lived in close proximity to good hunting.

That changed on moving to California, but I still managed to resist the urge to hunt gobblers. I figured, you have to learn all these techniques, buy a bunch of calls and paraphernalia, and basically turn into a turkey hunting maniac. At least that's what has happened to every turkey hunter I ever met.

One thing I did NOT need was another hunting obsession. Between deer and wild pigs, I found a way to be in the woods an awful lot of the time. You have to spend some time on the homefront, right?

So I resisted, and resisted, fought the urge, and basically ignored the turkey hunters as they went on and on about their sport.

But the turkeys won out. One day, while driving out to the ranch where I board my horses, I noticed a tom in full strut in a field off the side of the road. I began to see these birds on a regular basis, as if they were taunting me. I started stalking them with a camera, and the thrill kicked in. Soon, all I could think about was calling and hunting these birds.

Full strut, showing off and knowing he is safe.

This tom was one of the reasons I gave up my resistance to turkey hunting. After stalking him with the camera, and catching him in full strut... there was no way I couldn't want to hunt these awesome birds.

In the fall of 2002, Brett, one of my friends from Jesse's Hunting and Outdoors (JHO) mentioned that he had access to a turkey property where the landowner actually wanted someone to come kill as many birds as possible. Apparently they were eating his grapes, and he hated them. Since the limit per hunter in the Fall season is only one bird, my friend was inviting other hunters out to help with the "problem".

I volunteered my services, and was surprised when Brett dropped me an email and asked when I could come out. He'd never met me in person, so to ask me out to hunt with him was unexpected. But I put my shock aside and set a date.

We rolled into the ranch at about 0800, a nice, civilized time of day to start hunting. On the way in, Brett had prepped me for the way the hunt would probably play out. Since Fall season is either sex, we could shoot either hens or toms. Brett said that the hens would probably be more accessible, but he hoped for a gobbler.



Here's my first wild  turkey, an 18lb hen

My first turkey. An 18lb (appx) hen, shot in the fall of 2002. This was an easy hunt, but it was enough to get me solidly hooked.


A hill near the barn would serve as our first stop, where we could glass for the birds. Brett thought they would be feeding in the vineyards by now. We couldn't shoot right in the vineyards, due to the irrigation lines, but if we could spot the birds we could catch them heading out of the fields when the workers started moving around between the vines.

As we neared the top of the hill, we spotted heads bobbing just over the rise on the other side. We had nearly walked right into a flock of about 20-25 turkeys! We crouched down, hoping not to spook them too bad. They spotted us, but as we didn't move they weren't completely sure what we were. The birds gave us a wide berth, and headed into the grape vines to feed. I hadn't even loaded my gun yet!

Brett pointed back down the hill to a creek bed about 200 yards away. Beyond the creek, rolling pastures replaced the vineyards. He said this is where the birds would be heading. We took off down the hill to set up, even as the farmer and his laborers began work in the vines. We needed to be in position quickly, because the workers would essentially drive the birds down the hill. If they got across the creek first, we'd play hell catching them.

I was watching over my shoulder all the way down, and never saw the birds coming out of the vines. I crossed the creek, and found a natural bridge of sorts where a main trail came through the bottom. I figured this looked like a regular turkey highway, so I settled in behind a stump and got ready. After several minutes without seeing or hearing anything, I was actually starting to second-guess Brett's estimation. Then I heard the sound of a hen clucking. At first I thought it was Brett with his call, but then the grass parted about 60 yards away and the first of the flock started moving toward me.

They were coming right to the trail, which was about 20-25 yards from my position. Shooting my old Stevens 311, with modified and full choke barrels, I knew I would be safe shooting at least 40 yards, but wanted a good, clean kill at a closer range. If I could get them on that little natural bridge, they'd be perfect.

Just before crossing the bridge, the birds turned to parallel the creek bed. I thought about taking a shot at the nearest bird, but they were heading right toward Brett. If he got a shot, I was sure they'd run right back to me and then I could have my shot too. I held my fire.

A car came down the drive toward the farm, and the birds suddenly turned and came right back at me. At 20 yards, I picked the biggest bird. When she raised her head above the crowd, I put the bead on her and let fly with the modified choke barrel. The 3" copper plated 5s laid her low, and only a few flaps and flutters later she lay still. The rest of the flock scattered and flew up the hill past me, and made tracks for the safety of a distant canyon. But I had my bird!

Brett and I laughed about how easy the hunt had been, and he guaranteed that my first gobbler would not come nearly so easy. It didn't matter though, because I was solidly hooked on turkey hunting.

As the Spring season drew closer, I began to make plans. I read everything I could find on the Internet about turkey hunting, ordered a couple of calls and a decoy, and picked up a few boxes of turkey loads.

I plan to focus on bow hunting turkeys too, though, and would love to take my first Spring turkey with archery tackle. I have a 60" Chek-Mate T/D recurve at 52# that I've been practicing with religiously for months. I believe any turkey taken with this bow will be a true trophy.

However, the 311 is right there waiting as well. I'll be glad to use it on the next unsuspecting turkey that struts out in front of me this Spring.


Sneaky jake.

A jake tries to sneak past me and my camera.


Family portrait.

A hen and her poults peer around, wondering what that strange "clicking" sound is as I snap their family portrait.

Yepp, I suppose I'm hooked already. Oh well, there are worse ways to spend my time and money.

Hopefully, I'll be adding in the pages about my Spring hunting successes. March 29 is the opener for the 2003 Spring season, and I'll be hunting public land down in Monterey County. On April 5th, Brett will be taking me back up into the Solano County hills, and we'll be helping to eradicate some more of those "grape thieves".

Spring season allows the take of three bearded turkeys. For my first bird, I will probably take whatever legal bird I can get. But I'd love to have a nice, big tom to show everyone as well.

Here's hoping!


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Copyright 2003
Phillip Loughlin and Elwing Enterprises