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Turkey Season So Far

can’t speak for anyone else, but for me the opening day of spring turkey season was about as good as it gets. As I’ve done for the last few years, I hunted on family property near Whitmore where there are always a few turkeys living in a spot I can reach easily in the dark.

The reach easily part is important these days as one of my knees is giving me fits.

Two days before the opener I put up a blind off to the side of a wet meadow. I knew the turkeys often came there after flying down from their pine tree roosts on the hillside above the meadow. This year, after hiking to the blind in the dark, I set an Avian X hen decoy out in the meadow so it could be seen from a distance. I figured that any tom that came to the opening would spy the decoy and come over for a visit. My plan worked even better than I hoped.

John Higley posing with his tom decoy and the turkey who was taken in.
On opening morning three toms came to my Avian X decoy and this one stayed behind.

The gobbling at daybreak was exciting. It sounded like at least four toms were trying to out shout each other, and, intermingled with the gobbling, I could hear several hens yakking back and forth. After the turkeys flew down, I started yelping with a box call, and from the reaction I got I knew the toms heard me loud and clear. For a while it was something of a vocal tug-o-war. They tried to get me to come to them, and I tried to reverse the process.

John Higley holding the turkey he shot
A fitting end to a perfect morning of turkey hunting in northern California.

Eventually, some of the turkeys climbed the hill and went over the top but a trio of the toms stayed behind. I called sporadically and they gobbled back most of the time, and all the while they were circling the meadow without showing themselves. When they got to the the lower edge of the meadow, about a hundred yards below my position, I coaxed them by using a diaphragm mouth call and the box call at the same time. They stepped clear of the manzanita and poison oak, saw my decoy on the slope above, and committed to it.

In two minutes all three toms were gathered around the decoy, and I was anxiously waiting for one of them to step clear of the others. They were all adults so I wasn’t picky. Two birds went to the right and the other went to the left. When I was sure he was clear, I anchored him on the spot. He was a fine 19- pound three year old with sharp spurs and a 10-inch beard.

That opening day hunt made my season, but I’m not done yet. Next week I’ll be hunting turkeys in Kentucky (yes, you’ll get a report) and after that I intend to get serious around here again. Typically, by then, most of the hens will be nesting full time, there will be some anxious toms looking for company, and I will be happy to give it to them.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.


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