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Our Great Turkey Hunt

Article and photo by Bill Adelman
01/04/15 -- Gerry, my wife, is addicted to turkey hunting to the tune of tapes, magazines, practicing her calls, liking a new call at the ISE show and adding it to the nine she already has. This is obviously a case of "like,” not "need," which in itself is a good thing, cuz I kinda like chasing the wily “long-beards,” too. And speaking of the ISE show, it's this week, and we'll be there. Her favorite vendor even knows her by name when she approaches his turkey hunting booth.

Every spring we pack up the old travel trailer along with extra "warmies" and long johns and head to a spot we can hunt in Sonoma County. This ranch is unimproved, which is why a trailer. There are a fair amount of birds on this property, along with a fair amount of hunters. As everyone who has hunted turkeys more than twice knows, a great set-up usually doesn't result in Thanksgiving dinner. However, it's still turkey hunting.

Gerry and Bill Adelman all smiles as they display their beautiful turkeys. Photo by author
Gerry and Bill Adelman all smiles as they display their beautiful toms.

One year Gerry set up right next to a vineyard with a tall but dead tree right at her back. As we usually are set up with close to an hour to spare, it was dark, and cold, about 18 degrees. Just as the first hint of light began to appear, a very familiar drumming sound was detected, right above her head. She slowly looked skyward and there he was. A huge tom was roosting and then began gobbling, straight up. She told of this excitement with reverence, not even thinking about shooting. She did however, have it turn in to a learning experience.

You've all heard an early morning gobble from a roost, where for a minute he sounds as though he's but 20 yards away and then the next 50 yards away. Gerry's bird kept turning around on the dead branch, making each gobble sound further away or closer. So, what happened? Another bust, as her bird finally flew down straight in to the vineyard, even though there were hens on the downhill side who had flown down earlier. Dumb turkey!

A new plan was required, so last spring we booked a trip with an outfitter out of Ukiah. Our first morning set up didn't work, as the birds flew down away from us, however our second one was extremely fruitful. The first tom approached and took a wrong turn and headed uphill. Hold that thought. The next tom went crazy over our funky chicken deke and wandered straight in. As he was on my side, the shot was mine. One down!

Remember the first bird? We drove around the mountain and approached from the other side. The set was in heavy timber with a 70 yard long meadow above us.The first call, a rather raucous one, drew a response from the uphill timber, and shortly the tom hit the meadow and "slowly" approached the funky chicken, in full strut with the sun directly behind him. His sun lit fan was beautiful. Next was a horribly long 10 minutes, with us barely breathing and Gerry with her 20 gauge in shooting position. At 22 yards he stopped, did the periscope thing and the sound of that 20 was pure music to my ears. In slightly less than 4 hours, we had doubled, something that had never happened to us on any previous hunt. We'll be returning to Sonoma County again for opening week, however that same outfitter has us penciled in for a hunt later in the season. Truly an exciting way to spend the month of April.

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC).

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