Turkey Hunting in Oregon
Going turkey hunting in Oregon? Learn from Gary Lewis, and make your next wild turkey hunting trip the best it can be! Gary's hunting stories and turkey hunting articles will inspire you to get started on your next hunting adventure!
A hunter based in Bend and Redmond has choices. Between Bend and Maupin, bird numbers run one to five per square mile. Yes, you can find turkeys close to home but you are going to work at it. Eighteen gobblers were tagged in the Upper Deschutes Unit last year. Harvest in the Metolius Unit dropped off in a big way, either as a result of winter-kill or because fewer hunters went afield.
My taste in shotguns runs to wood and blued steel, I like two barrels, one on top of the other or side by side, but last year I won a Weatherby SA-08 semi-automatic with a five-dollar ticket in a raffle. I didn’t need another shotgun I told myself, but then I reflected on a day in a turkey blind a few years ago. We had set up in what I guessed was the birds’ daily travel route. When the first big gobbler strolled into range, I centered the bead on him and squeezed the trigger.
According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, turkey hunters tagged 4,132 toms in the 2011 spring season. And the top producer was the Melrose Unit with 563 birds and an average 2.7 days of hunter effort, .51 birds per hunter and .19 birds per hunter day. With a harvest of 381, the White River Unit produced the next highest number of birds, but the birds-per-hunt-day ratio was lower at .06. “Good turkey habitat produces the most birds. That’s where I want to be when I have a turkey tag in my pocket.”
Pointing the truck west we raced dawn’s blush toward the Umpqua River valley. It would be the first turkey hunt for my friend Dana and myself. With no experience hunting these birds we needed all the help we could get. I bought a call that I could operate without enrolling in a turkey as a second language course. It was a spring loaded box with which I could imitate the essential turkey sounds: hen putts, purrs, yelps, clucks and cutting. Conventional wisdom says that wild turkeys are a difficult hunt and a chance at taking a hard-hunted gobbler is about as tall as a two-day pullet. But we spotted one as soon as we pulled off the paved road.
Southwest Oregon has more turkeys than any other corner of the state. So many, that Oregon has instituted a fall season to keep populations in check. Lots of edge habitat with mixed oaks, madrones and bottom lands along creeks and rivers keep these turkeys (Rio Grande transplants) happy.
A few of the state’s gobblers have been gobbled. A few more have been to school and educated to the ways of the hunter. In the spring, a hunter can mimic the calls of a hen turkey to draw a lovesick tom within shotgun or bow range. If a gobbler is surrounded by hens, he probably cannot be enticed to go looking for another. However, by mid-season, many hens are on the nest and a gobbler in search of a willing female may be more receptive to plaintive calling.
Indians across the country ate a lot of turkey and used their feathers for decoration, but the Native Americans that made their home in the land we call Oregon, seldom saw a turkey feather. Here, a quill from Meleagris gallopavo was a symbol of adventure. To get one, a hunter had to travel many sleeps to the east.
Decades ago, the National Wild Turkey Federation and state Fish and Wildlife officials set about to establish a population of wild turkeys in southwest Oregon. After a few false starts, a population of Rio Grande turkeys gained a foothold in Douglas County. From there, trap and transplant operations spread the birds far and wide.
This time the blind went up in 17 seconds, as quick as advertised. Positioned at the corner of two trails, there was a good chance the birds would come out of the trees, down the hill toward us along the main trail.
Many people that don’t hunt or fish or go on long backpack trips scoff about the attraction that the great outdoors holds for us. Forget about them. There is one reason why you have to get out there and spend those precious days afield. It has nothing to do with amassing wealth or possessions. It has everything to do with creating memories.