Turkey Season – Get Back in the Game
By Gary Lewis
He is big. Sometimes 20 pounds or more. One suspicious move and he'll duck his head and run. Don't move a muscle. Not yet. He stops to strut, fanning out his tail feathers and puffing out his chest as if to boast, ‘Look at me girls, ain't I the pretty one though?'
He is not only big and cagey, he is hard to hit. You're aiming for a bobbing, weaving, strutting target that may hang up at 50 yards, looking for the hen you're pretending to be. There's no doubt that a gobbler hunt is big game excitement like nothing else in the bird hunter's world. It can also be frustrating.
It's halftime in turkey season and many of western Oregon's gobblers have either gone to school or gone to dinner. If you're looking for a bird that'll come to the call in the second half, think about what other hunters are doing and do the opposite. You're looking for pockets of habitat that hold turkeys, places that other hunters drive by or overlook.
Early in the game, a lot of hunters head to Douglas, Jackson and Coos County. You can still take gobblers in southwest Oregon, but don't forget that Lane County and Linn County also hold their share of the big birds. First, you'll need a map that shows ownership of the land. You're looking for small pieces of public access land with mixed oaks, madrones and pines or fir trees adjacent to agricultural ground.
Gates, rivers, rim rock, canyons and ‘no hunting' signs all can restrict access to public land. Do your research on the map and you can find the pockets other people miss. Good parking also concentrates hunter activity. Find a stretch of road with no parking and you will find yourself alone.
Road closures also limit the number of hunters. Here's a good place to use your mountain bike. Strap your shotgun in front, your decoy in back and hit the trail. Look for feathers and droppings along the road.
The buzzer rings at the end of May. Until then, the daily bag limit is one male turkey. Hunters are allowed a total of two turkeys for the season, except that a third turkey may be taken in some west-side counties. See the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for details.
You're halfway through now, but some of the best hunting is still ahead. Now suit up and tighten your laces, you're going back in the game.