Golden State Longbeards

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[Things kick in big-time over on the realtree.com main page as the 2010 Realtree Beards or Bust event commences April 8-18. In the meantime, check out this Realtree Turkey Site post on Steve Hickoff's recent California hunt. --RT Turkey Site Manager.]

Guide, taxidermist and hardcore turkey hunter Chad Wiebe put us on birds at the bottom of a canyon’s deep cut; one of his leases. I was hunting out of Santa Lucia Outfitters, and enjoying the ride.

Gobbles and hen yelping came from down the lush green lane. One gobbler hammered a single time to our right. Time as they say passed. Hens came to the calling, but no toms. A bird up top hammered to our yelping, but hung up. Plan B time.

Plan B involved an end-around to slink back up the steep hill. I cold called. The response — an ear-bleeding gobble in range — dropped me to my belly in commando mode; mouth diaphragm in place. Gun up, elbows down, as low as a snake, I waited, yelped. Grrrrrobble. The turkey stepped up: I saw beard, found the brick-red head, and fired — over the bird.

Been there? Scrambling up I saw not one, but four gobblers high tailing it up the incline. We waited, let things settle a bit. I called, and they hammered back, maybe 100 yards away. Soon the slow sneak into their new comfort zone would be in the offing.

I used trees to hide my repositioning maneuver; clumps of this and that. I yelped softly, moving low to the ground; the birds hung tight, gobbling at every call. Time is funny in the turkey woods. It took maybe 20 minutes. A half-hour? I moved as slow as a shadow.

And then I heard it: pfft, duuuuuuuuuuuum. A strutter on the high bench. Game on. I went quiet; slipped closer; eased up s-l-o-w-l-y. Iffy shot, bird in full strut. I let him drift off. I made up even more ground then, found a tree and nearly stood behind it. Softly I yelped. The tom gobbled, minced steps back, strutting. It looked toward me, under a deadfall, then craned its neck. That was the last thing it did.

My California longbeard (21 lbs. / 11-inch beard / 1 & ½-inch spurs) was served up in camp soon enough, along with pig sausage and other hearty fare.

Some research on the NWTF site revealed that the longbeard I killed with Wiebe scores no. 7 all-time for California Rios. Pretty cool. Other birds were also taken in camp. Stay tuned for the deal on that. It nevers gets old, does it?

(Steve Hickoff photo)