[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)
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Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.