Turkey Numbers Firm
Wild turkey flocks in northern California appear to be resisting the effects of degraded habitat conditions that are causing declines in most northern deer herds sharing forest environments with the popular game birds, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

That's good news for hunters who are smearing their faces with camouflage paint and using their favorite turkey call devices during California's spring turkey hunting season, the DFG's Region 1 office said.

"Over the years, turkeys seem to be holding their own," said Dave Smith, wildlife biologist in Redding.

Found in ever increasing valley and foothill habitats of the eight-county Region 1, wild turkeys are the target of hunters through May 5 under a daily bag limit of one bearded turkey and a season limit of three.

Hunters must possess a valid California hunting license and an upland game stamp at a combined resident price of $34.65. Shoot hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily.

Fish and Game said spring turkey hunters don camouflage clothing and use call devices to imitate the sounds of a love-sick hen turkey in an attempt to lure a gobbler within the suggested 30 yards or less shooting range for shotgunners. The "camo" gear, the DFG said, is almost a must because of the superior eyesight of the birds and their wary nature.

Smith said most studies indicate that the turkey breeding season is a function of the length of the daylight hours, with weather a slight factor. Hunters, he said, hope for warm, sunny springtime weather, as opposed to rain or snow that tends to hold birds in their overnight tree roosts.

But, he pointed out, the history of the 30- to 60-day breeding period is one of a bell-shaped curve with the bulk of the activity in the mid zone. Nesting success is another matter, however.

Because of factors such as man's suppression of regenerative forest fires, forest habitats are becoming thicker with trees and old, decadent brush — leaving less sunlight to reach the forest floor and grow the grasses, small plants and insects that turkeys count on for food.

Nutrition is a major factor in the ability of animals to successfully reproduce and in the survival rates of young, the biologist said.

Deer numbers have been declining because of forage loss, Smith said. Turkeys seem to be holding steady, in part because of their ability to use lower elevation blue oak habitats that are much slower to thicken.

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