Spring turkey season opens March 31

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Beginning Saturday, March 31, gobbler hunters again can prowl the backcountry in pursuit of traditional Thanksgiving table fare. The season continues through May 6.

Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. with a limit of one bearded turkey daily and no more than three birds during the entire season. There is no size minimum, but the turkey must have a visible beard protruding from its chest.

The latest figures revealed the most turkeys were bagged in El Dorado, Placer, Mendocino, San Luis Obispo, Calaveras and Tehama counties. Though much of the traditional roaming area tends to be on private land, turkeys can be found on public land.

Late winter-early spring storms could put water, water everywhere, which could make it more difficult to pinpoint where to look. Especially during drought times, turkeys stay close to water supplies, visits they make in the early mornings and late afternoons.

So, do a little preseason scouting. Look for their roosting trees, evidenced by numerous feathers on the ground. Unless disturbed, they generally use the same roost over and over.

A turkey call is worth its weight in gold, especially during the spring, when a tom often will come running to the call of a “come-and-get-it” cluck. If you’re a novice, records and tapes are available demonstrating various calls turkeys make and are an invaluable tool in learning to call. Then, start practicing.

Most hunters wear virtual head-to-foot camouflage, including the shotgun being wrapped to take off the glare and even a face-netting to break the facial shine. Toms and hens have keen eyesight and are among the wariest of the state’s game animals.

Even a decoy of a hen within about 10 yards of your position would be a good idea and can make a wary tom come within range.

First trick, absolute and total stillness while you’re parked in or near brush or against a tree. No fidgeting. Just because a tom doesn’t answer your call doesn’t mean a bird isn’t running your way.

Of course, you can avoid all that camo by investing in a blind. You can sit in a chair, fidget and move around without the turkey seeing you.

Recommended shotguns are 10- or 12-gauge with magnum No. 6’s. These birds are tough to drop, so let them get within range, no more than 30 yards away, and go for a direct head shot.

To know your distance limitations, map out a 90-foot radius from your position so when the bird steps over the imaginary line, you can feel safe you’ll be putting a turkey on the dinner table rather than wounding the bird.

Placer County students honored in DFG “Bear Aware” film contest

The California Department of Fish and Game hosted its first “Bear Aware” youth film contest, open to high school students throughout the greater Sacramento area. There were 40 films submitted.

The contest focused on educating the public on how to live among black bears; for one, the importance of securing food and trash while in bear habitat.

First place won two Lodi High School brothers a check for $500, a gift card to REI and the chance to participate in a bear cub relocation this spring.

Nick Garner of Woodcreek placed second and earned $300, and Reece Maginn of Woodcreek earned $200 for finishing third. Honorable mentions, with checks for $100, went to Woodcreek students Devin Castillon and Edward Khoma and the Colfax team of Erin Bresnahan, Maryssa DeVille and Amanda Schafer.

Congratulations to all students who participated in this enlightening program.

Warden show back on TV

“Wild Justice,” a syndicated television show that follows California Department of Fish and Game workers on their daily trials and tribulations, is back for a second season. You can watch the show on the National Geographic channel at 7 p.m. Sundays.

Current fishing

While the weather remains unstable this week, you can still make a day trip to the foothills for good rod-bending action. Just be on the safe side and throw in the rain gear.

Lake Pardee: Even during stormy weather, a few hearty souls had the lake pretty much to themselves. The opposite bank of the Rec Area Cove across from the Marina has proven worth the hike. Left of the Marina also has been producing, and Rainbow Point is always a good standby. Garlic-flavored Power Bait along with eggs is doing the trick.

Last week’s weather pattern kept most boaters off the lake, but look for action to resume around the river mouth, the south end of the lake and along the dam face. It’s cool so the trout are concentrated in the top 25 feet. Lures and a threaded crawler work well.

Lake Camanche: They’re planting big numbers and big, bragging-size trout. While you can pick up some in the pan-size range, some trollers are outfighting trout that tilt the scales at nearly seven pounds. Those trolling a grub, a crawler or even something like a Rapala at the south end of the lake seemed to have some of the best luck at big fish. Bank slingers are nailing their share by soaking Power Bait and working the coves and points around the North Shore. One angler using garlic and rainbow Power Bait while anchored in Houseboat Cove nailed the lunker — a 9.24-pound rainbow.

Port of Sacramento: Big fish are more the rule this time of year than any other. A member of the Lake Washington boat club who fishes port waters regularly told me that just before the storms hit, they got broken off three times by big fish. They use jigs, but trolling and drifting jumbo minnows also will get you into fish. If you get within 100 feet of the docks or a ship that might be at the docks, you run the risk of a ticket or arrest. Port of Sacramento police are watching closely.

Lake Amador: Before the storms hit and we had nice, warm weather, the bass fishery was starting to pick up, evidenced by a number in the four- to five-pound class. The big-fish honor went to an angler who tagged into an 11-pounder. Many offerings seem to work — cranks, swim baits, working a worm on a Texas-style rig, and pig-n-jigs.

They’re still planting big loads of homegrown Donaldson Cut-bows, and crappie were beginning to show. This unstable weather will put off that action, however.

Contact George deVilbiss at