This last week I went back to the ranch where I bagged my turkey a couple of years ago with my Disco. My buddy Stephan drove up and meet me just before first light and we drove out to the site where I have seen turkeys for the last 2 years. Just as dawn was breaking, and prior to walking to the tree line that we would use for our blind, I let out a couple of "yelp" calls and immediately got answered from some birds about a 1/4 mile away.
Hearing this, Stephan and I had high hopes for some Thanksgiving turkeys. To paint a picture of this piece of property, it is about 4000 acres and is much longer from the East to the West than it is from North to the South. It is bordered on the north by a road and on the south by the Los Padres National Forrest. A creek meanders its way through the length of the property and at certain spots comes to within 50 yards of the road. Over the years the creek has cut a pretty steep and deep channel. Brush and trees line both banks of creek and open field lies on either side these. My experience from hunting this ranch for the last two years is that the turkeys roost in trees across the road and up on a hillside opposite the ranch. This puts the birds off of the ranch and onto other private property. The trick in the past has been to set up shop in the tree line next to the field that boarders the road, then call the birds across the road onto the ranch. After getting camo’d up, Stephan and I made our way over to the creek and road. I let out a couple more “yelps” just to try to zero in on the birds and continued to get yelps back. After foirding the creek and breaking through to the brush, we came out to the field that boarders the road. We turned to our right and headed towards a spot where the creek narrows with the road. In the past I had seen that the birds like to make their transition across the road in this area. I had stopped calling at this point as I didn’t want to draw attention to us while we were out in the open. When we were no further than 50 yards from the spot I had picked out, Stephan yells “Turkeys” and points back to the opposite side of the creek. Through a clearing in the brush and trees I could see about a dozen birds.
Apparently my earlier calls to locate the birds had prematurely enticed them across the road and put us at a disadvantage. Being the sharp eyed critters that they are, and being alerted by Stephan’s yell, the turkey’s now high tailed it through the brush back towards the road. We were completely out of position and had no chance to get any shots off as we watched the dozen or so birds fly back across the road. About a minute latter we saw a larger group of about 30 birds make their way across the field and road but they were about 300 yards away. Knowing that the birds were in the area, we thought that we might have a chance if we hid and tried calling them back. We spotted a large oak that was in the vicinity of where the group of 30 birds had crossed the road. There was a bunch of old broken branches and brush at the base of the oak and we molded this into a makeshift blind. I set out my three decoys at about 25 yards and I started to call. For the next 3 hours I called and continued to get answered by the birds but at about 1030 the birds stopped calling back. I continued to call intermittently for the next hour but got no responses. At this point we were both hungry and decided to head back to the truck and grab a bite to eat. Being a bit disappointed with our inability to nail a turkey, we decided to take out our frustration on the abundance of ground squirrels that were everywhere, this became Plan B. We took our chairs and guns and set up shop on a small hill that overlooked a number of piles of dead trees and some open field. Using my Leupold laser rangefinder binoculars. I was able to get some accurate ranges on the wood piles and the fence line in the field beyond. Stephan and I were both using pellet guns for this trip. He was using a stock .22cal Crosman Quest 800X with a fixed 4x 32 Centerpoint scope, and I was using my Gamo 1250 Hunter Extreme that had been tuned and converted to .22cal by Rich in Mich. I had mounted a Leapers 3-9 x 40 scope and installed a GRT III trigger on this airgun. The Leapers scope has a mil-dot reticle which comes in real handy for quick shots beyond my zeroed range. There were squirrels everywhere, in the wood piles, on the fence posts, out in the open in the field, there was always a target to be had. Stephan and I took turns popping squirrels, it was like having our own private shooting gallery. Over the next two hours we decimated the colony in that area. Stephan was shooting Crosman Primier hollow points and had some great shots out to 60 yards. I was using 16gr. JSB Jumbos which my Gamo 1250 pumps out at 850 fps. That equates to 25.5 foot pounds of energy. Previously my longest confirmed kill was 87 yards on a rabbit with my Benjamin Discovery. On this day I had a number of kills over 100 yards, the longest being roughly 120yards. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I could shoot a ground squirrel at 120 yards with a pellet gun I would have thought that you had been hitting the bong a little to hard. The fact that I was doing it with a springer meant that I impressed myself that much more. The rest of the trip turned out to be a bust as far as hunting turkeys. We went out again later that afternoon and the next morning. But the dumb birds were smarter than us.
I did another round of pop a squirrel the afternoon of the second day and only stopped because I had to break camp and hit the road. Even though I’ve shot ground squirrels in the past, after a couple of sessions in a target rich environment like the one we were in I can see how this can become addicting.