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MailTribune.com
  • Turkey hunting outlook dims with wet weather

  • Southern Oregon turkey hunters who slogged through a wet spring hunting season in 2010 might find themselves suffering some lingering effects from last year.
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  • Southern Oregon turkey hunters who slogged through a wet spring hunting season in 2010 might find themselves suffering some lingering effects from last year.
    The wet spring brought poor poult survival among the region's wild turkey flocks, meaning hunters can expect to see fewer jakes in the woods this upcoming season.
    Coupled with a series of storms that have rolled through the Rogue Valley this spring, turkey hunting might be a tough go for hunters here, wildlife biologists say.
    "It doesn't appear to be good, but it's difficult to say," says Mark Vargas, the Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Because of the weather, the birds have not been vocal.
    "But those turkeys are such strange critters," Vargas says. "You get two sunny days in a row, they might get their hormones going and they'll be gobbling again."
    Talking turkey starts Saturday for youths 18 and younger participating in the two-day youth turkey hunt that gives young guns a crack at roosting toms a week ahead of the April 15 start of the traditional spring season.
    This year's regular season starts on a Friday, and that might bring out more hunters for a three-day opening weekend, Vargas says.
    Veteran turkey hunter Chris Tarrant of the Eagle Point area says early-season scouting shows a distinct dearth of 1-year-old birds.
    However, Tarrant believes he calls in and shoots more 2-year-old birds anyway.
    "Those 3- and 4-year-old birds have been in the game long enough to know what's going on," Tarrant says. "But the 2-year-olds are like high-school age and they'll throw caution to the wind."
    The Rogue Valley continues to be one of the turkey hotspots in Oregon, with the Rogue, Evans Creek and Applegate hunting units in the top five for birds killed by spring hunters, according to ODFW stats.
    Last year, 1,117 Rogue Unit hunters logged 4,243 days in the woods and killed 288 birds. That's slightly better than one bird per four hunters. Evans Creek hunters, however, nearly doubled that success rate in hunts done largely on private land.
    The general spring season here runs through May 31, with a daily limit of one turkey with a visible beard. About 10 percent of hens have beards, and they are legal in the limit.
    Hunters here can kill up to three turkeys per season. Tags are available at point-of-sale license outlets through the season.
    Most turkeys killed in the spring season are called in by camouflaged hunters using a series of calls to prey on the mate-ready males. Hunters often have trouble with these tactics during stormy weather, which tends to keep the birds roosted in trees and less responsive to calls.
    That won't bode well for the youth hunt, with rain and snow forecast throughout the region tonight and Sunday, sandwiching a Saturday that likely will sport cool weather, as well, according to the National Weather Service.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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