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Training for turkey.

Byline: Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

MARCOLA - It was only a paper turkey.

Nonetheless, the pride was obvious on 15-year-old Tyler Fahlgren's face as he showed his father his target trophy, with 20 to 30 small holes clustered in and around the printed outline of a gobbler's head and neck.

"There's one for the dinner table," said Tyler's father, Glen, who then kidded his son about a second target, on which most of the holes made by pellets from Tyler's shotgun were off to the right of the turkey.

"You led that one, though," Glen Fahlgren said. "You must have thought he was running."

Tyler Fahlgren was one of about 20 boys who participated in a youth turkey hunting clinic held April 1 at the Emerald Empire Gun Club range near Marcola.

Sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Oregon Hunters Association and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the clinic was designed to instruct young hunters and would-be hunters in gun safety, turkey calling, camouflage, scouting tactics, shotgun "patterning" and other skills needed to successfully pursue the largest and most elusive game bird found in Oregon.

The youth turkey hunting clinic - one of three in the state this spring - is part of an increasingly visible effort to encourage more young people to take up hunting.

More evidence of that effort came over the weekend. Oregon's first statewide youth turkey hunt was held Saturday and Sunday. The youth hunt was open only to hunters age 17 and under (each of whom had to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21).

The idea was to allow juvenile hunters a chance at birds before they become call-wary, and without having to compete with adults for hunting spots. It's too soon to know how many young hunters took advantage of the opportunity, and with what success. That information will emerge during postseason telephone surveys of turkey tag-holders.

But special youth-only hunts are "part of a national effort for hunter recruitment," said Dave Budeau, upland game bird program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"We're following the lead of other states that have instituted a youth-only turkey weekend," he said. "For example, Washington's first one was held last year."

Oregon's game bird hunting "season framework" includes youth turkey hunts on "the first full weekend prior to April 15" each year through 2010 at least. April 15 is the designated opening date of the regular spring gobbler season in Oregon.

The ODFW also offers youth waterfowl hunts and youth upland game bird hunts, as well as special deer and elk hunts for hunters age 17 and younger.

While hunting skills needed for various types of game are usually passed down from one generation to the next, that's difficult to do in Oregon because turkey hunting is so new here. (The first general season was held in 1987).

Glen Fahlgren was among several of the fathers attending the clinic with their sons who admitted knowing little about the finer points of turkey hunting because they'd never had a chance to hunt the birds when they were growing up.

The Fahlgrens signed up for the clinic hosted by the Emerald Empire Gun Club because a session closer to their Portland-area home was already full by the time they tried to register.

"We've deer hunted, pheasant hunted, duck hunted, and we've done some ground squirrel hunting, but no turkey hunting," Fahlgren said. "But it's something that sounds exciting.

"This is a great thing they're doing for junior hunters."

Safety was stressed during the clinic, which provided participants the opportunity to shoot live ammunition at moving clay targets as well as at fixed paper targets.

"Where the muzzle is pointed is the key," said Carl McGlothin, the ODFW's hunter education coordinator for Lane County. "A safety is a mechanical device and mechanical things fail all the time, so we don't trust the safety - We keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction."

Instructors also emphasized the need for hunters to know the effective range of their shotguns, and how the "pattern" formed by shotgun pellets changes over the course of just a few yards.

Providing insight into shotgun patterning was the purpose of the exercise that had the young hunters shoot at one paper turkey target at 20 yards and one at 30 yards, then counting the number of pellets in the "kill zone" of each.

"It's usually wise to get an extended choke for your shotgun because you need to narrow the shot patterns down," said Ron Cole, one of several members of the McKenzie Long Toms chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation who volunteered to serve as instructors at the clinic.

"We don't want to just wound the bird," Cole said. "I can't think of anything worse than crippling a beautiful bird like that."

To make sure he doesn't shoot a bird beyond the effective range of his shotgun, Cole said he sets up in a position where vegetation or the crest of a hill will prevent him from even seeing a gobbler responding to his calls until the bird is "within my 30-yard range."

Cole also demonstrated several varieties of turkey calls.

"If I was your age, I'd start out with slate call," Cole said. "They're fairly simple to use. Then move on to a box call and, finally, a diaphragm call."

Ken Nagao of the McKenzie Long Toms talked about the use of decoys. He suggested using Jake (immature male) decoys as well as hen decoys to help draw gobblers within range.

Even though big tom turkeys respond to calls because they are looking to breed with the hens, Nagao said, "I've found that these Jakes get the gobblers more excited than the hens do" - presumably because the older males want to chase off any would-be competition for the hens' affections.

In the end, of course, most wild turkey hunters return home empty-handed.

The most recent harvest survey (for the 2003 season), found that 14,152 people hunted turkey, but only 4,089 birds were taken - after a total of 63,787 days were spent hunting.

"Remember, you don't have to kill a turkey to have a good day turkey hunting," Cole told the youngsters. "In fact, I've never had a bad day turkey hunting."


Oregon's first wild turkey hunt open to all comers was held in 1987, so the upcoming general gobbler season will be the state's 20th. Here's an anniversary-season summary:

What's new: A special statewide "youth hunt," open to ages 17 and under, was held last weekend (April 8-9.) The hunt was designed to give junior hunters a chance at birds that haven't been spooked by other hunters. Participants in the youth hunt must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21, who may not hunt.

When: The spring gobbler season opens Saturday and ends May 3. Also, an either-sex fall season is held Oct. 15-Dec. 31. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Where: As a result of extensive "trap and transplant" efforts, wild turkeys are present in 34 of Oregon's 36 counties. Southwest Oregon produces the most birds, but northeastern Oregon has been coming on strong in recent years, biologists say.

What's required: A valid Oregon hunting license ($22.50 for resident adults) and a turkey tag ($18) are needed to hunt. Each hunter may purchase up to two statewide spring tags and one "bonus" spring tag (good in only 10 southwest Oregon counties), plus one fall tag. Spring tags are valid for one male turkey with a visible beard; fall tags are good for any turkey.


Carl McGlothin gives instruction to 4-year-old Hunter Christensen before shooting at clay targets during a clinic at Emerald Empire Gun Club. A decoy gets a good look as Ron Cole (center) gives a turkey calling demonstration. An instructor points to the best area to aim for when hunting turkeys.
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Title Annotation:Recreation; Youth turkey clinics, hunts lure the next generation of hunters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 11, 2006
Previous Article:Finding serenity 200 feet in the air.
Next Article:ODFW on trail of hunters.

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