LAKE CREEK, Ore. — Perhaps the Southern Oregon outdoor fanatics who have fared best from the worst back-to-back drought years on record here are those who will be crouched against the base of an oak tree next week decked out in camo and holding shotguns.

 

Oregon’s wild turkey hunters are poised to begin their popular spring season with plenty of birds on the ground and in their roosts this year thanks to very good nesting success during the past two very dry springs.

“We’ve had good survival the past two years, so there should be a fair number of adult birds and jakes,” says Mark Vargas, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Rogue District wildlife biologist.

“I expect good to above-average hunting of mature toms,” Vargas says.

“We’re looking for a good season.”

The season begins Saturday during the traditional Youth Turkey Hunt that gives young guns the first shot at Oregon toms before the rest of the state hits the fields Wednesday during the traditional April 15 spring opener.

Kids 12 and older can hunt the regular season as well, which runs through May 31 and sports 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 throughout the season.

Both the youth hunt and the ensuing regular season include a bonus opportunity for hunters younger than 18 at the C-2 Cattle Co. ranch near Lake Creek, where an agreement with ODFW’s Restoration and Enhancement Program gets 10 kids a one-day guided hunt on the ranch’s bulging turkey population.

Layne Collom of Eagle Point found the C-2 ranch to be tom-terrific last year, bagging his first tom on his only shot on the first day he could legally hunt turkeys with his own license.

Collom started that opening morning in a blind over decoys, but the toms weren’t roosting nearby so they hiked two ridges over before they ran into birds.

“I looked over and saw one at about 40 yards,” Collom says. “I was kind of laid down and sitting when I shot.”

The bird, which sported an 8-inch beard, flew briefly before falling to earth and raising Collom into the ranks of turkey shooters.

“I was hoping I’d get one the first day, but I wasn’t sure,” says Collom, who was one of two C-2 youth hunters to bag a gobbler last year.