Talking Turkey, Loading for Bear

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

Both spring black bear special permit and wild turkey seasons start Friday.

Turkey hunting is easiest in Eastern Washington, but with gas prices topping at nearly $4 a gallon, a 600-mile or more round trip can pinch the old pocketbook.

Johnson Creek is one of the most publicized turkey hunting areas around.

Located east of Bucoda near the Skookumchuck Reservoir, the subspecies of the eastern turkey will be found strutting their stuff around.

From state Route 507 between Bucoda and Tenino, turn right onto 184th Ave. S.E., which becomes Skookumchuck Road. Keep going east until you see Johnson Creek Road on your left — you are now in prime turkey country. Most land along the road is private and posted, but if you keep going on Skookumchuck Road you will find parking under power lines or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife parking area west of the hatchery.
Bloody Run, Thompson Creek or Salmon Creek are key areas to stop and scout. Salmon Creek will have more access points.

With the recent downpours, it will be mucky out there, so be prepared to get wet and muddy. Waders will be needed to get to most of the hot spots in the area.

Turkeys are a curious bird. They have a tendency to investigate sounds that are a little out of the ordinary.

If you use calls, stick to the plain yelp or a lost yelp (higher pitch).

Rely on visible signs rather than trying to gobble one in. This subspecies of bird are much more wary and quieter than their cousins across the mountains.
Rose Valley on the upper Coweeman River and the Toutle River will also produce birds here and there. Private land may be an issue if you are a first-timer. Kennedy Creek, located east of Summit Lake, may also hold some fellow birds.

Young turkey-hungry hunters kicked off the season the first weekend in April with a youth hunt.

Just to show his customers that the elusive gobbler can indeed be found, Marshall Borsom of Fish Country in Ethel showed a photograph of a young Lewis County hunter proudly displaying his first turkey kill, captured during youth spring season — but he won’t share the youngster’s name.

“His dad doesn’t want everybody calling him to ask where he got it,” Borsom explained.

Borsom takes some time off from the shop to guide turkey hunts each season. He will be heading out to the south central Klickitat River area for the first three days of the season to hunt Merriam’s turkeys.

Borsom said he had a few friends come back from the early youth season with one or even two turkeys each.

“It’s a good start to the season,” he said.

It’s an easier hunt if you go all the way to Colville, Borsom said, but it’s a long, expensive ride.

A guided trip with Borsom costs $300 per day, two-day minimum, for a one-on-one hunting experience, a little less for two people on a hunt. Borsom has been hunting the area for moree than 20 years.

“You really have to know where you are going over there,” said Borsom. “There is a lot of private land over there and it helps to know your way around.”

Spring Black Bears
According to the WDFW website, the spring black bear hunt was established to accomplish several management objectives as well as providing a general hunting opportunity. These are limited entry hunts; hunters must have been drawn for a special permit.

This year’s spring bear hunt areas are in six game management units in the northeast part of the state (Region 1), eight in the Blue Mountains (southeast Region 1), all on the east side, and five specially designed hunt areas in Western Washington.

All five Western Washington hunt areas include privately-owned timberlands within their boundaries. The Hancock Forest Management (Kapowsin Tree Farm) and Rayonier (Copalis area) companies require black bear hunters to purchase access permits to enter their lands.

All of these hunts take place in the period between April 15 and June 15, with most running for about 45 days, closing May 31. One westside option closes after just 30 days.

The five Western Washington hunts are designed to target bears that are damaging young conifer trees growing on state and private timberlands.

Under Washington regulations, hunters may kill two black bear in a license year (April 1 to March 31) and a black bear killed in the spring on a special permit counts toward the annual limit. Only one bruin per year may be taken from Eastern Washington.

In 2009, 555 applicants competed for 75 permits in the Lincoln hunt, 685 hunters went after 150 area permits in the Kapowsin area and 534 applicants took their chances for a Copalis area hunt for only 100.

Applicants must have actually acquired the 2011 black bear transport tag before applying for the permit.
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can be contacted at kz@tds.net.