'Surf and turf time' yields no game, but wait

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'Surf and turf time' yields no game, but wait until next year

November 23, 2002

Thom Gabrukiewicz, Redding Searchlight

BEND — Guide Herb Del Grande is a man of considerable appetites.

According to his way of thinking, why should anyone have to settle for just one autumn favorite — fall-run chinook salmon — when there's so many wild turkeys to be had along the Sacramento River?

"I brought along some quail loads too, just in case we see some," said Del Grande, who also is a taxidermist and a builder of racing engines. "We call this the ultimate in 'surf and turf' time."

And what a time it has been.

Fall-run salmon have been flooding the Sacramento River Watershed since July. The season closes Jan. 14 and guides report hooking fish that are averaging 30 pounds. As the season wears on, the bigger late-fall fish enter the system while the weather turns cold and rainy and all but the dedicated angler goes home. The limit is two fish a day.

The fall turkey hunt got off to a soggy start Nov. 9, but hunters have reported good numbers of birds on both public and private lands. The season ends at sunset today, with a bag limit of one either-sex bird for the season.

Getting in some surf and turf action looked promising.

"We're launching at Bend, 'cause it's a no-brainer," Del Grande said. "We'll catch some fish and have us a good shot at bagging a turkey. That (U.S. Bureau of Land Management) land is ripe with turkey."

Fall is traditionally the time when hunters walk the forest to find a flock (spring hunters hunker down in one spot and wait. And wait. And wait). The preferred method is to find the flock, break them up, wait and then call them back together with a series of clucks, yelps and "kee-kee" sounds.

While Del Grande said he loves this approach — he makes custom calls out of turkey wing bones and can imitate just about any call a turkey can make — hunting turkey (and quail) while fishing for salmon can't be beat.

"Catch a few fish, and get yourself a turkey," he said. "And spend a day on the river. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?"

It sounds great — when the fish are biting and there's turkeys around. Good thing the fall season is 16 days long. Due to scheduling difficulties, work loads and life just getting in the way, Del Grande and I were having trouble hooking up for a float — and a shoot.

Until Friday. We had the afternoon to wiggle some K-15 Kwikfish and bounce roe in front of the salmon, while keeping watch on the shore for turkey.

"Reel them up," Del Grange said. "Those are turkeys."

Eight birds, all adult males, have eaten their way down to the river and were busy scratching for gravel and getting a drink before roosting.

We float toward shore, but the birds crane their necks and start to waddle off.

We crest the first ridge — shotguns ready — and prepare to fire. The birds are gone. We spot them heading up another rocky ridge, nearly 200 yards from the first ridge. The chase is on.

"Three steps and these birds travel eight yards," Del Grande said between gulps of air. "That's why I call them ghost birds."

We come up to the lip of the next ridge and figure the birds have gone south. Again we charge the hill. And again come up empty. All eight birds have disappeared. Completely.

With the light fading, Del Grande and I walk down a trail to the boat, shut out in both turkey and salmon. But the sun was warm, the conversation lively and the rush of surf and turf time was uncommonly uplifting.

"Now you know why I hunt turkeys on the river," Del Grande said. "Every time out is a learning experience.

"But come spring, we'll be back — and you've got an open invitation."


Thom Gabrukiewicz's Outside column appears every Sunday in the Record Searchlight. He can be reached at 225-8230 or at [email protected].
 


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