I’m on my way home after a tough hunt, that didn’t exactly turn out the way I’d hoped. I was in Northern California after turkey. There are easier ways and harder ways to get gobblers out here, you can hunt the vineyards, farms, and suburban areas….. and this is both fun and productive, or you can go into the wilder places for mountain turkey, and that’s what we were doing on this trip. And to make it a bit more challenging, I only had two days free to hunt.
I flew into Sacramento and then drove two and a half hours north, arriving at 12:00 am. Four hours later a friend (Parrey) was picking my up for the hour drive to the gates of a high country ranch. Driving in we’d stop in areas that my buddy knew, and fire of a coyote howl looking for a shock gobble. One of the areas where we got an immediate response was on a fire road, and we were able to work above and around the tom to set up a couple decoys (a jake and a hen) and settle in to call as the birds came off the roost.
It had been raining and everything, including me, was soaking wet and it was cold! Living in Minnesota 32 degrees doesn’t sound too bad, but sitting in a puddle when it’s 32 reminds you….. It’s cold! We heard a Google, then by a shift in direction we knew the tom was on the ground and moving towards us. But then a hen cut in front of the incoming tom and pulled him away. Then it went quiet….. I mean in an area where only the day before Parrey had been picking up birds all over the place, now we were only getting sporadic gobbles. And then the storm hit, a cell parked right over us and it dumped buckets on us, much of it blowing sideways. The mile hike in had taken us about a half hour, but it took us well over an hour to hike back to the truck. We sat there for another hour waiting for a break, but it kept getting worse so we decided to call it a day. I’d only had three hours sleep over the last two days, and was pretty ragged after a relatively short hike (albeit pretty nasty conditions). I was dropped at my hotel about noon, and when I got to the room crawled into bed and slept for a couple hours. When I woke up I had a combined lunch and dinner, hit sports authority for a couple items of gear I’d forgotten, went back to the hotel where I climbed back in bed and slept straight through to my 3:00 am wake up call.
Driving out the next morning, we could see this was to be a much better day. From the stars and moon in the sky, it didn’t look like there was a rain cloud within miles. As we drove onto the ranch, we saw wet bear tracks in the road, and as we came around a bend, a smallish black bear cut across in front of us. We saw jackrabbits and deer in numbers, but strangely enough we did not get a single response. We set off on an six mile loop, along which were several canyons and saddles in which we were sure we’d find birds.
I was carrying a gun I’ve been shooting with really good results, the Daystate Renegade .22. This compact little rig was very comfortable to carry, and on paper I’d been getting some great results. I’d been down at the river before leaving home, with a bunch of life sized turkey targets, and between 10 -60 yards I could sink pellet after pellet into the kill zone on ahead shot. This was shooting off the same sticks (Primos Shooting Styx) that I’d be using on the hunt. I was so confident in this bullpup, that I could not wait to get on a turkey.
But alas, that didn’t happen. In all the miles climbing up and down the rugged hills and rock faces, cling every couple hundred yards, we only got a very few half hearted responses and always from a long ways off. What made it doubly frustrating is that we knew there were birds all around us, and every thing about the conditions told us it should be a banner day and not a shut out. But a shut out it was, we stayed out until the state mandated 5:00pm cut off and outside a couple hens, saw nothing.
Well that’s not entirely true, though we couldn’t find a turkey, we did happen across a pasture on the way out where ground squirrels were making their spring entrance, and I shot a few between 50-80 yards. I sat on the ground with the gun up on sticks, dropping them with head and a couple body shots. So while I didn’t get my turkey, I did get in a fun little varminting session, and feel even more secure with the gun. I’m jumping down to Virginia next week after we tape a few segments of American Airgunner in the studio, and will have another go at it.
What I can say is that the Renegade is dead accurate, hits hard with the JSB 18 gr pellets it prefers, and has a fantastic trigger. The side lever cocking action and the 10 shot magazine fed perfectly without a hitch noted, and with the strap I mounted the carried well. I appreciated this, because between my turkey hunting paraphernalia and camera gear I was well and truly loaded down. In a seated position with this rifle on sticks, it locks on and is rock stable, a great field gun.
Now I just need to use it to get my turkey!