How Can I Hunt My Own Thanksgiving Turkey?

Idealistic locavores who decide to hunt their own turkey for Thanksgiving dinner quickly come up against an incontrovertible fact: If you want to hunt, you'll encounter obstacles. But if you surmount them, there’s no shortage of prey. We answer 10 burning questions. Read more: http://sfchron.cl/1QeesjB (via Jonathan Kauffman)
  1. Can I really hunt my own Thanksgiving bird?
    Yes, if you act quickly. The fall 2015 season runs from Nov. 14 to Dec. 13, and it may take some time to get your permits in order (see below).
  2. Are we talking a family-reunion-size dinner here?
    Depends. You can take one turkey, either sex, per hunting day, up to two per season. Toms typically weigh 18 to 22 pounds but hens weigh just 8 to 12 pounds; subtract about 20 percent for the feathers and entrails you’ll remove. Besides, hunting isn’t a sure thing: Might want to have a backup bird in the freezer.
  3. What kind of permits do I need?
    You’ll need a hunting license ($47.01) plus an upland game bird validation ($9.46, for birds such as pheasant, quail and turkey), both available at license kiosks around the state. However, you first need to take a two-day hunter education class. You can complete a portion of the coursework online, but the class must be finished in person. Search the California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s website for education sites.
  4. Where can I hunt?
    California has designated certain state and federal lands for hunting, and a quick Google search easily reveals that a number of them are within a few hours’ drive of San Francisco, such as the Cache Creek Wildlife Area in Lake County and sections of the Mendocino National Forest. A better method may be to locate privately owned lands where you can hunt freely or to sign up with a hunting outfitter who already has access to prime spots.
  5. Can’t I just shoot at the flock of turkeys that are tearing up my friend’s garden in, say, Orinda?
    No. “You can’t hunt within 150 yards of somebody’s dwelling,” says Scott Gardner, upland game bird coordinator at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. That law only applies to firearms, however. If you want to try with a bow and arrow or an air gun, you’ll need to ask your local sheriff first whether those arms are legal in county or city limits. Chances aren’t good.
  6. How much will supplies cost?
    According to Harry Dwyer, owner of Kerley’s Hunting & Outfitting in Cupertino, a typical turkey gun costs $350 to $800, plus $9 to $12 for 25-count boxes of “turkey loads,” ammunition formulated specifically for upland game. A camouflage outfit, plus camo gloves and face mask, will add up to $150-$200, excluding boots. Figure in another $50 for turkey calls. All of these you can use for many Thanksgivings to come, provided, of course, you keep your figure.
  7. Can’t I just go with a guide?
    Yes. For instance, Blake Durtsche, the San Francisco owner of a new hunting education service called Sky to Table, says he can provide interested men and women with firearms, instruction, camouflage and turkey calls, then guide them to private lands. Given a big enough party, he may even be able to help new hunters fast-track the hunting coursework (though you’ll have to pass the final test on your own).
  8. How easy is hunting wild turkey?
    Ah. “Turkeys have keen eyesight, and they’re in flocks, so they’re effective at one member noticing what’s going on,” says Gardner. Both he and Durtsche say that hunting turkeys is much easier in the spring, when toms are in a breeding mood and sexy hen calls are more likely to lure them to you. Fall turkey hunting requires more knowledge of the local population, Durtsche adds, and a divide-and-conquer strategy.
  9. Any hunting tips?
    Shoot for the head, unless you want your guests to snack on buckshot.
  10. If I bag a turkey, how do I cook it?
    Brine that bird before you roast it, recommends Durtsche; it’s low on fat. Chronicle food editor Paolo Lucchesi, whose brother-in-law hunts his own turkey in the Bay Area, says braising is really the only way to make a tough, smart and rather stringy bird tender.